Sunday, January 22, 2006


Posted from Pakistan on Thursday, January 19, 2006
By Amber Johnson, Metro Marketing
& Communications Director, Chicago

After 16 in-flight hours and almost as many hours waiting at airports, Katie Roland, a colleague from New York, and I landed in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Stepping out of any airport and into a new country can feel like stepping onto the set of a movie, and this is especially true of Islamabad where the sights and sounds of Pakistan greet you as you inch through the crowd outside the airport. From the airport sidewalk we could see the shadows of mountains in the distance, and in the foreground men bowed in prayer, veiled women shuffled past, and merchants heaped delicious smelling food onto plates in their market stalls. This is definitely not downtown Chicago.

One of our first stops was to the World Vision Pakistan headquarters. There were only 14 staff members on October 8 when the earthquake struck. Now there are over 120; some serve in Islamabad but most are in regional offices where they are able to work closely with those who were most devastated by the earthquake. I'll meet several of these staff members on Saturday, when we travel to the Mansehra Region to help with the relief efforts.

At the World Vision offices we received briefings on the earthquake relief work, on cultural sensitivity, and on security. The staff impressed me with their industrious professionalism and their eagerness to help two traveling Americans learn about Pakistani culture and the effects of the earthquake. The staff showed us samples of food and shelter kits (photo at left) that have been distributed to families whose homes were destroyed. These simple resources -- so inexpensive by American standards -- will help these families survive through the cold Pakistani winter.

On our way to check in at our hotel we stopped at a market and bought tunics, long, flowing blouses that Katie and I will wear along with scarves that cover our heads and shoulders. Modesty in women is extremely important in this culture and as World Vision staff members we want to show our respect by dressing appropriately.

We crossed eleven time zones to arrive in Pakistan and our bodies are weary and jet-lagged. But just spending time with my Pakistani colleagues is energizing. I'm proud to be a part of this team.

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