The Pakistani Students Association hosted an event Thursday at the Community Room in Biggs Historical Apartments to collect donations for flood relief efforts in Pakistan.
With the arrival of the monsoons in July, Pakistan saw the beginning of rains that eventually became a flood unprecedented in history. The rains continued through August, causing rivers and dams to overflow and affecting all four provinces. Approximately 20 million people have been affected and displaced. The death toll continues to rise but currently stands between 1,600 and 2,000. A number of cities and provincial governments have declared a state of emergency with one-fifth of the country under water.
Current affairs have put this disaster at the middle of a crossroads. The fragile state of Pakistani-American relations as well as the state of Islam in America has made relief efforts rare and unpopular. No policy or campaigns have been adopted toward the cause, nor has there been abundant media coverage. But with other natural disasters such as Haiti and New Zealand fresh in their minds, students have taken action.
To raise funds, Thursday’s event offered henna and jewelry. In all, about $100 was raised.
The PSA also held a fundraiser at Tropical Smoothie on August 30 where they raised $25. Current PSA President Alisha Hyatt Khan responded to the perceived unpopularity of this cause by saying, “It’s not only the growing Islamophobia, it’s also the fact that people who don’t even know where Pakistan is on the map are sure that it is filled with terrorists.”
Khan, senior international relations major, teamed up with former presiding member Ifrah Ansari, also a senior majoring in Biology and Forensic Science, to launch their own local relief efforts. Both have tried to spread awareness by collaborating with other organizations. Their campaign was launched early enough to hand out flyers at last August’s SOVO fair.
Khan and Ansari hatched a two-part relief plan. Khan collected all monetary support, and Ansari handled perishables and all other items people were willing to donate. They have both called on other student organizations to contribute and spread the word. What started as “an independent need to help … in our own homes and neighborhoods, has grown in to a campaign that now stretches from Loudon to Richmond,” said Ansari.
So far the PSA has been able to raise over $400 and received over 450 boxes of donations. They singlehandedly chartered a plane that will be leaving on Sept. 19 from Dulles International Airport.