On Thursday, the NY Times’ posted another video story by Adam Ellick, who’s produced diverse reports on topics ranging from Pakistan’s sex toy industry to the rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Karachi. This time, he profiled Todd Shea, an American who came to volunteer in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake, a disaster that killed 80,000 people. As Ellick noted in the voiceover, “he never left.” Three years ago, Shea established a “no frills” charity hospital in Kashmir called CDRS, or Comprehensive Disaster Relief Services, which provides quality healthcare services to the people in the remote and earthquake-affected areas in northwest Pakistan. CDRS’ efforts are concentrated in Chikar, one of Pakistan’s poorest and most remote villages located about 25 miles from the Indian border with a population of about 150,000 people. According to Ellick, “For decades, the community’s medical needs have been ignored by the government…”
The video [embedded below] opens with Shea singing “Dil Dil Pakistan” at a community fair, designed to teach the survivors of the earthquake the basics of proper healthcare. He doesn’t have a college degree or a medical background, but told the Times, “I’m certainly not the most qualified person to take on the task of building…in this area at least…a revolutionary healthcare system, but I’m the one who’s here.” A musician prior to his time in Pakistan, Shea indicated that he once suffered from addiction issues. Now however, he “decided to get addicted to something that was good for other people.” In fact, Shea uses music to raise awareness about CDRS and their efforts, at one point performing at MTV’s studios in Karachi with a Pakistani musician.
His story is incredibly powerful and inspirational. So far CDRS employs 38 people, although only one doctor has relocated to Chikar to work. And though Dr. Rizwan Shabir said he was surprised by Shea’s “casual” appearance when they first met, he told the NY Times, “I thought, if this person can come from America and serve our people, then why not me…”
CDRS currently runs on $170,000 a year and served over 100,000 patients in 2008. If you would like to make a donation to Todd Shea’s efforts, click here.