GLOSS Issue 3 ( September / October 2017 ) - Page 49

P R O F I L E relief camps, building community trusts and generally devising a long-term intervention plan. She says, “I hand over the project to our team of architects, accountants and economists, who selflessly volunteer, to take it further.” She adds, “Since I am a professional psychologist, my work also involves managing the mental health of victims and relationship building as a whole.” The Challenges As a young Pakistani woman, one would expect towering challenges to face in such a line of work. However, perhaps our pure intentions do pave and smoothen the way. Other than safety issues, everyone around Sharmeen was extremely supportive. She says with a smile that families would invite her home and extend a warm welcome. Many times, she might have been the sole woman chairing a meeting but she would still be given the due respect. Sharmeen, however, did have many challenges initially getting the various skilled volunteers that were required. “When I moved to Karachi and manned the organization’s office here, I was the only volunteer as our head office runs from Lahore. My father and brother joined me and we would go every weekend to Sindh for the construction of a school and broken houses in Mir Pur Khas. We continued like this for 2 years before finally building a bigger team of doctors, accountants, social mobilisers, trekkers and survey experts. Also, dealing with the emotional and psychological shocks of seeing victims of the floods was extremely challenging. “One has to manage oneself a lot internally when on the ground. We would witness load shedding, dilapidated houses, post-flood epidemics and the real human distress on a daily basis. Being human, we could not completely remain detached from what we were witnessing. Our work would take a toll on us and we would have to know when to take a break and seek the support we needed from our team. However, I suppose, seeing the victims of the disaster close-up, built our resilience to continue this mission to help. We could not just leave those who needed us.” Inspiring Others The experience of working with Resettling the Indus has been quite an eye-opening one. Sharmeen emphasizes how she is amazed by the warmth of her country’s people. Strangers have gone out of their way to welcome her. “People have simply opened their homes and hearts to me. Even now, I am touched that I can call so many people my family,” she says. She does feel that her family has expanded beyond measure. Other than the warmth she has received, Sharmeen is also happy that through her work, she has been able to touch lives and make a difference. She recalls how a certain girl named Shazia from Muzaffargarh who was 7 then, would quietly observe Sharmeen and her fellow team mates as they went about their volunteer duties. Soon, Shazia began to shadow Sharmeen, becoming her tour guide. Through Shazia’s interaction with Sharmeen, she strengthened her resolve to educate herself. Girls in that village would often not 49