Adrenalin, spirit help Sisters through reality of despair

October 13, 2010

What happens when the adrenalin subsides and one has to face the reality?

Columban Sisters were there when Pakistani's needed help surviving the floods earlier this year.

For weeks our adrenalin was pumping, wondering if the mighty Indus would invade our house and surrounding area in Latifabad, like everybody else who could afford money, we bought in non-perishable foods that would take us through the disaster.

Our Columban congregation, families and friends kept vigil with us by phoning and texting us and we knew that we were not alone.

When it was time for us to leave our security behind, three Columban Sisters and some of our team crossed the mighty Indus River. We saw the power of its merciless torrents flash by, swallowing up everything in its sight.

On the highways and byways we sought out those who had genuinely lost all. They were everywhere… some begging for their daily bread, women with flocks of children around them, distressed and despairing, babies in arms undernourished out under the sun with no shade but a tilted charpoi (string bed) which is moved around to protect them from the glaring sun.

It is still monsoon time and when it is raining they have no cover except for a handmade razai (bed-spread) to give them shelter. Men were trying to fend for their families and many of these women now exposed to the elements may never have seen outside the four walls of their homes as many families in interior Sindh keep ‘purdah’ (curtain). This means they live literally behind the curtain, and now, being exposed to the stares of those zooming along in cars on the super highway, they cannot be but traumatized.

Eventually we focused on one group of very needy people on the super highway as our starting point. It was a painful sight to see. These people came from Larkana which is a distance of about seven hours away and it took them days to get here as their villages were completely flooded.  They shared their story with us and our team manager, who made an assessment of their needs which consisted of tents, food, children’s clothes, pots, water cooler and water.

Thanks to you our benefactors we were able to move into action immediately. That evening, cooked food was served to 109 people as they had had nothing to eat for three days.

The next day was a day full of team spirit and on Tuesday we brought them their tents, non-perishable food stuffs, water and water coolers to quench their thirst under the scorching hot sun. There we found a young woman with her new born baby boy smiling at us and the baby yawning not realizing its horrendous circumstances.  Also we came by an eighty-year-old woman begging for a water cooler.  The young and the old are the most vulnerable under such conditions. One lady asked us if we were fasting because it is Ramadan, the Muslim fasting season but we said ‘no, we are Christians’ and immediately she wanted to make tea for us.  Such hospitality!

Later we took torches to the families as they are out in the ‘desert,’ fearful of snakes and other such creatures stealing in to visit them at night!  They prayed for us all for being with them in their time of need.

As they return to their camps they will be given the three sewing machines, materials with their accessories and fresh vegetables.

Thank you for making it possible for us to reach out to these traumatized people.  Some call this flood a slow Tsunami as one third of the country lies under water and 20,000,000 are displaced.  Our effort is like a drop in the ocean but we will continue to seek out those most in need. May the Lord bless us all in our efforts.

The Columban Sisters are a congregation of missionary religious women. The article was originally published on the Columban Australia region website.