Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Posted in Pakistan on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006
By Amber Johnson, Metro Marketing
& Communications Director for New York

  • 1 top-quality mummy sleeping bag
  • 2 layers of long underwear, top and bottom
  • 1 fleece sweatshirt
  • 1 stocking cap
  • 2 pairs of gloves
My packing list for our overnight trip to a tent village in Balakot, ground zero for the earthquake damage, indicates just how serious I was about keeping warm. When my colleagues and I decided to spend one night in a displaced person's tent, it was 50 degrees and sunny outside. But as we pulled into the camp the sun began to set, I began to rethink the decision. Did I really need to experience the cold in order to feel compassion for the Pakistani people who lost their homes in the earthquake? Continued below.

My neighbors in our tent village high up in the foothills of the Himalayas.

My neighbors in our tent village high up in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Armed with my cold-weather gear, I followed one of the camp's leaders to our tent, at the end of a rocky dirt road in a broad river valley. There I came face to face with a fact of Pakistani culture: the Pakistani people are too hospitable by nature to allow a guest to sleep in anything but the best accommodations available. Our hosts had prepared a winterized tent with two beds (three blankets each) and a space heater.

Most families who were displaced by the earthquake don't have such luxurious accommodations. In fact, just recently a camp manager showed me a tent (just tarps hung over metal poles) that was, at best, 10x12. Ten people were sleeping in it, and the odor that emanated from it was evidence of the cramped quarters.

Despite our posh surroundings, last night was a cold one for me. My nose, host of the only uncovered skin on my body, felt like an icicle, and I shivered in my sleeping bag until well past 1 a.m. Lying in bed, unable to sleep, I could hear people stirring and cars passing on the road that winds through the valley. This isn't how I would want to live, I thought. And Pakistan has been having unseasonably warm weather. What would it have felt like if it was -10 degrees ... with wind chill?

Last week World Vision distributed 8,500 kerosene heaters to families in the Hazara region. It was cold and rainy during the distribution; my colleagues here have shown me video of shivering children carrying kerosene heaters back to their tents. Since November World Vision has distributed over 30,000 quilts, 24,000 sheets of iron for building snow-proof temporary shelters and 12,000 tarps and 6,000 kits for winterizing tents and other shelters. In total, over 64,000 people have received assistance from World Vision, including my neighbors last night.

A Pakistani man told me that a local legend says fairies visit this valley in the wee hours of the morning. I didn't see any evidence of this, and the tourist hotel Fairy Land, whose signs still remain, was flattened in the earthquake. But I do believe that there is a spirit who will keep these children and their families warm throughout this winter. And I pray that spirit will use the work of World Vision and the generosity of our donors to help.

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