“Good afternoon sir! My name is Shaukat Rasool and my friends and I would like to help out with the good work that you are doing in this village!” Turning around I saw three young Kashmiri youths standing behind me. This was my first day in Kashmir having flown in to Srinagar in the morning and heading straight to the village of Padgampora in Avantipora Block of Pulwama District, Kashmir. CARE had identified this village as one of the most affected by the devastating floods that swept through Jammu and Kashmir on 4th Sept. Our plan was to distribute more than 300 survival and hygiene kits in the village that day and we could certainly do with volunteers! The Jhelum waters had entered Padgampora and the surrounding villages late in the night of 6th Sept. The water level rose several feet in a matter of hours and by early morning, most of the villages surrounding Padgampora were flooded. Families scurried to higher ground trying to save whatever they could in the confusion. Shaukat, who is a qualified engineer and works with Renault India in Chennai was home for a friends’ wedding. Seeing the flood waters rise, four of them decided that once their families were secure, they would go out and rescue as many families as they could. Quickly cobbling together a makeshift raft of wood and a couple of barrels, they set out from their house and gathered up as many people as they could manage to at a time. In the space of a few hours and through multiple trips made on that raft, they managed to rescue over a 100 people. Morning revealed the true extent of damage to their tiny hamlet of Lakkipora where the found that most of the 500 plus families had been displaced and more than 100 houses were totally damaged. I was inspired by this story of courage and sacrifice that Shaukat related to me and was further enthused by their generous offer of helping us out with managing the distribution of the relief kits in Padgampora. CARE’s survival kits contain items such as Tarpaulins, Floor mats, blankets, Jerrycan and a bucket. Alongwith this kit and in keeping with CARE’s emphasis on reaching out to women and girls, we also distributed a dignity kit with items such as sanitary napkins, undergarments etc. A hygiene kit consisting of items of daily use such as toothbrush, toothpaste, nail cutters etc. is also distributed. For situations such as the one on in Kashmir, these kits are pretty useful as most of the household possessions were either washed away or damaged in the flood waters. In situations such as these, women and girls are most vulnerable and CARE focusses on this segment as well while also catering to the needs of the entire family as well. Due to the flood waters, the water supply was also damaged and therefore we also needed to distribute Chlorine tablets for water purification to combat the threat of water borne diseases.
Since we were short of people who could speak in Kashmiri, we decided to enlist Shaukat and friends Irshad Ahmed Naikoo and Feroze Ahmed in speaking with the villagers on raising awareness about the importance of maintaining good hygiene practices while purifying the water with chlorine tablets. After a quick briefing they were ready and started handing out the chlorine tablets and explaining the right way to prepare the chlorine purified water in the buckets and jerry cans provided for this purpose. Along with CARE staff and NGO volunteers, Shaukat and his friends helped distribute survival, hygiene and survival kits to 317 of the most affected households of Padgampora and most importantly conveyed critical messages on sanitation and hygiene. While departing, they once commended our efforts to reach out to the affected in the village and asked us to also consider expanding our outreach to other affected villages nearby.
It was very fulfilling for me to see the gratitude filled eyes of the families in Padgampora who had not got any relief from any agency before CARE reached them with the much needed survival kits which enabled them to tide over their immediate needs. For a fundraiser like me, it was indeed a very proud moment to know that all the efforts that our fundraising team was putting in the field to raise funds for the J&K relief operations, were in fact resulting in families such as these in Padgampora getting the right implements for ensuring their survival after the devastating floods. With the support of hundreds of individual donors from across India, CARE distributed hygiene and survival kits for 1700 households (approx. 10000 people) across Baramullah and Pulwama districts in Kashmir. A proud moment for all CARE India employees and a very inspiring effort for the fundraising team!