Helping People Help Themselves after the Earthquake
By M. Majid Ali, CPA
New York

They say in China, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime". The Human Development Foundation ( operates on a similar premise in that emergency aid to communities is followed up by the establishment of basic infrastructure and schools that help people sustain themselves over time.
The ultimate goal is to empower people to change their destiny and to move them from the receiving end to the giving end. In the wake of the devastating South Asian Earthquake centered in Northern Pakistan the Human Development Foundation is providing emergency aid to people and embarking on long-term plans to rebuild the basic life support and educational facilities of the villages destroyed by the calamity. HDF is a non-political, non-governmental organization registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization (IRS tax ID # 36-4184940).

When the earthquake struck Northern Pakistan people from all over the globe sprang into action to offer support. The Human Development Foundation with its long history of working in the remote areas of Pakistan also joined the effort. With its infrastructure that spans the globe from networks mobilizing communities to a dedicated staff of doctors, teachers and civil engineers in Pakistan, HDF stood ready to utilize its many years of experience in helping small villages function on their own. From the moment the earth stopped shaking HDF teams were mobilized to assist in the rescue and relief effort and they have conducted operations around the clock as well as reached out to supporters.
Here is a brief chronology of initial HDF operations after the October 8th earthquake: October 10: A three-member team visited the Muzzaffarabad area for needs assessment and provision of relief goods. October 12: A three-member team including a physician visited the Bagh area of Kashmir for needs assessment and provision of relief goods. October 15: It was decided to set up a relief camp in the village of Putan Khurd near Muzzaffarabad. The camp would provide food for 15 days to all households of the village, 300 blankets, soil digging equipment and medical aid. The team would include a physician, specialized project managers and support staff. It was noted that people were eager to get back to their homes and start rebuilding without waiting for any outside help. All they needed was a set of tools. HDF distributed tool kits for this purpose. This is how HDF helps people help themselves. An effort is also being made to work in tandem with other relief organizations so as to forge partnerships and avoid overlap.
The overall base camp for collection of earthquake donations is in Islamabad. The effort is organized via a working management, a collection management and volunteers who sift, sort, pack and ship needed items to the forward base camps. The major centers of Lahore, Rahim Yaar Khan, Karachi and Mardan all have regional base camps collecting clothing, tents, food water and medicines. International donations are being collected at the base camp in Islamabad. Regional bases are bringing in supplies twice a week via free service offered by Pakistan International Airlines. Forward base camps are being set up in target areas where relief goods will be taken from Islamabad and distributed via local volunteers. A communications cell is handling all the information and communication between the teams and headquarters while a logistics cell is facilitating the movement of relief goods from airports to the base camps and distribution sites and obtaining government customs clearances and hiring transport.
The extent the destruction is so much that the need of those affected by earthquake will be beyond the first few days and beyond the supply of food, medicine and shelter.
HDF has adopted the village "Bugna" on the road to Muzzafarabad. Bugna is hub of 11 villages. It is 25 Km away form Kohla, Muzzafarabad road. The area is 25 Km away from Kohla bridge, about 20 Km away from main market. There are about 300 households in the immediate vicinity and another 800 households scattered around that area. 75% of the households have been destroyed completely. In coordination with the army representative, HDF has taken over the responsibility of the whole village. We plan to go beyond the immediate need of these people and help them rebuild their lives and the communities. We have established a fund for this purpose and your donation into this fund will help rebuild their lives.
HDF is not a hand-out organization. It believes in self-empowerment by giving people the tools to fend for themselves and live in dignity. Its founding in 1997 was partly sponsored by the "Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America". Many members who contribute so much to American Healthcare wanted to do something to break the vicious cycle of illiteracy and resulting poverty at an international level. During the first five years the Foundation has taken significant human development initiatives in all parts of Pakistan. In addition the Foundation has been able to mobilize people in all major areas of the United States to establish supporting networks and to participate in human development on an international level.
The human development concept followed by HDF is actually adopted from Dr. Mahbub ul Haq's work "Reflections on Human Development." Dr Haq was a Cambridge educated World Bank economist who also served successfully as Pakistan's Finance Minister. His main legacy is the development of human development indexes that measure overall human growth not just increase in GNP. This model is all encompassing and puts people, especially women, at the center of development efforts. The model dictates that the purpose of development is to maximize human choice not just enhance income by investing in education, basic healthcare and means of sustenance. The goals of development are defined at the start of the projects and a detailed analysis is done to achieve them in a sensible way.
HDF's modus operandi is to operate at the local level in partnership with local people to bring about positive social change by jointly constructing hand pumps, roads, small dams and to organize people at the village level so they can work and achieve as a unit. Simultaneously an investment is made in setting up schools for adults and children as well as basic healthcare. Micro-credit programs provide small loans and training to individuals that bring out their latent talents and enable them to establish small businesses that allow them to escape the permanent bondage of corrupt village money-lenders. This program seeks to replicate the phenomenal success of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh which has lent millions of dollars to people in over 40,000 villages allowing them to establish small businesses and as a result millions have climbed out of poverty. Grameen Bank's programs have experienced a loan repayment rate of over 90%. Today HDF has healthcare projects in Rahim Yar Khan that provide vaccinations, schools in Mardan, micro-credit lending programs in Shamsabad that enable laborers to become entrepreneurs and even a dam in Zhob that can supply water to 50 villages.
The South Asian poet Tagore inspires all of humanity:

Where the mind is without fear
And the head held high
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom

The human spirit can often burn most brightly in troubled times as was displayed so vividly during the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster. For further details about volunteering with the Human Development Foundation please visit or call 1-800-705-1310.
Tax deductible donations can be made online or checks made payable to "Human Development Foundation and mailed to:
1350 Remington Road
Suite W
Schaumburg IL 60173
(The author is a CPA working in Investment Banking in New York and an HDF volunteer. He can be reached at


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.