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Harvard Pakistani Students Association Raises Funds for Flood Relief

Students from the Pakistani Student Association asked students dining in Lowell House to support efforts to provide disaster relief in the country following devastating floods.
Students from the Pakistani Student Association asked students dining in Lowell House to support efforts to provide disaster relief in the country following devastating floods. By Joey Huang
By Ella L. Jones, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard College Pakistani Students Association has taken to dining halls and public gathering areas in recent days to raise awareness and funds for flood victims in the wake of devastating natural disasters that have ravaged Pakistan.

The group’s efforts come as more than one-third of Pakistan is under water. More than 1,300 people have died and millions more have been displaced due to the flooding.

The HCPSA, founded in 2011, has been tabling at Harvard’s Smith Campus Center, placing flyers around campus, and asking other clubs to publicly support its efforts. But leaders of the group say their campaign has received insufficient support from Harvard administrators.

“Over the course of this entire fundraiser, we’ve heard nothing from the administration,” said Asmer Asrar Safi ’23-’24, a HCPSA board member. “It’s genuinely been disheartening, disillusioning on so many fronts.”

Members of the group asked nearly every set of Harvard faculty deans — who preside over the College’s 12 upperclassman houses — to support their efforts by personally sending out house-wide emails to raise awareness and funds.

The faculty deans of Eliot and Lowell House initially agreed to send the announcements over their houses’ email lists, Safi said. Faculty deans from seven other houses initially did not respond or declined the group’s request, Safi said, though they eventually replied to the HCPSA following a Crimson inquiry about the group's complaints. The faculty deans of Kirkland House and Leverett House had not replied to HCPSA as of Wednesday evening. The deans of Pforzheimer House, Anne Harrington and John Durant, declined to send the note but offered to assist in spreading awareness and suggested sending the announcement over the house's open email list.

The deans of Cabot, Dunster, and Currier House wrote in respective emails to The Crimson that they plan to support student efforts in the weeks ahead. The faculty deans of Quincy House were not contacted by the group.

Safi also called on Harvard’s top administrators to address the issue, saying it is a double standard for the school to publicly respond to the invasion of Ukraine, but not be more vocal about disasters affecting people of color internationally.

“There’s a double standard,” he said. “When there’s stuff happening in Ukraine or something that’s aligned with the West or Harvard’s interests, everyone’s on their feet, everyone’s campaigning, everyone’s fundraising, everyone’s holding talks.”

“These double standards exist in Harvard’s community,” he added. “Our people aren’t made to rot. That’s not what we want for our people, and that’s the idea that we’ve been given.”

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment.

Some other student groups have supported the HCPSA’s efforts. Shraddha Joshi ’24, co-director of Harvard Ghungroo, said members of her group have helped fundraise and raise awareness for the campaign with events and outreach.

“Ghungroo has the responsibility of forming a pan-South Asian space,” she said. “At times, it feels like, at Harvard, pan-South Asian solidarity or cohesion is sometimes missing.”

To date, the HCPSA has raised about $14,500, exceeding an initial goal, according to Safi. It will hold an event on Sept. 17 with the Harvard Advocate and Ghungroo.

“It’s countries like these, who don’t contribute to the climate disaster, that are affected the most,” said Aseelah Salman Ashraf ’24, c0-president of HCPSA. “It’s our responsibility and our prerogative to help.”

—Staff writer Ella L. Jones can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ejones8100.

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