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Homeless hibernation

"Homeless hibernation" Continued...

Issue: "Five-man legacy," Jan. 28, 2006

Further north, some 70 miles from the quake's epicenter, volunteers at Bach Christian Hospital are treating a steady stream of patients and are passing out relief kits with blankets, food, pots and pans, tents, and tarps. According to one aid worker, the hospital's "greatest contribution" to survivors is "listening to their stories, crying with them, and speaking comfort into their minds and hearts." Volunteers from The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), a Wheaton, Ill.-based group, are assisting hospital staff and building Quonset-hut-style shelters that provide 12 feet by 10 feet of living space per family.

TEAM workers are planning on longer-term community development projects after residents get through the winter, but staying in the country may become difficult for short-term workers. Volunteers say the Pakistani government is requiring all foreigners helping with ongoing work to secure a visa, a process that may prove complicated and costly. According to one TEAM volunteer, the government is also warning groups against proselytizing: "The government has warned the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] that if they do evangelism while helping people, the ones doing it will be forced to leave."

The complications associated with short-term travel to Pakistan are one reason that Christian Aid, the Virginia-based group assisting Kunhar Christian Hospital, relies entirely on indigenous workers to carry out relief and other mission efforts. Ms. Mahara cites several advantages: "They speak the language, they look the same, and they can move about relatively safely." She also says employing locals is faster and much more cost-effective. Staff at the Kunhar Christian Hospital are still treating earthquake victims and passing out sheets of corrugated metal to fortify temporary structures. Ms. Mahara says Christian Aid also hopes to help establish a school in the region where "every school structure is gone."

But long-term plans will have to wait until the long weeks of winter are gone. Mercy Corps' Mr. Stephens says efforts to prepare for winter will soon end as heavy snow arrives. He says it may be March before people begin digging out, and until then "people will just have to go into their tents and wait it out."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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