Earthquake Relief Efforts
County Relief Center
By ZAHRA MAMDANI
On November 18 at 7:30 pm at
the Mount Calvary Baptist Church there will be a Benefit Gospel Concert
to collect funds for the BCRC (Bergen County Relief Center). The group
is a collaborative effort led by Derek Boone and Cynthia Fisher and is
temporarily located at 27 S. Van Brunt Street in Englewood. The BCRC aims
to provide local aid for the underprivileged citizens of Bergen County
and to address the global needs of the world community. It has already
collected money and goods for Katrina survivors and has provided much
needed assistance to the victims of the South Asian earthquake.
On October 8, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake severely shook the northern region
of Pakistan and slowly rocked Afghanistan and India, the two countries
that surround Pakistan, leaving 90,000 people dead and 3 million homeless.
For several days, the earthquake produced aftershocks that rippled across
the northern regions of Pakistan and shockwaves that reverberated around
the world, including Bergen County.
As the earthquake roared throughout the small South Asian nation, Boone
was 17,000 miles away at the Englewood Hospital, recovering from a serious
spinal cord operation. A business owner and first vice president of the
NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Boone
was not personally affected by the earthquake but when he heard the news,
he knew that he needed to help.
Boone called different organizations and posted signs about his efforts
to collect winter clothing, bottled water and other necessary items for
the victims. “We are all God’s children,” emphasized
Boone. “It could just as easily come and happen to us.” People
warned that organizing a relief drive would burn him out, but Boone was
persistent. “I had to do something, all those people, those children,”
he said, referring to the tens of thousands who were orphaned. “I
just knew I had to do something.”
Boone has experience constructing a foundation of hope from the shards
of tragedy. A few months ago, Boone watched as CNN aired images of bloated
bodies, devastated houses and the ravaged parishes of New Orleans when
Hurricane Katrina struck. Along with members of his family and the tri-state
community, he collected thousands of dollars worth of items for the people
of New Orleans and personally helped a family relocate from New Orleans
to New Jersey. “Derek has an extraordinary selfless commitment,”
said Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes. “Even when he was not well
physically, he was making phone calls and doing everything he could to
It was with the same enthusiasm and relentless drive that Boone worked
for the victims of Pakistan. “I know there will be some smiles when
they open these boxes,” said Boone, carefully folding tunics, scarves
and coats for the children. Boone sat in a room that was more than full
with goodwill and concern, but less than half empty with donated items.
“We did not get the same response [for Pakistan] that we got for
Katrina,” said Boone. “Several people came up to me and said,
‘why are we helping them?’” Wildes echoed the same concern.
“There has to be seamless rope of support that transcends politics,
religion and differences,” emphasized the Mayor. “A person
hurt in Louisiana is as in need as a person hurt in Pakistan.” (Wildes’
website www.michaelwildes.org has more information about how people can
help for Katrina and the earthquake).
According to Reuters, Pakistan needs $5.2 billion to rebuild Islamabad,
the capital of Pakistan, and other badly affected areas. However, the
world has donated less than 20% of this aid. People are in desperate need
of the most basic necessities and with winter fast approaching, warm clothing,
tents and other items are in very high demand.
Sultan Karamali, managing trustee of the Muslim Community Center of Englewood,
Shah-e-Khorasan, repeated these statistics to his congregation. Tragedy
hit more than once this year for his community, comprised of South-Asian
Americans. Most had friends, family or knew people in Louisiana and now
share stories about the earthquake.
“The destruction [in Pakistan] is mind-boggling,” said Karamali.
“I heard of one remote mountain town that had 2,000 residents and
after the earthquake only 25 people survived. These people could not bury
their dead fast enough leaving carcasses to rot. When the wild animals
smelled them, they came down from the mountains and dragged the bodies
away to feast on them.”
According to Karamali, Katrina and the earthquake are just two of the
issues that Bergen County citizens should be concerned about. “Famine,
war, poverty, these are all things that affect us, no matter where in
the world they happen.” Fisher, who works at HUD (the US Department
of Housing and Urban Development), echoed this sentiment and emphasized
the work that needs to be done at the local level in Bergen County. “There
are families here that need our help. We have single moms who cannot afford
housing and people sleeping in the streets. With winter coming we need
to do something about that.”
Although Bergen County is one of the wealthiest districts in the United
States, it has problems with homelessness, poverty and 5% of the population,
or 45,149 people, live below the poverty line. Many relief agencies have
a limited number of financial resources and therefore cannot help these
people. For example, there is a 5-10 year waiting list at HUD for low-income
mothers and families in New Jersey. Many organizations only receive government
funding and because of the recent cuts in federal aid are increasingly
becoming less effective than they once were.
It was a convergence of these types of local issues and global concerns
that compelled Boone and Fisher to start the Bergen County Relief Center.
“This is important because we have so many tragedies, even in Englewood.
We want to reach out and help people,” said Fisher. Boone nodded
in agreement. “As long as I have breath, I will do what I can to
help any nationality,” he said.
for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes, Claudia Colbert, Treasurer