What role to play in the recovery? - Acumen

What role to play in the recovery?

By Acumen on December 04, 2005

Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz has been visiting earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan, and documenting her travels in a journal. Excerpts of each day’s entry will be posted.

December 3 – Islamabad
Islamabad is decidedly colder than Karachi, and already I start wondering whether I have enough warm clothing. This country is amazing. In this one week, we will go from eighty-degree weather in Karachi to fifty in Islamabad to near zero in the mountains. We will go from the sea to the foothills of some of the grandest mountains on earth. And we will meet some of the most cosmopolitan people, who offer fine cognac and think nothing of weekend trips to London, as well as tribals who live in conservative systems that feel a world away from modern life. What does it mean to be Pakistani? And what role will nationalism play as the world becomes more and more interconnected?

We have another long day of meetings. Shahnaz Wazir Ali from the Pakistan Centre of Philanthropy discusses the growing interest in our model for change and the opportunities to build a community in Pakistan, where over a billion dollars were given last year for charitable purposes. Pakistanis have rallied around the earthquake in a way that has created a great sense of pride as well. How to sustain this spirit?

Six other meetings where we discuss the growing role of microfinance, the work that NGOs are doing around relief and development, the fears people have regarding how money will be spent, who will gain access to the reconstruction funds and how change in the next three years will be coordinated. Again, we find a mix of attitudes, from confidence that most people will receive the promised government stipends to worries that the most vulnerable will be left out altogether. We hear stories of the mafia rushing in after the earthquake to grab land that had been vacated; and whether rumor or truth, it was from fear of this happening that most people stayed on their land (which they own through custom and not title), despite the precarious mountain conditions and being cut off from help.

There is something about the swirl of information – and even more so seeing human suffering at such huge scales that we were about to see – that creates a physical heaviness along with anxiety around what it is that we might do. I barely sleep again, thinking of the many conversations, the challenges, making sure in my own heart that we are here for the right reasons, even if we conclude there isn’t an appropriate role for us.

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