It has been some time since the devastating floods of last summer. To be honest, very little has changed for the people whose homes and lands were flooded. If anything, life has become harsher for them over the passing months with regard to their outward circumstances.
In November 2010 we were faced with a critical decision. Do we go on trying to find the $3,586 that it costs to feed around 900 people for a week, or do we start looking at more long term options for those who had nothing to go back to from their lives before the floods?
We sat down with a few of the leaders of about 40 families with whom we had been working closely from the beginning to hear what they had to say. They explained to us that they, and their kinsmen, were sharecroppers renting fields from the local landlord with a certain percentage of the crop going to the sharecroppers. If, however, the crop failed, they ended up in the landlord’s debt which was further compounded by the fact that the landlord was the only one who would advance the farmers a loan in time of sickness or for a wedding, a funeral or other emergency. It was in this way that they and their families ended up becoming the landlord’s bonded laborers.
The leaders said they understood our dilemma and felt the greatest blessing that we could give them would be a piece of land on which to build their own homes and a village school. Prior to the floods, they did not have the opportunity to send their children to school in the villages from which they came as there was no village school! In the meantime, they would try to get casual labor wherever they could, and with the money earned as day laborers together with the money the women earned from the income-generating sewing project that we had set up in September, they would try to tend to their own needs.
Well, we came away from the meeting with a bigger headache than the one we brought with us! Purchasing land is a mammoth task in Pakistan. It is also expensive. We sat with our project manager to weigh the pros and cons and decided to mull them over for a few days. Then, unexpectedly, two offers came to help us with the buying of the land. This was the green light we had been waiting for, and in it we saw God’s hand showing the way forward.
Our project manager swung into action and New Year’s Day 2011 found us in possession of the legal land titles and local authority papers. We now had a site large enough on which to build 40 houses. It was in a beautiful rural area beside a village that had a school and was within fifteen minutes travelling distance of the city by bus. This, we felt, would give the men the option of working in the fields or taking up laboring jobs in and around the city.
While we were in the process of purchasing the land, we faced another dilemma. Do we stop here and let the villagers build their own houses over time, or do we take on this task and give them the chance at a fresh start in life without the burden of debt which has always been their constant companion?
We did not have to wait long for the answer for over the past two months unsolicited funds flowed to us from several religious congregations who had received funds from their benefactors for flood victims. On February 11, 2011, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the construction of 40 singlestory two-room houses began. Each house will have a kitchen, a bathroom and outer courtyard for small animals. Yet, again, we were in awe of God’s love and compassion reaching out to us and the floodaffected families through the goodness of others.
We would like to thank everyone who contributed to the flood relief in Pakistan. We have linked hands across the world to help some of those left utterly destitute by the devastating floods in Pakistan last summer. Work continues to progress as these tribal people move to what is for them the Promised Land.