On October 8, 2005 an earthquake shook the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan killing 80 thousand people and leaving several million homeless. Our journey took us over winding mountain roads to the small village of Thakot, four and a half hours from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. All the houses in this area were affected by the earthquake.
As we arrived, Major Fateh welcomed us in his small military base camp located in the hills overlooking the river Indus. We unloaded our trucks and cars and put up our tents on a flat space on the hill. Although there was one permanent building in the camp that had sustained only slight damage, it was not safe to sleep there due to the daily aftershocks. Since these aftershocks are still occurring, no one in the region will sleep in a permanent structure for fear of another earthquake. Instead they sleep in tents or in the open air.
From our base camp in Thakot, we traveled to Allai town and the surrounding mountain villages in small four- wheel drive pick-ups. Allai town is located in a valley about 5000 feet above sea level. The 36km road from Thakot to Allai town has had over 90 mudslides. Major Fateh who is in charge of clearing the roads, described to us the horrible scene he witnessed as he arrived in the destroyed villages by foot a day after the quake.
On the morning of the earthquake, Major Fateh’s men were working on the road. He lost 15 of his men and 30 were wounded. He knew more than anyone in the area what the conditions were in the villages and the damage and death toll they sustained. One day, as we were distributing our goods he informed us that “all the men in this village had died and that we needed to help the women.”
As we arrived in another village, only the men would come out of their tents or shelters, the women would not customarily come out to greet strange male visitors. Fiona and Ghazala, the female members of our team who also were the organizers of this project were able to meet with the women to determine their health conditions and attend to their needs.
Some of the more remote villages had still not received aid. Our intention was to make an extra effort to reach these areas. For two days we traveled over dangerous unpaved mountain roads, high in the Himalayan Mountains in our four-wheel drive pick-ups distributing blankets, tents, winter clothing, shoes and medicine to these areas. As we traveled up and down these hills, the dusty, dry air covered our clothes. Major Fateh’s cook boiled water for us to wash with before we crawled into our tents and sleeping bags.
Thousands of people lost family and friends. Millions of people lost their homes and belongings. So many are still in need. As winter settles in, many who lost their homes and lack basic needs will struggle to stay alive. Please think of how you can get involved in helping them and make a difference in one or two families who were affected by this disaster.
When major disasters cause death and suffering to our fellow human beings, it is natural for us to feel compassion and be affected by the pain and chaos. Such times in human history have brought all of us together in our hearts and helped us to see the suffering of another human being and overcome the barriers of color, cast, religion and nationality to express our kindness in action.
As we experience such disaster and chaos, it is important not to feel overwhelmed and helpless. If we can make a difference in the lives of a few people who are affected and help a few families by easing their pain and suffering, we can grow ourselves in compassion and kindness and help ourselves to be spiritually strong.
Thank you so much for all of your help and kindness. Triple Gem Society is able to do its work because of your generous support. May you be well and happy.
With love and blessings,