Let’s play a quick word association game. Grab a pen and paper, or open a blank word document. Ready?
I will write a word below, and before you read any further, write down the first word that comes to mind. Honor system applies. It would be great if you would post your word as a comment, below, just to see who’s reading and playing.
OK, here’s the word:
Go. Write down your word.
Now I am just filling space so that you’ll actually write it down and note it before you keep reading.
I’ll admit, until a few years ago, I didn’t have much to associate with Pakistan. It’s hard to say for sure, but I might have conjured up “Asia”, “Islam”, “Nuclear”, “India”, “Kashmir”, “Afghanistan” etc.
Today, my own word association conjures up “flood”, “desperation”, “disaster” and “Ramadan”. Again, it’s not scientific. What was yours?
My company, Acumen Fund, is highly active in Pakistan. We have nearly $10M in active and approved portfolio there, and our office in Karachi (plus Noor in Lahore!) is staffed with some of the smartest, hardest-working people I know.
So when the floods hit three weeks ago now, it was more personal than the average natural-disaster-in-a-faraway-place situation. Still, I’ve struggled to think about how to talk about the floods here, with you.
I’m not sure I realized how grave the situation is in Pakistan, though I’ve kept up with news articles that indicate it will be years before the country resumes any kind of economic growth similar to where it had been. There is also a flip side – positive – whereby the landed aristocracy in Pakistan may end up losing a lot of power and the feudal system that has kept millions of Pakistanis in poverty may finally have been washed away – literally.
But to the point of what’s needed today, I’m lucky to know two people who are in Pakistan now, with a mission to document the situation as honestly as possible. Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen’s CEO, has traveled extensively to Pakistan for years now. She and Chris Anderson, curator of the TED conferences, made a last-minute trip to Pakistan to see things on the ground with their own eyes. Interestingly, Chris – the son of missionaries – was born and raised in Pakistan.
Here is Jacqueline’s first story from the ground, featuring a (rightfully) angry boy named Imran:
Chris, meanwhile, has shot some ultra-compelling short videos that I highly recommend.
So…what can I do? I have signed my name to www.ontheground.pk, a community site where anyone can express solidarity with our Pakistani brothers and sisters and also share news and stories from the ground. Just signing up made me feel more connected, like I had done something – anything – to connect to the tragedy. I recommend it.
And I made a donation to the Mahvash & Jahangi Siddiqui Foundation, whose flood relief programs Jacqueline and Chris are visiting. If you feel so moved, it would be a good place to direct your donation.
Do post your word below, as a comment. And if nothing else, keep your thoughts with Pakistan right now. She needs us.