A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake near the Pakistan-India border on October 8th reduced villages to rubble, triggered landslides and flattened apartment buildings. The immediate death rate topped more than 80,000 people in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, with Pakistan bearing the brunt.
Thankfully, an airlift of aid carried by helicopters into the snowy mountains has averted a second disaster. The United Nations declared that the battle to sustain more than three million homeless survivors through the winter has been won, because of a comparatively mild season and a huge quantity of international aid.
At the onset, FCF's partner in Pakistan counseled with key government and private individuals involved in the earthquake relief efforts in order to determine how they could best be of assistance. This guidance was invaluable in order to know where to best direct resources in the most effective way. Obviously, full recovery from the earthquake damage is a long term situation, as it not only involves immediate relief efforts, but also the long term restructuring and rebuilding.
Imagine a small city made up of tents with thousands of families living together. Lives have been shattered and the struggle of recent months is written on people’s faces as all of them have lost family and loved ones.
Most of the families originate from some of the worst hit areas in Kashmir. They have come down from the mountains to stay in the tent cities in order to survive the harsh winter.
This is the situation that exists in one the largest of the many tent camps in the north of Pakistan. The immediate requirements of food and shelter have been provided, yet there is much more that needs to be done.
The earthquake struck at a time when most children were attending school, and thus resulted in a great loss of young lives when school buildings collapsed.
Educational needs are of utmost importance to those that survived the quake. There is no formal education system in these tent cities; nevertheless on a daily basis teachers are trying their best to educate the hundreds of children of all ages who are in their care. Yet the teachers themselves are handicapped by lack of training and materials.
We were invited to conduct a Teacher Training Course for these teachers, as well as to provide trauma counseling and organize activities for the children. The photos and following narrative provides a glimpse of what we have been able to accomplish.
1. Teacher Training Course
Five days were spent with 55 participants, who were carefully selected from among those living in the camp. The turn out was so great that we had to close the admission after the first day as there was no more space in the big tent the training was conducted in. The participants were very eager to learn and so grateful for this opportunity! This investment gave them renewed hope to carry on, and was also a chance for us to impart training to those whom we would have been unlikely to otherwise come in contact with.
The interactive course focused on the following topics: Motivational skills, Early Reading skills and Literacy Development, Methodology, and Behavior Development. Course books for each topic in both English and Urdu were presented to all the attendees, as well as other supplemental training materials.
We were touched with their heartfelt comments and their commitment at the end of the course:
- “Thank you so much for your encouragement and for the motivation and input that you gave us.”
- “You made the lessons so easy to understand and gave us so many practical ideas that we can use!”
- “The educational training course you conducted will help us not only now with the education of the children in the camp, but it has motivated us to rebuild our villages and our lives.”
- “We will do our part to invest in the children and their schooling when we return to our villages.”
2. Dissemination of Children’s Material and other aid to schools in the tent city
Through the support raised by some of our local volunteers we were able to provide the needs of schools that were set up in the camp with the following:
- Full sets of printed and laminated reading flash cards (800 words per set, in both English & Urdu)
- A variety of sports equipment and games
- School supplies, charts, arts and crafts materials and more.
Needless to say, the children, teachers and the administrator in-charge were so thrilled to see their needs supplied.
Immediate needs were also identified for several families in a poorer section of the camp, and arrangements are being made to supply them with mattresses, warm clothing and children’s items.
3. Children’s Entertainment and Youth Counseling
We also had the opportunity to spend quality time with the children and youth in the camps. On a daily basis we organized activities, games, and arts and crafts for the hundreds of children. We were able to involve some of the older youth as team leaders and train them to organize small groups of children, which gave them something constructive to do and learn valuable leadership skills.
The arts and crafts classes provided an opportunity for the younger children to participate in a variety of creative activities and put aside for the moment the difficult experiences they had gone through. Story time, using flannel graphs and videos, were a real treat for them, and one of their favorites! In spite of their hardships, they were so cheerful and sweet and appreciative of the time and love shared with them.
Overall it was a tremendous team effort, and made possible by the generosity of concerned donors Due to the success of this pilot-project, we were invited to conduct another series of teacher training workshops in February, and we would be very appreciative of your assistance and support in this venture.
There are 3 main components to our earthquake relief program which will be ongoing and overlapping in their implementation.
1.. Dissemination of Children's Aid Packages to the survivors
2.. Teacher Training Programs in Affected Areas
There are thousands of families and children who have now been relocated to settlement camps, comprised mainly of tents. Temporary 'tent schools' have been established for these children. We were asked to be facilitators and trainers to conduct training courses for the many new teachers in the camp schools. The first course began in mid-December, and the plan is for the courses to continue periodically for the next six months.
3.. Trauma and Grief Counseling
Our goal is to have small teams traveling up to the affected areas with the express goal to spend time with people and children in the various tent cities and camps that have been set up. These teams will provide trauma counseling and organize activities for the children and tent city inhabitants.
We have also been in touch with a close friend who is retired from the military, who asked our assistance in his planned construction of schools in the earthquake region. Once the winter passes, the tent schools will be disbanded, and the people will return to their villages - where basic facilities such as schools will once again need to be established.
Immediately we mobilized a team of 30 volunteers who worked side by side with us to do fundraisers for the earthquake victims which we invested in bulk quantities of sweaters and warm shawls for distribution.