Houston Aids Drought-Affected Sister City

04/18/2014

The Thar Sindh region of Pakistan, home to Houston’s sister city Karachi, recently suffered a severe drought that left over 200,000 families displaced and malnourished. In response, the Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) did its part by lending a helping hand to its sister city. HKSCA joined forces with a community partner, the Alliance of Benevolence, and local media outlets to host the “Event for Humanity: Thar Sindh Pakistan Needs Permanent Solutions” fundraiser, raising over $100,000 for those in need.

In order to ensure that the people and communities in Thar would receive effective emergency assistance, HKSCA also teamed up with the Helping Hand for Relief and Development Organization that specializes in emergency response in the Middle East. According to HKSCA President Muhammad Sheikh, making sure that relief efforts are sustainable is essential to success of the project, “in addition to delivering mobile units that travel from village to village to provide large quantities of emergency food, they’re trying to provide funding to get old, broken water filtration units up and running again, so clean water can be more readily accessible in critical times.”

A native of Pakistan, Mr. Sheikh has nearly 20 years of experience working in the international nonprofit sector. His experience has helped him engage Houston’s municipal and business leaders, and stated that having active support from the Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, and the Honorable Consul General of Pakistan, Afzaal Mahmood, have played key parts in HKSCA’s achievements thus far. Their involvement and enthusiasm has helped to further increase the community’s interest in Pakistani culture and humanitarian response in the region.

The two cities celebrated the 5th anniversary of their partnership last month. Looking ahead, the organization is planning to expand with new programs, exchanges, and increased community awareness. Mr. Sheikh hopes to involve more of the large Pakistani diaspora population of Houston in the organization to help continue to mobilize and bring diversity to the community. Last year, 2,000 Houston residents and sister city members from all different backgrounds came together to celebrate the end of Ramadan with a community-led Iftar dinner.

HKSCA’s humanitarian assistance programs and fundraising work will continue, as they aim to enhance the healthcare system in Karachi through a new telemedicine arrangement between large hospitals in Karachi and Houston. Honorable Consul Mahmood noted during his speech at the 5th anniversary celebration, “…without youth, sustainability of an organization is not possible.” HKSCA has connected with the Pakistani Student Association with the aim of increasing youth participation, and is planning to pursue student exchange programs. 

The engagement and connection between the community, government officials, and new partnerships with youth and healthcare professionals promises positive outcomes for future programs and exchanges between Karachi and Houston.

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