As the time gap between a natural disaster grows, for example, the merciless flood waters of summer 2010 in Pakistan, it is easy to forget that for the people affected, life is still hard, uncertain and still in great need.
is how Sister Roberta Ryan describes the continuing accompanient of the more than 100 families whose lives and livelihood were torn by the floods.
It has been some time since I have written to let you know what has been happening to the hundred or so families that we have been journeying with since the floods of last summer. To be honest, very little has changed in the outward circumstances of their lives – if anything life has become harsher for them over the passing months. Let me explain why.
In November, we were faced with a critical decision – do we go on trying to find the
Euro 2,500 that it costs to feed around 900 people for a week or do we start looking at more long term options for those who had nothing to go back to?
We sat with a few of the leaders of about 40 families with whom we had been working closely from the beginning to hear what they had to say. They explained to us that they, and their kinsmen, were sharecroppers renting fields from the local landlord with a certain percentage of the crop going to him. If, however, the crop failed, they ended up in his debt which was further compounded by the fact that he was the only one who would advance them a loan in time of sickness or for a wedding or a funeral and so, in this way, they and their families ended up becoming the landlord’s bonded labourers.
The leaders said they understood our dilemma and felt the greatest blessing that we could give them would be a piece of land on which to build their own homes and with an opportunity to send their children to school as in the villages from which they came there was none. In the meantime, they would try to get casual labour wherever they could, and with this, and the money the women earned from the income generating sewing project that we had set up in September, they would try to fend for their own needs.
We came away with a bigger headache than the one we brought with us! Purchasing land is a mammoth task not to mention the cost. We sat with our project manager to weigh up the pros and cons and decided to mull over them for a few days. Then, unexpectedly, two offers came to help us with the buying of the land. This was the green light we had been waiting for and in it we saw God’s hand showing the way forward.
Our project manager swung into action and New Year’s Day found us in possession of the legal land titles and local authority papers. We now had a site large enough to build 40 houses on, in a beautiful rural area beside a village that had a school, and within
15 minutes travelling distance of the city by bus. This, we felt, would give the men the option of working in the fields or taking up labouring jobs in and around the city.
While we were in the process of purchasing the land we found ourselves asking – do we stop here and let them build their own houses over time or do we take on this task and give them the chance at a fresh start in life without the burden of debt which has always been theirs.
We did not have to wait long for the answer for over the past two months – unsolicited – funds flowed to us from several Religious Congregations, here and abroad, who had received funds from their benefactors for flood victims. On 11th February, 2011, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the construction of 40 single storey two roomed houses with kitchen, bathroom and outer courtyard for small animals began.
Yet, again, we were in awe of God’s love and compassion reaching out to us and the flood affected families through the goodness of others.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Donegal Women’s Network and the readers of the Donegal Democrat who have so generously contributed to our flood relief work. This has facilitated our linking hands across the world to help some of those left utterly destitute by the devastating floods in Pakistan last summer.
The welfare of the children and the elderly…..is constantly kept in mind.
We will be in touch again to let you know how the work is progressing and to capture for you the move of these tribal peoples to what is for them – the Promised Land.
For previous and articles on this ongoing response, click Events on the homepage Index