Monday, November 21, 2005

Afshan Bokhari (USA)

Afshan Bokhari is an Assistant Professor at Wellesley college

Dear friends,

I hope this finds you well and enjoying the great weather. I wanted to update you on my progress in Pakistan towards the relief efforts. What started out as a fundraiser for 50 tents or $5000 became a $16,000 success!! Because of this large sum, I took the personal responsibility and charge of its expenditure and delivery of goods. I realized later that the fundraising was the easy part.

I left for Pakistan on Sunday Nov. 6th and returned on Sunday Nov. 13th. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind experience. I arrived early Tuesday morning and hit the ground running or the military helicopter flying to Muzzufarabad- the epicenter of the earthquake. My cousin encouraged me to see the conditions of the site and the victims before purchasing the tents from a local tent manufacturer. Though the trip was indeed disheartening, to see so much destruction and despair, it was also very enlightening and hopeful. I soon realized that no tent would survive the impending 12' snow falls in the region. This knowledge combined with the fact that most villagers are unwilling to leave their homes, their only prized possession, led me to the decision to buy building materials instead of tents.

The next few days were spent negotiating and purchasing 1500 corrugated metal sheets or CGI (corrugated galvanized iron) from a supplier in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. This 'vernacular' material is used throughout the region. Each 10' x 3' sheet cost approx. $10 each. We estimated for a 10' x 10' shed, we would distribute 10 sheets to each household. This would provide 150 households the means to reconstruct their homes to the extent where they could survive the winter safely until March. The rest of the funds were used for nails, hammers and transportation.

Thanks to my connections in high places my two female cousins (who work for the UNDP) and the Pakistani army and I delivered these sheets to two villages: Rawalakot and Bagh. We were driven by a military escort and our 3 jeeps with the metal sheets followed us 4 hours north of Islamabad.

The next two days (Thursday and Friday) were spent personally distributing these materials to heads of villages and to heads of households in Rawalakot and Bagh. We were quite a sight-three lone women in an area largely dominated by a male public presence. We were treated with the utmost respect and gratitude. There is no time for social norms in times of desperation.

Along the way, I did various interviews with locals and the international community helping the relief efforts. These interviews were taped for WBUR/NPR for the 'On Point' and 'Radio Diaries' series. After the producer listened to the tapes, the emotional narratives moved her to consider a longer broadcast on 'All Things Considered'. The tapes will be broadcast in December, I will keep you posted to the exact dates/times.

Most importantly, my deepest heartfelt thanks and undying gratitude to all of you who immediately contributed to this cause. It was a tremendous outpouring of affection, sensitivity and trust without which I could not have made this relief effort. It means a great deal to me knowing that I can count on my 'village' to at least save a piece of the world. I don't consider my efforts heroic but simply a resonse to a call for help. The heroes are in Pakistan who wake up daily and continue their lives knowing all they had was destroyed including innocent and defenseless loved ones. The Kashmiris do this everyday with a smile and a prayer. I sleep knowing that 150 people may also find some dignity and peace in the place where they sleep at night.

My love to you all and my prayers,
Afshan Bokhari


At 11:52 PM, Blogger koko said...

As a Karachiite, sympathy is all I can give our Northern countrymen in these harsh climatic conditions. For we, the priveleged few, can not "put ourselves in their shoes".The dark Nights and bleak days that you, Afshan , must have witnessed on your humanitarian trip, are a daily ordeal for the victims. As a Pakistani in Pakistan, I thank for your selfless efforts.. Keep up the fundrasing effort!

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Our family members have decided to donate the money we would have spent on Christmas gifts for eachother to this kind of effort. Please give more information as to how our money would be best given.


At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Afshan! It's me Karen from Sapporo! How are you and Scott? Please send me your home address or e-mail. No make that your tel. number. I am dying to hear your voice. Please don't be angry at me for losing touch--no excuse. But you and Scott have never been far from our hearts. Haji and I think of you when we have the time to think. We have 2 kids now, Ryu, a boy, age 5 and Hana, a girl, age 2. Busy with them and work and other family dramas have kept me entangled, but now I have some time to find lost but never to be forgotten friends. e-mail:
P.S. It is wonderful what you have done for your first family in Pakistan. Only my Afshan would have the gumption and organizing power to do the things you do:) Your other family in Sapporo though scattered miss and love you as well. Julie Cairns is looking for you too, I have her address. She has a daughter, Chantal, 2 years old as well.

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miss Afshan how are you this is Mohammad Zakir i belong to Balakot city Pakistan last Earthquake 08-October-2005 my 30 family member expired in Earthquake i migrate to karachi with my family live in rental basis doing a job in private local reasturant as store keepers i request to you your lot of service for Volunteers pls give me chance any suitable job in any country im intermediat i have computer knowldge my E-mail Address thanks take care bye Mohammad Zakir

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Very Best Regard

Amir Nisar Ahmad
Islamabad Truck stand
Subzi Mandi Islamabad

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