When Nyle Usmani '12 met with seven other students to discuss Pakistan Flood Relief Week in early September, he cited the success of last year's Haiti Action Week and noted the recent flood's relative obscurity.
"It all came down pretty simply," Usmani said. "Haiti Action Week was very successful last year and, when it came down to it, the Pakistan floods were not really that publicized."
"More people were affected by the Pakistan flood than people affected by the Haiti earthquake, Pakistan earthquake in 2005, [and] tsunamis in South Asia last year all combined," he continued. "There was a point where a fifth of the people [in Pakistan] were underwater—people don't know that."
Flooding in Pakistan began in late July with the arrival of the annual monsoons. According to the New York Times, the death toll is estimated to range from 1,300 to 1,600, with millions more in need of food or shelter. About a fifth of the country, or nearly 62,000 square miles, has been affected, according to the United Nations.
Pakistan Flood Relief Week, which runs from Wednesday, October 13 through Thursday, October 21, seeks to raise funds and student awareness of the Pakistan floods.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from Pakistan Flood Relief Week will be donated to the Association of Pakistani Physicians of New England (APPNE), a local organization currently working in Pakistan to bring medical aid and relief to flood victims.
The event began Wednesday with a kick-off event at The Gelato Fiasco featuring the Meddiebempsters and Miscellania. The Gelato Fiasco donated a portion of its proceeds to the Pakistan Relief Fund, set up by the Pakistan Relief Week Committee.
The committee is comprised of eight students, who lead clubs ranging from the Asian Students Association to the Bowdoin Music Collective.
"We were underwhelmed by the lack of news coverage [of the flood]," said Isabelle Blankmeyer '11.
"I think a lot of it was unlike an earthquake that has an immediate effect," added Angela Kung '11. "A flood has lasting effects—something like five years of agricultural damage. There's not as much of a shock effect. And I think between 2005 and now the politics have changed a lot and Pakistan's image has gotten a lot worse."
According to Blankmeyer, the committee hopes to "disentangle religion from the flood" by showing the documentary "Battle for Islam" tonight. The documentary follows writer Ziauddin Sardar as he investigates Islamic extremism, and will be followed by a brief student panel.
The committee will also be seeking donations during events such as Rockistan Relief on Saturday in the Pub. Among various other artists, campus favorites Emily Schonberg '10 and faculty members of Racer X will be performing.
"It'll be an acoustic concert with all the heavyweights of the school," said Usmani. "Emily Schonberg—she graduated last year and she's very much loved on this whole campus. [Assistant Professor of Music Vin] Shende and [Assistant Professor of English Aaron] Kitch from Racer X—they'll be performing at the concert, and also eight other student performers."
Other highlights of the week include a Pakistani Bazaar Fundraiser and a Habitat Box Sleep-Out. The bazaar will be held on Saturday in Morrell Lounge.
"We're going [to fill] Morrell Lounge full of tables where we'll be selling things in a bazaar-like setting [and] blasting music," said Usmani. "We're going to sell a bunch of shawls, jewelry...henna on people's hands. Baklava and other desserts that are homemade [will be available]."
"I think that will be incredible," Usmani added. "We'll draw a lot of people for that."
From Saturday to Sunday, students will be sleeping in cardboard boxes on the Quad to raise awareness about homelessness. The event is sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and Amnesty International.
Notice of Pakistan Flood Relief Week has been posted throughout campus in the form of e-mails, flyers, Facebook messages and even letters in students' mailboxes.
"I hadn't heard anything about [the flood] before [this week]," said Marisa McGary '14. "I think this is a good way to draw attention to this issue...This is important."
"I think it's great that people are doing something about it," said Liza LePage '13. "I heard stuff on the news, but I never looked into it."
"They are a bunch of concerned Pakistani Americans from New England that have come together...to help out Pakistan educationally [and] academically," said Usmani. "We want to put money into a project that we'll hear back from...We know what they're doing is effective."
Dr. Nadeem Afridi, the president of APPNE, will be speaking on Tuesday in Kresge Theater at the multi-speaker lecture event titled "What they are calling the most devastating natural disaster ever: Raising Awareness about the Flood Situation in Pakistan." He will focus in particular on conditions in Pakistan post-flood.
Afridi will be joined by Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies Rachel Sturman, who will speak about the modern history and politics of the Indian subcontinent, and Central Asia Institute's Mark Richey, who will discuss his experience building a school in Pakistan.
For the members of the Pakistan Relief Committee, the goals of Pakistan Flood Relief Week come in dual form.
"I think our main, main goal is to raise funds," said Reeham Wasfia '10.
"I think it's about selling [Pakistan Flood Relief Week] to Bowdoin so people think about the next time when they're spending two dollars on a cup of coffee, but think, 'Wait, what if? [What if people gave this money to Pakistan?]'" added Usmani. "That's how you create a movement."