Successful CDRS Fundraiser for Earthquake Victims
By Aleena Ashary
Pictures by Fazal Farooqui
Glimpses of the CDRS Fundraiser
Irvine, CA: Sunday, August 24th, the friends of Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS) organized a fundraiser at the Summit at Turtle Ridge, Irvine where Todd Shea, the executive director, updated the Pakistani community of Southern California on the current status of the earthquake relief project in Northern Pakistan. The attendees appreciated the efforts of the Host Committee, which consisted of Salman and Farzana Naqvi, Asim and Fizza Ashary, Adil and Laila Karamally, Fazal and Haya Farooqui, Imran and Aliya Ali, Mujtaba and Seema Ali, Neelofar Farooqui, and Adeela and Shahid Ahsan. The casual brunch was the perfect setting for an informal discussion of the situation in Pakistan, the relaxed atmosphere allowing for an easy exchange of information.
The event was extremely successful in that the Pakistani community of Southern California was able to come together and raise funds that far exceeded the intended goal. In all, the community raised $71,000 (and counting), all of which will benefit the CDRS’s relief work in the Muzafarabad district in Northern Pakistan.
Although the disaster struck three years ago in October of 2005, the inhabitants of rural areas are still suffering from the earthquake’s devastating physical and psychological consequences. The event was instrumental in alerting people that the problems have not just gone away; Pakistanis still need resources to maintain an ongoing healthcare program. Many remote villages lost all forms of healthcare when the ground split open their small hospitals and took the lives of their doctors; some villages had never even had any substantial level of healthcare to begin with. CDRS have achieved their mission to respond to the earthquake in a quick, efficient, and compassionate manner, but are in need of funding. In the beginning of 2008, UNICEF informed CDRS that, despite the fact that the money had been used appropriately, UNICEF was forced to pull out funding for the relief effort because it had less capital than was initially estimated. The past eight months have been extremely difficult for CDRS; the gracious staff has worked without pay for the past four months.
During the event, Shea gave an insightful presentation regarding his work and his goals for CDRS. The audience was especially impressed with Shea’s pragmatic goal to break the cycle of dependency upon the NGO’s for funding. Realistically, the government does not have enough capital for healthcare to support the needs of the rural areas. Shea’s innovative idea of self-sustained healthcare system is based upon the belief that a health education program will gradually develop into a permanent community institution, allowing relief workers to move on to other disaster-stricken areas with more pressing needs. To achieve this admirable goal, Shea believes in “empowering them as a community to create a long-term solution”. Some people in the villages have a victim’s mentality where they feel that the government should pay for all the hardships that the villagers suffer. The idea of the community helping itself is “a social experiment conducted through healthcare …,” says Shea, who hopes to alter the mindset of the people and give them confidence in their own power. He hopes to see this goal achieved by the fourth anniversary of the earthquake, October of 2009.
As executive director of CDRS, Todd Shea oversees seven healthcare facilities within the district of Muzafarabad, Kashmir. Besides attending to patients at these facilities, the thirty-five staff members also give their time to participate in outreach medical services. They travel in extreme weather conditions and continue even when the roads are no longer paved in Jeeps into remote areas where the people are too far away to be able to reach the designated medical facilities.
Todd Shea, originally from Laurel, Maryland, found his passion for music at the tender age of five. Upon receiving a guitar at age twelve, he knew that music was the direction he wanted his life to take. He performed both solo and with bands at various prestigious venues, including the White House. Shea’s life took a new direction when he was in New York City on September 11th, 2001. Instead of performing, Shea found himself assisting the victims of the World Trade Center collapse by setting up makeshift pharmacies and delivering supplies. He went on to contribute to the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005. The day he returned to Maryland to visit his son, he turned the television on and saw that an earthquake with the magnitude of 7.6 had devastated Pakistan. He knew that his experience in disaster relief would be extremely useful. With no idea of who to go with or how to get there, he knew that somehow he would be helping the earthquake victims in a matter of days.
Shea has been in Pakistan for the past three years, devoting his time to the rural areas of Northern Pakistan that are in need of medical assistance. Despite his successes both as a musician and a relief worker, Shea has remained humble. “I think it’s a shame that everybody thinks what I am doing is amazing,” says Shea. When he spoke about his personal experience in Pakistan, his excitement filled the room with his love for the country. Shea charmed the community with his knowledge of the Urdu language; the words “zabardast” and “teekh hai” rolled off of his tongue as if he were born speaking Urdu. As he contently strummed his guitar and sang the favorite Pakistani song, “Dil Dil Pakistan”, the audience could feel the depth of Shea’s love for Pakistan.
Please help this worthy cause. To get more information on CDRS and to donate, please visit their website at www.cdrspaksitan.org.