A Mother’s Recount

Forty-year old, Rashida Bibi’s life changed dramatically after the destructive earthquake hit Azad Jammu and Kashmir. She is now forced to live in a small shelter-home in the district of Chela. Prior to the earthquake Rashida Bibi had seen much better days. She lived in a two-storey house with her husband and two children. The house was built on two hundred and fifty yards. The family also owned a six hundred yard piece of land and a car. Her husband, Mohammad Sharif, who had been a kidney patient for the past eight years, was a truck driver prior to his illness. Since then, Rashida has been the breadwinner for her family. Previously the family lived off a thriving business of livestock farming. Rashida’s home and her in-laws house just next door did not survive the strong tremors and collapsed. Rasida’s father-in-law was crushed to death in the earthquake when their house collapsed over him while he was asleep. Rashida and her mother-in-law Fazl Noor were working in the fi elds when the earthquake struck, they ran towards the collapsing house but could not save Fazal Noor’s husband. However, Mohammad Sharif, Rashida Bibi’s husband who was also present in the house, managed to escape with a broken leg. Her children Rahim and Karim were in school at that time and luckily survived when the teachers forced them out of the crumbling school building to safety.Compensation from the government amounted to Rupees one hundred and fi fty thousand. This amount was spent on her husband’s illness and reconstruction of the houses. The small amount that remains is used very frugally by Rashida on daily necessities. Rashida expresses sad facts that she and her family witnessed in the aftermath of the earthquake, as far as distribution of relief activities were concerned. The enormous amounts of aid that poured into the region were unfairly distributed and many a times horded, just to be discarded at a later date. The shelters and ration cards issued were used unfairly by the affl uent residents, leaving the destitute to further suffer the harsh weather and hunger. Despite having no man-power, it is commendable that Rashida Bibi struggles hard to pull the family together and works alone untiringly in the fi elds to earn the daily bread. Her only aim being to bring back the same stability which they once enjoyed. Since Fazl Noor’s mental stability has been deeply affected after the death of her husband, she is unable to assist her daughter-in-law as she did. We all need to join hands and come forward to provide help to people like Rashida Bibi.

Amtul Haseen, Maheen Asad

Bearing The Brunt Of Mother Nature

After a long day’s work, often forty-year old Safi a Bibi would sit near the window overlooking the river, absorbing the beauty and serenity. Her life in her small one hundred yard house in the valley with her husband and four children was almost like heaven. Little had she foreseen how short-lived her heaven on earth was to be. The October eighth earthquake spelt doom for Safi a Bibi and her family. From a successful housewife with a happy household and the sound of laughter around her, her world changed into one filled with gloom and despondency after losing her husband. The widow recalls that the fi rst night after the earthquake was the most miserable one of her life. As darkness spread bringing an end to the fateful day she and her children slept under the open sky in the severe cold. Though she received Rs.125,000/ as compensation, for Safi a Bibi nothing in the world will be enough to recompense the loss she suffered on that dreadful October day.

Amtul Haseen, Maheen Asad

DREAMS UNFULFILLED

Mumtaz Akhter remembers Manshera, the town where she was born, spent her childhood, grew up with bitter-sweet memories, found love and was spending a beautiful life with her husband and fi ve angelic children when suddenly she lost it all! Now at fi fty-fi ve, with her dreamhouse leveled to the ground and three children dead, she is a walking corpse. To add to her plight, the merciless cold and lashing rains drove her and her family to Bela. Samiullah, her sixty-four year old husband, comments that his wife had not smiled since the light of her eyes, her eldest son, Abdul Latif drowned eleven years ago. She had not yet recovered from the fi rst shock when the second and deadlier one struck, taking away two more children from her. As compensation, the government allotted them a piece of land in Bela, but they did not receive any cash. An exorbitant sum was charged from them for a few sheets of corrugated iron. It is diffi cult to make two ends meet for such families as a large amount goes in medical care, which costs far more than it used to before the quake. These families are totally dependent upon private clinics, which charge astronomical amounts. Furthermore the fees of the less-than-qualifi ed doctors have more than doubled. Children here suffer from jaundice, TB, respiratory and skin problems, and water-borne diseases such as cholera. Many believe the earthquake to be a calamity and punishment from the Almighty. This family refutes the claim and is indignant about such views as they believe that such natural disasters are a test of faith.

Anusha Asif, Aamina Siddiqi

The Grass will be Greener!

Full of hope for her future – Sameena is one of the few girls amongst thousands who still dreams of a bright future! When the earthquake struck, Sameena, like others of her age was at school. It seemed uncanny to her- -surely it could only be a nightmare! The walls of her school began caving in around her. Spontaneously she rushed towards the exit. Inches away to safety she was suddenly trapped in a pocket amongst the debris of the crumbling school house. Thankfully, when she was rescued she was not seriously hurt. The ruins of her school building still remain uncleared, a painful reminder of that fateful day. She was fortunate enough to escape with minor injuries but the mental anguish of having lost 35 of her classmates will always linger on. After meeting this young girl, I realized that courage in adversity is truly a very strong and admirable quality to possess, and for most, hope for a better future is all that is keeping them going. The helping hand of HOPE provides strength to young girls like Sameena to achieve their dreams for the future.

Shayan Hassan

Shukrina Bibi – A Resident Of Chehla Bandi

Thirty-year-old Shukrina Bibi, an earthquake victim is now a resident of the Chehla Bandi community. Little did she know that when her 15- year-old son left for school on October 8th 2005, she would never see him alive again. His dead body was retrieved from under the school building rubble a few days later. Similar was the fate of her husband, as he took his cattle to graze, a two-storey lodging collapsed on him and his fellow herders. They all died on the spot. Shukrina Bibi, is left with four daughters. Her eldest thirteen year old daughter was also at school and suffered an ear injury and a broken arm. Realizing the importance of education Shukrina Bibi sends two of her daughters to school. Although deep down in her heart the fear of the quake still lingers when she sees them off to school. All she lives for are her daughters. In order to support her family, Shukrina offers domestic services to the more affl uent. Though her daughters’ education it takes up a considerable portion of the family income, a mere Rs. 4,500/, but this does not deter her from continuing. The family lives under a tin roof, which is surrounded by plastic sheets, serving as walls, donated by international organizations. With remorseful tears she states, that the government turned a blind eye to the suffering masses in these areas. Besides housing, there are other problems to address. Another substantial portion of the income is spent on groceries. The price hike after the earthquake is unimaginable, it has only added to the plight of the survivors.Today Shukrina walks around the community looking for more work in order to eke out a slightly better life for her children. Despite having suffered this severe shock in her life, she continues with an incredible optimism for a bright future for her daughters. HOPE is providing a “ray of Hope’ for many like Shukrina Bibi.

ARSLA JAWAID

Never Ending Hardships for Tasneem Begum

Widowed during the calamitous earthquake, Tasneem Begum now works as a laundry supervisor at the CDRS headquarters in Badangi. With eight children to support, she and her family live hand to mouth on her meager earnings of Rs. 4000/month. Her wages must cover the house rent too. Yet this spirited lady is determined not to compromise on the education of her children. She is among the unfortunate people who did not receive any monetary compensation from the government. Her husband had a few savings which were quickly exhausted on food supplies within a year. To add to this, her aging father’s poor health takes a large portion of her income. Tasneem Begum’s mental anguish is also borne out of losing 14 other family members to the terrible disaster. Yet, she considers herself blessed because she has a reliable job, a rarity in an area ridden with adversity and despair.

Amtul Haseen, Shyaan Hassan, Maheen Asad

Tragedy befalls Naseem Bibi

Naseem Bibi, a resident of Bela, had waved goodbye to her youngest daughter, who attends the local school nearby and her college going son, before continuing with her daily chores on the fateful morning of 8th October. The domestic animals outside Naseem bibi’s house were restless as she fed them their morning fodder. Their restlessness changed into panic for their owner as the earth began to tremble violently and dwellings began collapsing around her. Re c o v e r i n g from her stupor she hurried towards her home to rescue her family. She whisked her elder daughters and her aging father out of the house. Unfortunately her husband was trapped under the rubble of the collapsed house. Being rescued after four hours, she discovered he had broken his hipbone and both his legs. Meanwhile the youngest daughter was severely injured due to the collapsing school building. Bela is a village located at a considerable distance from the city, with a river fl owing between the two. Following the earthquake, three days lapsed before any kind of aid could reach the inhabitants of this village. Much to their relief the Army arrived with food items, and a few days later a team of Turkish doctors accessed the remote village to alleviate the sufferings of the injured. The surgery performed on her husband was not successful and left him paralyzed. An operation costing Rs. 3 lakhs is required to treat him, but he refuses to have it done. He asserts that he is old and it is pointless wasting money on his treatment. Rather he would prefer if the compensation amount is spent on the education of his children.

Harrowing memories for Nadia

In the village of Bela, 8 year old little Nadia and her classmates were stunned when the earth began to shake violently under their tiny feet. They remained rooted to their chairs, thinking it could only be a nightmare; it wasn’t until Nadia was jolted by her teacher that she realized what was happening was real. No sooner were the frightened girls rushed out of the premises that the school came crumbling down. The horror of the day wasn’t over yet. When she made it back home, she learnt that her one year old baby sister had been crushed to death when their small home collapsed. Visions of that terrifying morning are vivid in her mind even today, she has lost all courage and the slightest tremor, or a drop of rainfall, sends Nadia hurrying out under the open sky. At times, when she plays with her younger siblings, she is overcome with emotion as she remembers the sister she lost. There seems to be no end to the emotional suffering this child has been subjected to. She and countless others like her desperately need our help to rise above the traumatic experiences of their childhood.

Shyaan Hassan