Archive for August 13th, 2010

The Relief4Pakistan Campaign

NYT: Flood Victims Near Multan

Today, news agencies report that Sindh province is currently bracing for a second round of heavy floods, and authorities warn “it could be as big as the first wave, which displaced millions and destroyed thousands of homes.” According to Al Jazeera English, “Authorities said waters have unexpectedly begun to rise at the Kotri barrage along the Indus river in southern Sindh, and now threaten to overrun the embankments around the barrage. Flooding at Kotri could potentially threaten the city of Hyderabad.”

So far, more than 1,600 have been confirmed dead since the flooding began in Pakistan two weeks ago, though this toll will rise as the disaster continues to spread and the threat of water-borne diseases like cholera rises. Villages have been swept away. Hundreds of families have been displaced from their homes, their livelihoods destroyed. Over 14 million people have been affected by these floods, more than the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined.

Since the flooding began, I have laid awake at night, haunted by the images of the tragedy – families wading through what was once their homes, villages submerged under water, people frantically escaping to safe areas not already destroyed by the floods. This disaster is bigger than anything you or I have seen in recent years. But it is not productive to just lament about the loss and tragedy of this disaster. It is not enough to hang our heads or blame leaders for their lack of action. If we want to help the millions suffering, we have to actually do something to help.

As many of you know, I’m the director of Social Vision, the venture philanthropy arm of ML Resources. Social Vision provides seed funding and support for innovative initiatives and social entrepreneurs/enterprises in their earliest stages. Earlier this week, I received a call from my friend, Mahnaz Fancy, who was one of the founders of Pakistani Peace Builders, a new initiative of Pakistani-Americans and concerned global citizens, the group behind the recent Sufi Music Festival in New York City. Mahnaz shared many of my same frustrations about responses to the disaster, and offered the most time-sensitive solution – a grassroots donation campaign to benefit the millions impacted by the floods in Pakistan, a campaign that would appeal to both Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis.

We got to work immediately, designing a campaign that would leverage social media and grassroots giving to fund raise in the most efficient way possible. Therefore, rather than five people giving funds to five different (albeit all well-deserving) organizations, this campaign would enable those same five people to donate to one relief organization, an agency we had thoroughly vetted and were in close contact with. Therefore, the campaign aims to centralize donations in order to maximize impact of those funds.

This of course was a lot easier said than done, given the tremendous work of numerous relief agencies on the ground, both international and Pakistani. However, after much deliberation and due diligence, ML Social Vision and PPB chose Mercy Corps, a global aid agency, as the direct recipient of these donations. We made this decision based on Mercy Corps’ stellar reputation and credibility in the West and on the ground, its transparency, its ability to respond quickly to emergencies, and its previous work in Pakistan. Not only has the organization already launched its fundraising appeal, it also coordinates directly with local communities and organizations in Pakistan. Mercy Corps also doesn’t attempt to do too much, and instead concentrates on doing things well – it’s currently focusing on providing clean water, staple foods and clean-up tools for affected families mainly in Swat Valley and Sindh, two of the worst hit areas.

On Thursday, our campaign – Relief4Pakistan – went live, and we set our first fundraising goal at $100,000, with ML Social Vision providing the first $10,000 to jump start the campaign. Since then, we have managed to raise over $19,000, which is fantastic, but we still have a way to go before hitting our goal. So please, donate by clicking here. Every dollar (or foreign currency!) counts. The money will go directly towards Mercy Corps and will be earmarked for their flood efforts. You can also join our Facebook page, where you will receive updates on our progress,  news on the disaster, as well as updates we will post from Mercy Corps’ efforts on the ground. Given that tomorrow is Pakistan Day, there is nothing more patriotic you can do than donate or support the numerous families affected by the floods. If you decide to hold your own fundraiser, and are not sure where to donate the funds you receive, please feel free to contact us or donate it directly.

At a time of such tremendous tragedy, the best way to make a difference is to help. Thanks and Happy Pakistan Day!

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