Schools Sees Beyond Politics When Providing Aid to Pakistan's Flood Victims

The students of Southshore School were tired of waiting.

From their classroom in the southern port city of Karachi, Pakistan, they could hear the monsoon rains pounding the roof. But, the flooding that has displaced 20 million Pakistanis hadn't quite reached their school doors.

With phone and internet connections down, the high school students and most of the city are relying on word of mouth for updates from flood-affected regions. The most recent came from the family of a security guard at another local school. His family was safe, but their home destroyed.

"We no longer have a home and have to start from scratch," said 25-year-old Sabir Hussein. "It is very sad that poor people in Pakistan are paying the highest price with these floods."

The students though, were tired of watching that price climb higher while the Pakistani government and the international community stayed silent. So, when the government faltered, the teenagers stepped up and planned a week-long charity drive. With the world looking the other way, they turned to family, friends and the surrounding community for donations of rice, water purification tablets and first aid kits.

"We as the youth of Pakistan would like to symbolize what patriotism truly is," said Ahsan Ali, 18, president of the student council. "It's not about giant flags and national anthems. It is these times of need, where our action is necessary, every small bit counts."

While these students can see past nationalist pride, the rest of the world has been astoundingly slow in their response.

Over the years, we've seen post-tsunami and post-earthquake aid get frustratingly political. We've also seen those affected by disaster step up to help. But, Pakistan is as political as we've ever seen. It's shocking that these students can see that flood victims don't have time for posturing while world governments make them wait.

Pakistan's government is a large part of the problem. With a reported 3.5 million children threatened by cholera, Pakistan waited to gauge global response before accepting $5 million from its rival India.

Donations from the U.S. are being accepted without question -- although, there are ulterior motives. Pakistan and the U.S. have a strategic but difficult alliance in the war on terror. Both sides see the floods as a chance to buy support in a relationship hampered by drone bombings along the Afghan border. An April survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found only 17 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable view of the U.S.

But, the goodwill might be short-lived as strikes continue. U.S. media have identified casualties as militants while their Pakistani counterparts claim otherwise.

While allegations of corruption plague the Pakistani government, they were also present in Haiti. Still, reputable charities working independently of the government aren't seeing the outpouring of donations they saw in January.

Donor fatigue has come on quickly. Pakistan is often intermixed in the western media with Afghanistan and many feel they've given enough.

Regardless of politics, flood victims need help. Last week, hundreds blocked roadways desperately trying to tell media they've been treated like animals.

That's why the students of Southshore stand as such shining examples. It would be easy for them to focus on challenges in their own region. Earlier this month, a political assassination in Karachi caused riots leading to 73 deaths and 50 burning vehicles. Despite that, the students have stepped up to help others when needed.

"In the first few days of the floods the effects were devastating and one felt helpless," said Shahnawaz Parker, an administrator at Southshore. "But seeing the youth of Karachi show such initiative and hope is truly inspiring."

The people of Pakistan are already paying a high price for these floods. They shouldn't have to pay for politics, too.