Quake Zone

Go To The Quake Zone

Update 10/28/2006: No doubt you have read about the unrest in Pakistan over the past year. It’s calmed down now. We intend to make the work expedition in the summer of 2007. I will keep our readers posted through the attached Blog.

From Sam Carpenter’s Blog journal dated 12/12/2005:
I write this as I prepare to fly home to the USA, Mid-December 2005. I have been in the quake zone for the better part of four weeks only leaving the area to come here to Islamabad to post these Blog dispatches and make submissions to Pakistani newspapers (the U.S. Media has little interest: out of sight; out of mind). One thing I have accomplished is to lay the groundwork with Pakistani and Kashmiri government officials and a particular Pakistani non-profit organization to enable westerners to come over to work. This place is not your average tourist destination so it’s been interesting. Wild places; wild times. Absolute destruction. People in desperate need of help. This is like nothing you have ever seen.

Before you read on, know that our primary focus is the children who remain alive in the quake zone. A huge number of their brothers and sisters were killed here. The earthquake of October 8, 2005 came just before 9:00am as schools had their kids settled in for the day, at their desks. 1,600 schools were completely collapsed; typically their ten inch thick concrete roofs fell straight down on the children. Last week I looked down across the river at a school in Balakot that still had 250 children buried in the rubble. Pakistani soldiers were in the beginning stages of digging them out.

But, there are children still alive and well here in Northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. We can help them by helping their families. There are destitute women here, too, and they need our help.

If you come here you will be treated with deference and more than that, you will think you are royalty. From the top of the government to the poorest family, you will be welcomed here by all. If you are looking for adventure, want to “do some good,” and are willing to make a contribution to either our foundation or to the people you will be working with (your choice), then read on.

I can tell you first-hand that the month I have just spent in Azad Jammu Kashmir and northern Pakistan, just after the earthquake, was worthwhile for the people I have helped and for me. I have welled up to speechlessness, at the brink of tears, so many times: in tents, on the streets, in government offices, in motorcycle taxis and trucks.

I have spent time here setting up a part of our foundation that my partners and I think will be good for the people who live here, for the people who donate to them, and for one-on-one understanding between cultures. Here are the basics:

1) You can come here to work with Pakistanis to build new homes. You will be met at the Islamabad airport and driven to Mansehra, a town that is about an hour and one half north of Islamabad. There will be soldiers with guns at the airport. You will be an object of attention there and everywhere else you go. You must be mentally robust and, sorry about this, for now you need to be male. We’re working on finding a way to make this a safe journey for women.

2) You must be physically robust. You will join a four or five man team to build 180 square foot, permanent homes for people who are living in tents now. With your team you will pack in materials, sometimes to high altitudes. Your team mates will be Pakistani or Kashmiri. They may not speak much English but you will figure things out. The homes you build will hold families of eight to ten. Yes, that’s true, eight to ten people in 180 square feet. Bring your sleeping bag. Tents and food to be provided by our partner here, Humanity Relief and Rehabilitation Trust (www.hrrtrust.org). It’s a Pakistani non-profit and a perfect “sister” non-profit for us.

3) Contribute at least $3,000 cash to Kashmir Family Aid or directly to HRR Trust, your choice. Yes, you are paying to work! Contribute more if you can. If you don’t have this kind of money, there are ways to raise funds through churches and civic groups. If you really want to go, it can be done.

4) Stay to work as long as you want but make the minimum three weeks. You will work with one family every four or five days that you are here. You will be in small groups. Never will you be alone.

5) We will provide info on how to get a Pakistan visa, how to book and pay for a round-trip flight to Islamabad ($1,500-$2,000 round trip from either U.S. coast. Trust me, there is a trick to getting that price). We’ll give you the basics of how to handle yourself; what to say and not to say: how to be an American, on the loose, in Pakistan. You will not be drinking or picking up girls in this place (alcohol is illegal in Pakistan; don’t even think about women). There will be an agreement for you to sign whereby you promise not to whine, to sermonize or to pontificate any right/wrong political/religious standpoints.You will work damn hard. I have been here five times and know the essentials and have Pakistani friends willing and able to help. Bottom line: Once you get here you will find that, for the most part, Pakistani and Kashmiri people really, really like Americans. HOWEVER, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE SECURITY CONCERNS OF BEING IN PAKISTAN OR AJAD KASHMIR. Check out this state department warning.

6) The family that your team is helping, the father and sons and brothers, will help build the structure. It is made of local wood, many times sliced into slabs with handsaws. The structure takes about two days to build. It has CGI roofing and a rock foundation. It will be at an elevation of between 3,000 to 10,000 feet and you will walk hard uphill with a heavy load to get there.

7) Kashmir Family Aid and HRR Trust accept no responsibility for your safety. You’re going on your own and, in fact, you might fly from the U.S. to Islamabad by yourself (although we will try to organize groups to travel together). Neither organization is a travel agency, travel giuide or government connected organization. You will be entering a hazardous area that is a semi war zone AND an earthquake disaster area. Needless to say the quake area you will be in is the ultimate disaster area, by any definition. If after-shock tremors bother you, don’t come. And no one guarantees there won’t be another 7.6 magnitude quake while you’re here. If it happens, sorry about that. The point is, no one is accepting formal or informal responsibility for your safety but, having said that, we will do everything we can to make sure you are OK. So, from us, no guarantees and no liability. You’ll sign a waiver to this effect before you come.

Those are the basics of it all. Maybe forgo the climbing trip, the European sojourn or that Hawaii beach-time and do something WAY out of the box. As I said earlier, this is a wild place, in wild times. A real adventure…and the people here need your help. It won’t be “fun” in the Western sense but, guaranteed, you will go to a place inside yourself that you’ve never been before. And, “when the day is over’” as they like to say in Pakistan, and since the governments can’t figure out how to get it done, the one-on-one understanding between an American, and a whole lot of Pakistanis and/or Kashmiris, will be much, muchbetter: I’ve seen it happen oover and over again

Still interested? Email me at samc@centratel.com and tell me about yourself. Then, let’s talk.
-sam carpenter