April 4, 2006: Three new earthquake-resistant elementary schools will be built over the next three months in the devastated region of Azad Kashmir. The Canadian Medical Assistance Teams (CMAT) will contract local builders to facilitate the project, funded through private and public donations.
“It is a real community project” said Tara Newell, Director of Field Operations for the CMAT, who has secured donations from UNICEF for school supplies and teacher’s aids. Local villages have donated land, the local government guarantees teachers and upkeep of the schools, and various other local non-governmental organizations will be supplying books for the students. CMAT will be responsible for the construction of the facilities and the furniture.
The $45,000 USD project is slated to take approximately twelve weeks and is expected to be completed by July 2006. Over 1,000 schools were completely destroyed in the region of Azad Kashmir as a result of the earthquake. Children have been studying without books or desks in the rubble of their old schools, and many children are simply not studying at all. So far, this issue remains to be broadly addressed.
“Bringing normalcy back into the lives of children will go a long way to support the healing process of this devastated region. Lots of work still needs to be done, but the support from public and private donations has been outstanding. A little money goes a long way here,” says Newell, who has been managing projects in Kashmir since mid November 2005.
Over the past five months, CMAT teams working in the region have treated over 18,500 earthquake patients through mobile medical teams, distributed over 10,000 high energy biscuits and 10,000 wool blankets to widows and orphans, 5,000 thermal quilts and 1,000 winterized tents donated by Mercy-USA were also distributed to needy families.
The CMAT earthquake relief project, funded by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Michigan, USA-based Mercy-USA, has reached completion within the allocated time frame, with the majority of the 100 Canadian medical volunteers deployed from various regions across Canada back on Canadian soil. Continued relief efforts will be maintained by Newell, local volunteer agencies, government partners and other non-governmental organizations.