Pakistan-relief drive at Islamic School 'inspiring'

There is worldwide concern that donor fatigue is hampering relief efforts for earthquake-ravaged Pakistan, where close to 90,000 people were killed and where millions have been left homeless in a Himalayan winter.

But that wasn't the case at the Islamic School of Seattle in November, said Julia Tiabji, interim administrative manager at the school. The Pakistan Association of Greater Seattle had designated the school as an official drop-off location for donations of tents, blankets, sleeping bags and other cold-weather gear, she said.

The idea, Tiabji explained, was to get enough supplies to fill a 40-foot shipping container, which the Pakistan Association would pay to ship. That turned out to be a piece of cake, but there was a problem.

"We had so many donations after they filled the 40-foot container," Tiabji said. "There was no way I could have (donations) sitting in my hallway." But that meant a second shipping container was needed, along with the money to pay for shipping it, she added. "It's quite expensive."

Tiabji 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 in a 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 Tiabji 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."

The response to the relief effort at the school was overwhelming, Tiabji said. "It's inspiring actually." For example, one group from Missoula, Mont., drove a 20-foot van full of supplies over three mountain passes to get to Seattle, she said. "They had to go back the next morning."

There was also a man who showed up at the school with a large bag of gear. "I would have brought more," Tiabji quoted him as saying, "but I had to take the bus."

A group of mostly Pakistani Microsoft employees involved in their own fundraising efforts on the Eastside also made donations and helped ferry the supplies around, she said. "A lot of the support came from the non-Muslim community," Tiabji added.

Support also came in the form of cash and checks, and the school itself raised around $1,000 at a silent auction of donated items on Nov. 17, she said. The money has been forwarded to the Hidaya Foundation, which is still accepting donations at PO Box 5481, Santa Clara, CA 95056.

"That's it for the moment," Tiabji said last week. But she found that the response in Seattle to a disaster half a world away was heart-warming. It was like people dealing with a family member in need, she said. "That's the sentiment I get."

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or (206) 461-1309.[[In-content Ad]]