Written for The Argo by Victoria Orlowski
On Friday, October 21st, Stockton’s Pakistani Student Association hosted “Facing the Floods” in coordination with Stockton Amnesty International to spread awareness about the floods in Pakistan. PSA wants to spread awareness about the effects of the floods on Pakistan and the efforts that people in the United States can make to support the people of Pakistan, whether it be helping people directly or getting involved with advocating for environmental changes.
The floods in Pakistan have affected over 33 million people. 2 million homes have been damaged, over 7.9 million people have been displaced, and as of now, 1,693 people have died. The floods are a result of irreversible changes to Pakistan’s geography due to global warming. Global warming has created glacial lakes in the north that were not there before. Due to these melting ice caps and also worsened monsoons in the South, all the extra water has met in the middle and caused a catastrophic change in Pakistan’s environment.
PSA hosted a guest speaker, Dr. Favad Akhtar, from Desi Welfare, an initiative by the youth of Pakistan to help those in need. Their mission statement is to bring back smiles by providing relief directly to the Pakistani people in any way they can. Akhtar mentioned the reliability of charity organizations is difficult to ascertain because some organizations only provide a portion of the donations to the people they are supposed to be helping. Akhtar’s goal as a part of Desi Welfare is to provide direct relief and to assure people that they know exactly where their donations are going.
He then spoke about Desi Welfare’s relief action. He said that they were able to supply 250 ration bags, supply hygiene products, and even had a few doctors join to provide free consultations. He also shared that the members of Desi Welfare in Pakistan even drove out to provide supplies and put them directly into the hands of the people. He stated that Desi Welfare is looking for more volunteers, especially in the United States. Moving forward, they hope to provide heaters and blankets as they move into winter. And in the future, they hope to work on rebuilding and supplying nursing homes and orphanages. One of their main challenges though is limited funding. They are always looking for people to donate and support the cause.
When asked about what they were hoping to achieve through this presentation, Annie Imran, the presenter from PSA, responded, “My number one thing for this is for people to see, yes it is a third-world country, but they are people at the end of the day. The fact of the matter is just because it’s not massively affecting us, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. So, we have to learn about what we can do and actually do these things. So, in the future, when climate change does come for us, other people are willing to help us out because we helped them out. My number one thing that I hope people get out of this is how to stay out of donor fatigue and have a sense of humanity.”
One of the motivating factors behind this presentation is to raise awareness of what the United States can do to help support the people of Pakistan. Representatives from the event encouraged attendees to hold their national leaders accountable for the effects of climate change. They expressed that fossil fuel giants such as China and the United States need to be held accountable for their contributions to global warming since Pakistan is a country that is contributing less than 1% of global emissions and yet it is one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
Another alternative is to get involved with lobbying and protesting fossil fuel infrastructures. Stockton’s Amnesty International hosts various lobbying days throughout the year for those interested in pushing for environmental changes.