The Georgetown UNICEF chapter partnered with the South Asian Society and the Georgetown Gastronomes to host an awareness dinner this Wednesday, educating attendees about the ongoing effects from the disastrous mid-summer flooding in Pakistan.
“Considering the range of devastation in Pakistan, I felt since it occurred over the summer, students coming back to campus are partly familiar with the facts, but it is not getting the attention it needs,” Georgetown UNICEF Program Chair Susan O’Rourke (COL ’12) said. “People don’t have a sense of the extent of the devastation.”
About 30 attendees filled the McCarthy Hall fourth-floor common room, part of the third and fourth-floor Justice and Diversity Association.
The focus of the evening was a PowerPoint presentation in which O’Rourke gave an overview of the situation in Pakistan, including the bare numbers of what the U.N. secretary general called the worst disaster he has ever seen, along with stories of individual children and information on local grassroots support efforts, such as the Lady Health Workers Program.
orial Shah (SFS ’13), who spent this summer in her native country working to help combat the disaster while blogging her experiences in The Express Tribune, an international Pakistani newspaper, is a key proponent of Georgetown’s involvement in the relief efforts.
“The problem is clearly the scale of devastation, bigger than any other, but also that the Pakistani government is completely bankrupt,” Shah said.
The Spotlight dinner accomplished more than just awareness. Attendees voluntarily donated upwards of $100 total to support displaced and struggling Pakistani families.
“Ninety-six percent of every dollar donated goes directly to UNICEF,” UNICEF Fundraising Chair Judy Shing (COL ’13) said. “We can’t have an actual fundraiser, but people here can donate money, and we leave it up to UNICEF because it gives them the flexibility to decide where it’s needed most.”
In order to have a fundraiser for which they can sell tickets, UNICEF needs both a venue to offer their space for free and a GU performing group to perform for free, as stipulated by the Office of the President.
Attendees varied from members of the sponsoring clubs to other students curious about the cause. The third and fourth-floor JDA asserts that student involvement is crucial to any sort of progress, despite the physical and tactical distance between Georgetown students and Pakistani children.
The accompanying dinner – traditional homemade South Asian cuisine, including chicken malai kebabs, basmati rice, vegetables, naan with butter and coconut barfi for dessert – not only provided the customary incentive to attract more visitors, but also was a means to share the culture of the region of the evening.
“In general South Asian cuisine, especially naan, is eaten at almost every meal. These foods are a staple of the daily life in Pakistan, and in all South Asian countries,” said Anika Khan (COL ’13), a UNICEF club member on the Program Committee which planned the event.
At the end of her presentation, O’Rourke suggested coming together and donating in groups.
“The whole problem is that it’s not just the case where you have an urban area and businesses gone, but you’re talking about people’s farms, the country’s exports, and the entire food supply gone,” O’Rourke said. “They need monetary help, and you guys can even go on the UNICEF website and select specific things you’d like to donate. You can do this as individuals, in a group, or even as a floor.”
Shah, who has seen the devastation firsthand, attests to her belief that Georgetown students can realistically be of help.
“[It’s] not the same as working on the ground in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas, but Pakistan’s 21 million displaced people are in urgent need of monetary assistance and any amount that Georgetown’s students can raise will help them survive,” Shah said.
**Correction: Susan O’Rourke, who was originally identified as the club President, is the Program Chair. Anika Khan, who was identified as a UNICEF club member, is part of the Program Committee which planned the event.**”