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Winter threatens homeless quake victims

Andrew Gallup has adopted a devastated Pakistani village on behalf of Vail ValleyNicole Frey

AVON – Thousands dead, millions homeless and winter fast approaching. It’s the plight many Pakistanis are facing after an Oct. 8 earthquake leveled many of their villages.As Vail Valley resident Andrew Gallup watched the tragic scenes unfold, the devastation spoke to him, he said.”Three million people homeless – that’s bigger than Denver,” he said. “That really resonated with me.”Although Gallup sympathized with the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the tsunami in Southeast Asia, he said the idea of 500,000 people in Pakistan living in tents in the snow stuck a chord.”When I thought about people freezing to death, that’s what really struck me,” he said. Gallup sprung into action. Contacting his sister, Nancy, who had worked for the Agency for International Development, he found Relief International. Drawn to the aid organization’s small size – there’s just 25 people in the group’s main office in Los Angeles – and to its accessibility, Gallup adopted the Pakistani village of Chittabatta on behalf of the Vail Valley.Now he’s looking to locals to get funding to build houses that will shelter the displaced villagers through the winter and later hopes to help rebuild the village. “I hope and think that Vail is a caring community,” Gallup said. “I think people here can relate to freezing to death. It’s been so cold lately.””If we don’t do something quickly, hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis will freeze to death in the coming months,” he added. “It’s one of the more urgent needs out there.”Located in northeastern Pakistan, the farming village of 1,475 people needs about 120 homes to make it through the winter. Once this immediate need is filled, the village will need roads, water, sewer lines and other infrastructure. And eventually, the village will need a school, police station, mosque and farming assistance to get back on its feet. Chittabatta is the third village adopted through Relief International.”We’ve been there for a couple of months, gotten to know some of the villages, and we wanted to take on villages where we could make a difference,” said Jennifer Norris, spokeswoman for Relief International, a 15-year-old aid organization. Greg Zaller, a A California builder who adopted the village of Hilkot, designed a house 12 feet-by-12 feet that’s easy and quick to build and costs about $400. The house may seem small, but Gallup said, “These people didn’t have much. Their annual income was $60 with six-and-a-half people in a family.”While the structures may be used permanently, Norris said the goal is to get people out of the elements, not change people’s traditions or culture.”Who are we to say what their village should look like?” she said. “We want to give them some skills and contribute, but ultimately, we want to put ourselves out of business. We want to make them self-sustainable and remain independent and flavorful.”Because Relief International is so small, the group is also able to spend 95 cents of every donated dollar on aid, instead of administrative costs.”That’s a good ratio,” Gallup said. “Other relief groups – 65 or 70 cents it going to relief and the rest is going for administrative costs.”Relief International also lets donors choose where to send their money. “Things touch people in different ways, and allowing people to donate where they want allows them to act on that,” Norris said. “For you guys in the cold, you know what it would be like to be stuck out in the cold. It makes people feel good that they know where their money is going.”Norris said the Pakistani earthquake has also moved many in California because of it’s large Pakistani immigrant population. Pakistani immigrant doctors were one of the first to land in Pakistan with Relief International just hours after the quake. But now it’s the Vail Valley’s turn to contribute, Gallup said.”There’s a lot of potential here,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out, I may have to broaden my search, but I don’t want to.”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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