Caritas volunteer saves families from Karachi floods

Grateful father of five devotes his life to helping others after being rescued from his own disaster
Caritas volunteer saves families from Karachi floods

Francis Javed, seen here with Pakistan army officers, rescuing people in the district of Malir in Karachi. (Photo provided by Caritas Pakistan Karachi)

Francis Javed saved 30 families with the help of the Pakistan army when flood water entered the district of Malir in Karachi city.

Caritas Pakistan Karachi CPK had warned the general secretary of its Good Samaritan Disaster Management Committee (DMC) before the July 30 disaster.

“I received the phone call at 11 am about a dam overflowing near the Super Highway,” the father of six told ucanews.com. “I shifted my family to a relative’s house, alerted the community members and made announcements in the local mosque requesting people to evacuate or climb on to their rooftops.

“At around 2 pm the rain water entered our area. We actually reached the affected site before the army.”

The 52-year-old cobbler was permitted to join the search and rescue operation after the engineering corps of the Pakistan army checked his volunteer card and Caritas jacket.

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“We had four boats, but each could only transport up to 12 people. The strong water currents made it difficult to evacuate them. We were especially hesitant to pull out the women who practice seclusion (purdah),” said Francis, who had to stay behind in the mud houses to help the trapped families during five-hour operation.

“We used bamboo sticks for support and scanned the surroundings for obstacles in the flooded areas.”

Heavy rainfall has recently affected large parts of Pakistan, triggering catastrophic flash floods and landslides.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, 83 people died last month — 23 in Punjab province, 25 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 in Balochistan and 22 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir region. More than 70 were injured and 200 plus houses damaged.

A flooded road in Hyderabad city, Sindh province. (Photo by Manshad Asghar)

 

Francis has been a volunteer with Caritas Pakistan since 2008, when floods destroyed his house in Shahbaz Goth, one of the flooded slums of Karachi. After receiving church aid in the form of bedsheets and various household items, he formed a DMC of 11 including five women who hold weekly meetings on discussing their daily issues and safety measures especially during annual monsoons. 

“We gather every Sunday because people are available on holiday. We prepare combined meals and stage theatre performances about rescues and helping those in need,” he said.

“We have already cleaned the blocked drains, identified escape routes, safe higher ground and wrapped our documents in plastic bags.”

Caritas has inspired similar committees in all the six dioceses and apostolic prefecture, empowering disaster-prone communities to help themselves. Other DMC members in Karachi have been distributing emergency supplies, including food distributions and medical kits, to rain-affected people over the past several days.

Caritas in Faisalabad Diocese distributed food packages among 20 families. Mansha Noor Executive Secretary CPK distributed plastic sheets among 20 families on July 29, saying: “These will help the locals to cover their roofs so they can celebrate the upcoming Eid al-Adha [from Aug. 11 to 15].”

The “Festival of Sacrifice” is celebrated by Muslims to mark the occasion when Allah appeared to the Prophet Abraham in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son Ishmael to demonstrate his devotion to the Almighty.

Ignoring the advice of the devil, who tried to tempt Abraham into disobeying Allah by saying he should spare Ishmael, Abraham was about to press ahead with the sacrifice when Allah stopped him and gave him a lamb to kill instead. Muslims celebrate Eid by feasting on a sacrificed animal, usually a goat or a sheep.

“At least five parishes contacted Caritas Karachi to assist the affected communities, listing those who should benefit,” said Noor.

 

Aneel Mushtaq (left) of Caritas Pakistan Faisalabad distributes relief aid to flood victims (Photo by Shakeela Noor)

 

St. Mathew Church, which is used by both Catholics and Protestants,  sheltered eight Christian families last week who lived near a garbage blocked drain.

“Most of these people are widows and retired elderly. Their houses and furniture were destroyed in five feet of water,” said Caritas volunteer Javed.

The charity, meanwhile, has trained volunteers conducting a rapid assessment of the situation in riverside communities and slums; it is also developing a response plan for the second flood emergency this year.

In June, it distributed relief and food packages among 340 farmers affected by torrential rain and strong winds in three districts of Punjab province. The disaster destroyed an estimated 150,000 tons of wheat. Not only did the poor farm workers lose their source of food and income, they also complained of being burdened by heavy loans to buy new seed. The package contained flour and food items for two weeks.

Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan, appreciated the rescue and aid efforts of Caritas volunteers. “These inspiring stories of commitment and courage are the reason we are investing in expanding our base of Caritas volunteers,” he said.  

“The situation is getting worse — more rain is predicted for the coming weeks. We are planning a quick response.”

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