First Fast-a-Thon at UMD
"Go hungry for a day so someone else won't have to"
A group of international students from Pakistan have planned a unique way to raise money for flood victims in their home country. They have invited UMD and the Duluth community to fast for about 14 hours on Thursday, September 9, and donate funds to relief efforts for the flood victims of Pakistan.
"According to UN, the flood in Pakistan has affected more people than the 2004 southeast Asian tsunami or the 2010 Haiti earthquake," said Gibran Hashmi. "It wasn't a disaster that occurred all at once. The flood waters slowly rose, and continued to rise. What we have now is the worst flood in the history of the region since the 1920s."
The seriousness of the condition in their home country is affecting the families of these students. "My family is from Karachi where, due to heavy rains, communication was disrupted. Schools and businesses closed and movement became a problem. But that was nothing compared to what the people in the rural areas of northern and central Pakistan are suffering," said Hashmi. "Villages have been wiped away. Crops have been destroyed and livestock have died. Hundreds of lives have been lost. There's no food. So many are in need of aid, food, medicine and shelter and all of us wish to help."
Faculty, staff, U.S. students and international students are joining the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in the fundraiser. "The event is an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to expand our knowledge of a different culture, and to come together for a shared humanitarian effort," said Jackie Millslagle, interim vice chancellor for the Office of Academic Support and Student Life. The fast falls on the last day of Ramadan and the event at UMD will end with a party and a feast. "Fasting for a day is a choice for us, but it's not a choice for those who are hungry," Hashmi said. The money raised will go to the UNICEF relief world fund for children. The fast will start at 5:12 a.m. and end at 7:32 p.m.
Labovitz School of Business and Economics associate professor Nik Hassan will speak at the event at 6:30 pm on September 9 in the UMD Kirby Ballroom. "Fasting is not only a great way of teaching empathy and care for others, it also provides a dose of spiritual medicine for psychological and social ills. Kudos to the MSA for organizing this event," said Hassan. A visual presentation about the Pakistani flood will be shown and at sundown, a traditional Muslim (Halal) meal will be served.
Hashmi is expecting a good turn-out; he believes that UMD and Duluth will respond to this humanitarian crisis. He also intends to reach out through his connections at UMD. He is the president of the UMD Tau Beta Pi chapter --- the national honor society for engineers, he's president of the Muslim Student Association and vice-president of the International Club. He's also one of the student leaders of the new student orientation program, "Bulldog Welcome Week," and he works for the Information Technology Systems and Services department.
“We all have something in common; we are part of a global community. We want to help people that are less privileged and in need, regardless of our differences and backgrounds,” Hashmi said. "This is about humanity."
About the Flood in Pakistan
Record monsoon flooding in Pakistan is affecting more than 17 million people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 6 million of those “need life-saving humanitarian assistance.” People are in danger of numerous diseases including cholera, malaria, measles, viral hemorrhagic fever, and viral hepatitis. Exposure to rain and cold is resulting in thousands of people suffering from acute respiratory infections. Children and the elderly are among the most vulnerable.
WHO estimates that more than 200 health facilities and hospitals in Pakistan have been severely damaged or destroyed. Many roads and bridges have been washed out, leaving large numbers of people stranded and unable to seek medical assistance. An estimated 800,000 people are in areas of the country that are accessible only by helicopter. Clean water is becoming increasingly impossible to find. In some areas, food is either extremely expensive or scarce all together.
International relief organizations are responding and assisting local Pakistani health providers. However, shipments of medicines and supplies, including water purifying tablets, are slow in coming. In many cases, the amounts sent are not enough due to the scale of the disaster.
The Pakistani people will need long-term support in rebuilding towns and villages when the floodwaters recede. Health facilities, sanitation facilities, schools, and places of worship will all need to be reconstructed.