A few months ago, at the end of each column that I did for the Fort McMurray Today, I would write a line or two about someone I had met who had made an impression on me for one reason or another. I called it My Person of the Week, and I loved sharing about the wonderful people that I had either met or heard about because they have been doing wonderful things in our community.
I had played with the idea for weeks now of doing the same thing here in the blog, and then in the last few days I have had four people mention to me about how they loved hearing about my Person of the Week in the paper, so since I am always looking for signs, I thought it was time to finally start sharing here. So each week, on either Saturday or Sunday I will tell you about someone who is doing something positive. But it won't just be someone from Fort McMurray, although since I live here I am sure many of them will also be from here. But if you have someone in your community that you would like to tell me about, please send me their story!
Over the last few years I have many wonderful people, so this will be a fun blog post to share each week, and probably an easy one to write!
This last week I met someone who really helped me to make the decision to write about wonderful people again. His name is Mohammad Zafar Iqbal, and this week we sat down over a coffee to talk about his latest humanitarian work. He made quite the impression on me, and I had to tell everyone about him.
Zafar has been living in Fort McMurray for about 6 years now, and he has his family in Ontario. The first time I met him was briefly a few years ago when he was volunteering during the July 1st festivities in town. And then more recently I have been watching his cultural clips on Shaw TV, called The World Meets in Wood Buffalo, where they have talked about everything from weddings to parenting from the point of view of the different cultures that are all here in Fort McMurray. Here is one where he talks about what a wedding is like in Pakistan.
I was very curious to meet him to hear about what he was working on lately. Did you know that over one million people have been affected by the floods this year in Pakistan? I am embarrassed to say that I did not know the far reaching effects that the floods have had this year. Instead of the annual rainfall staying around 78-80 mm, this year over 200mm came in the same amount of time in September. Once I started watching more news about it the last few days since meeting with Zafar, I have learned that damage is estimated at almost a trillion dollars! Thousands have been left homeless, and hundreds have died or are now suffering with water born diseases.
Zafar has been working hard since he has heard of the devastation from the flooding, meeting with local media, businesses and organizations to get the word out about what is happening in his homeland of Pakistan. He has been able to get the Red Cross to help him with his effort, and if you now donate through the Red Cross for the Pakistan Flood Relief, a donation of $20 will be issued an official tax receipt. But Zafar is hoping that if you cannot give $20, that you will consider donating even $1. When I asked him if he had family there, why was he so motivated to help so much, he started to tear up. I was almost ashamed of myself for asking the question when he answered, "It makes me sad that people have to have a motivation to help their fellow human beings. We should all try to help each other, no matter where they live, what their color or race." And indeed Zafar lives this mantra in his every day life. As I mentioned him to several people this week, many had stories to share about him. How he helped new community members to become more involved with events in Fort McMurray, teaching some English, giving others a place to stay and even bringing others to doctor appointments to help.
Zafar is the type of person that when you meet him you leave the table thinking that you should really be trying to contribute more to your community, and yes, even to the wider world, where ever kindness may be needed. I can only hope that I will get the privilege of some day calling him a friend, because he is definitely someone I want to spend more time with in our community. And I am guessing that if I just continue to volunteer that our paths will cross again soon.
If you want to donate to the Pakistan Flood Relief effort that Zafar is coordinating there is a donation station at MacDonald Island, several businesses have donation cans at their cash registers, and you can call Zafar himself at 780-880-1604 or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you get the chance to talk to him personally, it is something you will never regret.
Tune in next week for some more inspiring people!