Al Ain: Zoha Bharwani is a student with ambitious plans like any other teenager, but she is determined to extend a helping hand right away to the victims of natural disasters left in the lurch after the initial rescue and relief response.
The victims, she believes, need consistent help to rebuild their lives.
And everybody can make a difference in lending unwavering support to them if ready to pool efforts, she said.
Studying at the International School of Choueifat in Al Ain, the 15-year-old Bharwani has set a goal to mobilise the people who are devastated to watch the unbearable destruction of lives, shelters and homes in calamity hit areas of the world. She took an initiative and founded a web-based relief group (www.aftercatastrophe.com) two years ago that now gets the world’s attention with the support of her schoolmates.
Bharwani, a Canadian, recently organised her first event ‘Music 4 Charity’ in Al Ain Mall, performing live with the students’ band Mainstream 747. The event was supported by the mall and UAE Red Crescent to help her collect donations from philanthropists. The money collected in the event will go to the families affected by devastating floods and earthquakes in Pakistan.
Natural disasters are horrific and inevitable and get immediate world response with a lot of relief efforts. The attention, however, quickly moves on in a few weeks to other happenings elsewhere in the world, she said.
“The relief dwindles but the displaced people have much more challenges to face,” she said.
The core of their existence that revolved around their home, work, school, friends, family, she said, cease to exist. The landscape changed faster than the mind’s ability to fathom the scope of despair.
“There are, however, not many people who are aware enough to address these long term aftereffects of the catastrophes,” she said.
When Bharwani visited the camps of the horrendous floods of 2010 in Pakistan with her father, she was just 12 year old. What she observed she kept it to herself to ponder over.
“I asked many questions to different people, researched other disasters and their effects as they came along such as Japanese and Haitian earthquakes followed by another major flooding in Pakistan the following year,” said the teenager.
For Bharwani there were several challenges.
“The biggest challenge was to focus on some small scale modifiable element in the enormity of disasters” she said. She was, however, clear from the start that she wanted to take one or two families and help them get their home rebuilt, get their children to school and find employment.
She was also determined to let people know that disasters do not pick and choose the nations and therefore the same should be true for the long term relief. The other challenge, she said, was to make sure that 100 per cent of the money is used by the family in collaboration with the help of local volunteers and a trusted organisation for funds disbursal.
Two years ago, Bharwani took a web-based initive to document what she observed, then to raise awareness and later to raise some funds. She now has volunteers in Japan, Pakistan, and searching for some in Haiti and other regions who could supervise the use of funds for the construction of home, school fees and employment or microfinance for entrepreneurs through local trusted agencies with regular reports from the families to be posted on the website.
Bharwani said that she had a long way and many challenges ahead but she was looking forward to them.