When UNE postgraduate students Zahid Shahab Ahmed and Sheeraz Ahmad heard the news of devastating flooding back home in Pakistan, they watched the disaster unfold via the Internet and decided that they had to do something to help.
“The slow response from the international community wasn’t encouraging, so we launched our own fund-raising campaign here at UNE,” said Zahid, who is studying for a PhD degree in Political and International Studies.
Fellow students and staff generously donated funds, and the cash was then sent directly to survivors in Sheeraz’s home town of Swat where many homes and businesses have been washed away. “The people of this region are particularly vulnerable because this is the second disaster in a short time for them,” he explained. “They had been in the process of rebuilding after suffering through years of militant conflict when the flood happened.” Even more alarming for him was learning that hundreds of thousands of people were homeless in this region, and that they were receiving little aid.
Sheeraz is studying for a Master of Rural Science by Research degree at UNE and worked as a volunteer for various NGOs during the past conflict. As a result, he has a network of local volunteers who ensured that the funds raised by the students were delivered directly into the hands of the people who needed it most.
“Our sincere thanks go to everyone who contributed to our initial campaign, which raised $3,200 and supported 40 families for a month,” Sheeraz said.
The floods are South Asia’s worst in 80 years. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, and the United Nations recently estimated that 21 million people had been affected by the country’s floods, and approximately one million of those were homeless.
The UNE students’ fund-raising efforts are ongoing. “Just $1 can support an entire family for a day,” Zahid said. “We’ve also e-mailed our Pakistani friends at other Australian universities and they are raising money too.”
To help the victims of this disaster, and for more information, contact Zahid Shahab Ahmed in the School of Humanities on 0432 461 292 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sheeraz Ahmad in the School of Environmental and Rural Science on 0431 161 942 (e-mail: email@example.com).
Donations can also be made via World Vision www.worldvision.com.au
THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Sheeraz Ahmad (left) and Zahid Shahab Ahmed.