Risalpur - One Year On
20 July 2011
The Foundation Stone
The day the floods came
On 27th July 2010 furious floods hit Charsada, Pabbi, Nowshera, Risalpur, Akora Khattak, Jahangeera and Attock. It was the worst experience for the people of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (N.W.F.P.) Province. The last time such disaster and destruction was experienced by the people was in 1935. People have lost everything. They were lucky that their lives were saved.
It was a hard time for the people of the affected areas. People just ran out of their houses. They didn’t take anything with them because the water level was rising rapidly. The water rose up to 5 feet within 15 minutes and after an hour the water level was up 15 - 18 feet. In some places in Nowshera and other areas the water rose up to 20 – 25 feet. Some people took refuge on the roofs of double-storey buildings but they were trapped there for the next three/four days as the water did not flow out due to lack of an outlet for it. They waited for food and rescue.
Impact on Risalpur
Risalpur is the place where a whole Christian Colony was hit by the flood. Most of the people were poor and living in mud houses. The water was flowing over the roofs of their houses. They lost everything that they had made from the savings of their little income. People left their homes with just the clothes that they were wearing. Some of them were barefooted for the next few days until the relief goods reached the affected areas and the camps. Two months later many of them were still living in tents.
We were in Muree at the time when the floods came. We were contacted by the Station Commander of Risalpur Headquarters that the Army wanted to set up a relief camp in the Presentation Convent High School Risalpur. We allowed them to use the place and came back to Risalpur when the retreat was over. That evening when the people were brought to the camps they had nothing to eat. Many of them had no money to buy food from the bazaar for their children, so they slept hungry.
We had about 1,500 people in our school from 27th July to 8th September 2010. Food was given to them by the Army. We gave the school buildings, electricity, clean water and all other facilities that were available in the vicinity. Sisters Shamim, Josepha, Rehana and Sumera provided school books, uniforms, shoes and clothes to the children/students and relief goods to the other affectees. Afterwards, there was additional expense in repairing damage to the building and grounds.
The relief work is still going on both in the camps and with those who have returned to their homes. We, the Presentation Sisters, have worked out a plan to build 30 houses for the most deserving and poor people of Risalpur area. Many of them have been living in poor conditions and will probably never have the chance to build and own a house of their own. They have been living here over 25 years and working for the army. The fear is that when they retire they will have no place to got to, even if the army does re-construct or repair their houses. It is in view of this that we thought of building these houses. It is impossible to provide a house for all the affectees but this is the most we can do at the moment. Many others are thinking of doing the same for others. Hopefully the priests will be able eventually to build some houses for the Nowshera area. Our Sisters have pooled some money towards that also.
Having bought the land, work began on the boundary marking, boring for the water supply and digging the foundations. The houses are nearly ready for occupation, thank God.
When this work has been completed and if we have more money available we would like to build more houses for the other affectees.
We are grateful to all those who have been part of and are still in our struggle to provide a roof over poor people’s heads and provide them a little bit of comfort in life. Life has been and is very tough for our people. We thank God for your generosity and wish to express our appreciation and gratitude to each and everyone.
[Submitted by Sr. Shamim, Principal, Presentation Convent High School, Risalpur]