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Harvard Students for Pakistan hosted a cultural event on Saturday to spread awareness of the catastrophic floods in Pakistan and raise funds for the approximately 21 million victims.
The event, which was co-sponsored by the Woodbridge International Society, featured Pakistani cuisine, poetry readings, and performances of traditional folk music from the region. Pakistani handicrafts were also on sale to raise money for flood relief.
Hania S. Chima ’14, a member of Harvard Students for Pakistan, led a presentation about the country’s condition before and after the disaster, which had left 8 million people homeless, destroyed more than 1.6 million acres of land, and exposed about 3.5 million children to water- and insect-borne diseases.
Beyond informing attendees of the crucial nature of the ongoing crisis, the organizers also sought to provide an accurate portrayal of Pakistan’s cultural identity, according to Nur N. Ibrahim ’13, the chief organizer of the event.
“The fact that the Pakistani foreign minister recently visited Harvard shows that the entire nation is extremely committed in helping the flood victims,” Ibrahim said. “We need to show the world that Pakistan is much more than what the media portrays us as.”
Mariam Chughtai, president of Harvard Pakistan Student Group at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said in an interview she was concerned about the sustainability of efforts to raise awareness of the crisis in Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s issue is bigger than Haiti, Tsunami, and Katrina combined,” she said. “However, we have received very little attention.”
“The primary objective of our campaign is not to raise money, but to consolidate efforts that can ensure sustained engagement on the Pakistani crisis in the long run,” she said.
As a result, the Pakistan student groups across Harvard hope to encourage 5,000 people to donate $1 or more and use this solid foundation of support to create a database of individuals who will keep Pakistan “alive in their minds,” Chughtai said.
Or Gadish ’11, vice president of the Woodbridge International Society, said the Pakistani flood crisis has not received much attention in the United States.
He attributed that lack of attention to a correponsing lack in media exposure.
“Because we think this hasn’t gotten enough media exposure, we are organizing this even to inform people of the severity of this issue,” Gadish said. “There are 8 million people that need urgent medical exposure in Pakistan right now.”
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