Columban Sister’s Rapid Response on Your Behalf
to the Flood Victims of Pakistan
– update from Hyderabad, Sindh Province – by Sister Rebecca Conlon
4 September 2010
Our thanks for your prayerful concern for Pakistan in the devastation that has hit the country this month. Thankfully, Hyderabad city was spared but surrounding villages and districts were not so lucky, as the Indus River burst its banks in many places on its way to the sea.
With the passing of the monsoon rains everyone is faced with the challenge of helping those who were affected to pick up their lives. Last Sunday’s readings, August 29th
(22nd week of the year) there was clear direction given all over the pages.
The gospel reading said:
‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No, when you give a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because payment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again’.
Today is the day to move! This is an invitation for dinner
The Psalm (67) also had a message:
‘When your people were starved you gave them new life.
It was there that your people found a home
Prepared in your goodness, O God, for the poor’.
The poor were to be invited.
These echoes were like a light shining in the darkness all around us, spurring us into action. We began by putting a team together and appointing a project manager. As we crossed the Mighty Indus we saw the power of its merciless torrents flash by, swallowing up everything in its sight. Some months ago we had a festive day when flowers were thrown into the Indus as an expression of respect and of showing the people’s love for the River and here these past weeks we experience her destruction! How can she turn on her people like this?
On the highways and byways we sought out those who had genuinely lost all. These were to be our friends invited into the banquet of God’s love. They were everywhere… some begging for their daily bread, women with flocks of children around them distressed and despairing, babies in arms undernourished out under the sun with no shade but a tilted charpoi (string bed) which is moved around to protect them from the glaring sun. It is still monsoon time and when it is raining they have no cover except for a hand made razai (bed-spread) to give them shelter and in turn shade from the sun and heat. . Men were trying to fend for their families and many of these women now exposed to the elements may never have seen outside the four walls of their homes as many families in Interior Sindh keep ‘purdah’ (curtain). This means they live literally behind the curtain and being exposed to the stares of those zooming along in cars on the super highway they cannot be but traumatized.
Eventually we focused on one group of very needy people on the Super Highway as our starting point. It was a painful sight to see. These people came from Larkana which is a distance of about seven hours away and it took them days to get here as their villages were completely flooded. They shared their story with us and our team manager, who could speak their language, Sindhi, made an assessment of their needs which consisted of: tents, food, children’s clothes, pots, water cooler and water.
Thanks to the graciousness of you our benefactors we were able to move into action immediately. That evening, Sunday, cooked food was served to109 people as they had had nothing to eat for three days. These people are the gentle of the Beatitudes and have experienced the let down of false promises from NGO’s as they look for their daily food.
Monday was a day full of team spirit and on Tuesday we brought them their tents, non-perishable food stuffs, water and water coolers to quench their thirst under the scorching hot sun. There we found a young woman with her new born baby boy smiling at us and the baby yawning not realizing its horrendous circumstances. Also we came by an eighty year old woman begging for a water cooler. The young and the old are the most vulnerable under such conditions. One lady asked us if we were fasting because it is Ramazan, the Muslim fasting season but we said ‘no, we are Christians’ and immediately she wanted to make tea for us. Such hospitality!
Wednesday the rains arrived and our team manager and co-worker took torches to the families as they are out in the ‘desert’ fearful of snakes and other such creatures stealing in to visit them at night! They were grateful. Now for the first time they were under tents and as the rain lashed down on top of them they prayed for us all for being with them in their time of need. These tents were thanks to Jawed, our Project Manager who acted promptly and succeeded in getting and delivering them on time.
Thursday. Eid, the Muslim Celebration after the Ramazan fast will be on September 11th. It will be a season of newness like Easter is for us Christians. An appropriate gift would be clothes and so we as team decided to give them material so that they can sew their own clothes which is the norm here in Pakistan. We felt this would be therapeutic for them to lift them out of their depression and be active in their rehabilitation process.
In preparation for this we bought three hand sewing machines: two for women and one for men.
Friday: Shops are open today as it is the last Friday before the end of Ramazan and so our people are coming in to Hyderabad to shop for the various coloured clothes that are part of their traditional dress.
As they return to their camps they will be given the three sewing machines, materials with their accessories and fresh vegetables with their accessories…garlic, chilies, ginger etc…. for taste!
Thank you for making it possible for us to reach out to these traumatized people. Some call this flood a slow tsunami as one third of the country lies under water and twenty million are displaced. Our effort is like a drop in the ocean but we will continue to seek out those most in need…all we are, are your hands, heart and feet here in Pakistan and may the Lord bless us all in our efforts.
To be continued……
With gratitude from:
Sisters Marie, Roberta, Perlita and Rebecca.
|Protection from the sun is a must, and by whatever means available|
Home for the moment
…wherever there is a dry space
…of welcome supplies