A Nov. 19 fundraising dinner was held at Rose Hill Elementary School in Kirkland for victims of the recent earthquake that killed close to 90,000 people and left millions homeless in Pakistan.
The fundraising dinner was organized by a group of mostly Pakistani employees of Microsoft. "It was attended by close to 200 people," said Hamid Mahmood, one of the organizers. "We raised around $100,000," he said of ticket sales, donations, matching donations from employers and the sale of artwork and crafts.
The money will be used for two relief efforts, Mahmood said. One is an adopt-a-tent-village project set up by an organization called Helping Hands. Each tent village will house around 700 people in roughly 110 families, he said. "It's a makeshift place where they can stay easily."
The tent village will include sanitation facilities, a common kitchen, along with a big tent for a school. "And then they'll have a mosque in a tent," Mahmood added. The cost for each village is $78,000.
With winter coming to the devastated Pakistani villages in the Himalayan foothills, shelter is critical to survival, he noted. "I've personally been to these areas before," Mahmood said. "The winter is really harsh. There's 17 feet of snow in places."
The second relief effort is an adopt-a-school project. Organized by a group called the Citizens Foundation, that involves bricks-and-mortar construction, and each school cost around $85,000 to build, he said. "They are running more than 200 schools in Pakistan already."
They are not the Muslim madrassa schools so prevalent in the country. "These are proper schools for boys and girls," Mahmood said. The schools are set up for 180 primary-school students. "If they can get more money to finance it, they'll probably have two shifts," he said of a change that would double the number of students.
The Microsoft group has also been involved in other fundraising efforts. They include, Mahmood said, one in October at the software giant's headquarters in Redmond, a Nov. 11 fundraising dinner sponsored by the Pakistan Association of Greater Seattle at the Northshore Community Center, and a sold-out fundraising dinner on Nov. 13 at the Redmond Marriott Hotel.
From jackets to wheelchairsIn addition, the group has been donating, among other items, jackets, warm clothing, blankets, tents, crutches and wheelchairs in an effort organized by the Pakistan Association of Greater Seattle, which has been using a warehouse in Tukwila, he said. "Our group has been going there pretty regularly."
Some of the Microsoft group also helped collect donations for the Pakistan Association at the Islamic School of Seattle, said Julia Tiabji, interim administrative manager at the school. "It started out maybe over a month ago," she said of the donation drive.
Enough donations came in that a 40-foot shipping container was filled, and the Pakistan Association paid to ship it to Pakistan, Tiabji said. But the donations kept rolling in, she added. That included donations the Microsoft group had gathered but couldn't fit in the first container, Mahmood said. So they took the leftover items to the Islamic School, he said.
But there was a problem. A second shipping container was needed, along with the money to pay for sending it to Pakistan. "It's quite expensive," Tiabji said.
She came up with the idea of contacting the California-based Hidaya Foundation, which is also involved in gathering donated items for the relief drive. "So I called them to see if we could coordinate efforts."
That did the trick, and the Hidaya Foundation ponied up the money for a second 40-foot container and the cost to ship it, she said. The original container was located at the Tukwila warehouse, but the second one was sent to the Islamic School.
However, it was impossible to deliver it to the parking lot of the Islamic School because of the narrow driveway, so Tianji made arrangements with NOVA High School across the street to store it there.
The container was only half full by Nov. 19. "But by Monday (Nov. 21), it was full and ready to go," she said. "It was full to the gills, all the way to the top."
There have been concerns that donations to the Pakistani earthquake victims are lagging because of donor fatigue following the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
"From what I understand, there's still a need for basic necessities," Tianji said. "But no, I don't really see donor fatigue was an issue." The response to the relief effort at the school was overwhelming, she said. "It's inspiring actually."
Mahmood said he was also worried about donor fatigue. "So I have been really amazed at the generosity people have shown." But Mahmood noted there is still an urgent need for help in Pakistan. "It is very desperate for a lot of people."
The Islamic School is no longer accepting donations, Tibji said. But Mahmood said donations of money are still welcome.
For more information or to make a donation, log onto www.helpgive hope.com/donate, e-mail quake firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mahmood at 891-1350.
Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at email@example.com or (206) 461-1309.[[In-content Ad]]