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Disaster Relief

It is difficult to know whether you can ever really prepare yourself for the experience of a disaster first hand.

There is a certain sense of powerlessness when all electricity, transport, phone and infrastructure is cut off.

The initial shock. The initial chaos. Then there’s the gradual realisation of loss – and slowly the extent of it. 

The unsettling cries and survival instincts from animals. Families openly weeping as they mourn loved ones. The dust. The prayers. The smells. The silence.

Disaster Strikes

On 6 August 2010, the heavy monsoon rains which caused catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, headed south over the Karakoram Ranges into Ladakh, one of the highest and driest habitable places on earth.

The skies unleashed at altitude, flash floods triggered a series of mudslides throughout the region devastating everything in their paths. Mud filled homes, schools and hospitals. Buildings and cars were flattened.

In just 15 minutes, Ladakh was declared a disaster zone.

Parents barely had time to grab their children and flee. Hundreds were buried alive. Many were lost to the Indus River, carried downstream towards Pakistan. Sadly, this included one of our sponsor children who was swept from her mother’s arms as they tried to escape.

Being on the ground and able to assist, our focus turned to disaster relief. 

Our emergency relief efforts

For the next 6 weeks we were on call providing hands-on emergency relief and assisting local government where possible. 

We helped evacuate children and families to safety. With 2 of our schools under mud and knowing our sponsor children were safely refuged on higher ground, we took charge of the school bus and within 5 days had organised over 250 international volunteers to help dig out the mud and debris at one of our schools.

With assistance from doctors from Austria to Australia, we bandaged, bathed and helped treat some of our Ladakhi family and others injured in the disaster.

For those who lost loved ones, their homes and livelihoods, we rented them places to live. We handed out blankets, stoves and food. We provided clothes, medical and financial support and continued to do so throughout the bleak winter months.

With roads blocked and more pressing issues at hand...

Our plans to build more greenhouses were put on hold. Instead, at the request of local government, we helped to address one of the most pressing issues – water contamination.

With the incredible support of Singapore Airlines, Singapore Airlines Cargo and Disaster Aid Australia, we arranged for the delivery of highly specialised water purification systems which were airlifted to Delhi, arriving in record time. Each unit was capable of delivering up to 1000 litres of clean drinking water per hour - enough for a village, hospital and school.

To transport our units into the disaster zone, we worked with Senior Ministers in the Indian Government and local airlines to fast track the clearance and delivery to Leh.

Our units were deployed into affected communities providing fresh drinking water as needed.

Now, with infrastructure reinstated, the units (donated to the LAHDC), have been relocated to the Sonam Norboo Memorial Hospital where we've built a fresh drinking water station offering long-term benefits for Ladakhis for years to come. 

With support from friends in Switzerland, we are refurbishing part of the Lions Club hostel which was damaged during the cloudburst. Providing a comfortable and heated study room for the children equipped with satellite.

Our remaining projects are due for completion in 2013.

In spite of challenging circumstances, human spirit will triumph...

We have crossed paths with some incredible people - compassionate, generous and with endless enthusiasm to make a difference.

Those willing to dig mud for days with their bare hands. Others supporting our sponsor children affected first hand by the devastation and of course, those who have donated or campaigned on our behalf to raise money for our disaster relief efforts.

We have received incredible support from many friends from around the world.

Through these efforts we have been able to provide fresh drinking water to thousands. Helped families to rebuild their lives and found sponsors for more than 15 children who were orphaned or rendered homeless by the August 6 disaster.

While our efforts are still ongoing, we are proud of what we achieved.

Thank you to everyone who has played a part in these efforts.