Zonal Director North India SOS Children's Villages in India
2014 – Floods in Srinagar: Response by SOS Children’s Villages India
I chose to narrate my experience of the flood relief work taken by SOS Children’s Villages India in the year 2013 when I led the team of co-workers in Srinagar in organising the relief work which spanned nearly four months.
I was very excited to leave for Srinagar in the third week of September 2013. On the one hand I was preparing myself physically and mentally, equipping myself with medicines and other necessary items of survival in the flood ravaged city of Srinagar. Even before actually leaving for Srinagar I started making my plan of action after touching base with my team members in Srinagar. I landed in Srinagar on 21st September. The road from the airport to our office was still full of knee deep water but vehicles were plying. I straightaway left for a visit to the flood affected parts of the city by using various modes of transport: car, two wheeler, walking on foot and by boat.
I remember those first few days when I could never retire for the day before 2.00 a.m. in the morning since there was so much time spent in interacting with the members of the affected community - children, ladies, menfolk in various places - making the actual assessment of their needs after interacting with them, through individual interaction and focused group discussion, then analysing the feedback received, making the plans and reports have to be compiled and sent.
Of course I could not have achieved anything without the support of the other members of my team. I lost count of the time. When I used to retire for the day I used to be dog tired but used to get up fresh, excited and raring to go into the thick of action on the next day. Time flew and before by the second day we started the relief work.
How did all this happen?
Torrential rains from 30th August to 7th September 2014 flooded the whole of Srinagar drowning and submerging more than 70% of the city. There was no place for the water to go. The water levels in the Dal Lake and other lakes started rising alarmingly and the waters from the lakes started overflowing and inundated the nearby areas. Local government was not prepared for it since it had never happened in the past.
Life came to a standstill as people started going to the rooftops and terraces of tall buildings to take refuge & shelter. Normal life was thrown out of gear and severely affected. Communication was cut off and mobility was also paralyzed. Road links to Srinagar were cut off from Jammu city for a few days due to landslides.
The government of India rushed teams from the National Disaster Rescue Force and teams from other military and paramilitary forces to Srinagar through special aircrafts and started the rescue operations. In the city of Srinagar people staying in higher areas which were not affected started helping the affected persons by taking them to safer places and proving them support by way of food, essential items and medicines. People abandoned their homes along with their children carrying handful of items and went to safer places. Local government also swung into action and started taking actions to support the affected persons. The flood started receding on 8th September 2014. The event was declared a national disaster.
There was need for more support as national and international NGOs started their relief work. SOS Children’s Villages of India was one of first few non-governmental organisations to start relief work.
My intent in the beginning was to reach out to the affected communities: interact with them, assess their needs, draw a plan of action with their involvement and then share with higher authorities through a plan for action along with costs involved. This took nearly four days.
I noted that there were a few agencies and individuals who provided emergency and immediate relief. But it was not going to last long and would not help the affected communities in the long run. It was like a giving a fish to a hungry man - but for how many days it is possible? I saw that many families lost their means of livelihood, therefore when we made the plan of action for the affected communities, we planned separate interventions in the emergency and relief phase, rehabilitation stage and reintegration stage. We made plan of action for four months and worked accordingly to implement it.
The team of co-workers in Srinagar took initiative and first of all focused on the wellbeing of the our children, mothers and co-workers. Four of our families were submerged in water and all the four mothers along with the 40 children were taken to other homes which were not affected and provided with much needed support. The youth home for the boys was submerged in water and all the young adults were rescued by the locals and taken to safety. All our 8 families were provided with food items, medicines and drinking water.
Saida Kadal and Khusalsar are two communities which live in close proximity of the Dal Lake and were severely affected. More than 70% of houses in SaidaKadal were completely damaged and more than 40% of the houses in Khusalsar were damaged.
I reached Srinagar in the week after the floods and started the relief work in the affected communities.
Following was done for the affected communities.
- Providing the affected families with food stuff, essential household items and medicines.
- Creating child spaces to engage children from age of 3 to 18 years daily for few hours in play and creative activities, helping them to cope with the trauma and build their resilience. Children were also provided with whole and nutritious snacks daily.
- Capacity building of the affected families and helping them to start either a new livelihood or enhance their existing livelihood.
All the affected families are now moving towards self-reliance with support from SOS Children’s Villages and others. The work of SOS Children’s Villages has been appreciated by all the stakeholders.
It was of paramount importance to stay focussed: Have the main frame of action in mind, break it into smaller steps and actions, take one step and one day at a time and complete the task in the given timeframe. We used to have a review meeting every day in the late evening or night some days. You have to come out of the comfort zone, challenge your limits. You may feel stressed out by the pressure of work but it gives you immense strength and empowers in the long run to weather many a storm. I received invaluable support from the Village Director of Srinagar, Mr Naushad Raza, and other members of his team and stakeholders from the communities where we worked.
The work lasted from 24th September 2014 and it continued till February 2015.
The feeling of positive energy I felt cannot be described in words – it’s felt – you feel rejuvenated and thank the almighty for being the opportunity to do the work.
is Zonal Director North India at SOS Children's Villages in India
Since 2009, as Zonal Director North, I live in Delhi, from where I support and guide the operations of 10 SOS Children’s Villages projects spanning from Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir to Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan. With an educational background in English and Sociology, I started in professional life in the hotel industry. In 1986 I joined SOS Children’s Villages, resigning in 1993, only to join back again a year after. From 1994 to 2009, I worked as village director in SOS Children’s Village Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
I am wedded to the cause of children – and have enjoyed every minute of my work with the organisation. This is the point where my family and professional life meet. I was born at Vizag, a coastal town in Andhra Pradhesh – in the southern part of India, and the youngest in a family of three brothers and three sisters. However, I have spent the maximum time of my life in New Delhi. I am married and we have two sons. I consider myself very fortunate to have been blessed with kind and understanding parents, family members and inspiring friends.
Therein rest the roots of my passion for community life in the general society. I involve myself in community service activities especially with the activities of the resident welfare association in our locality.
Leisure time: I like to read extensively and listen to music. Outdoor games and activities like cricket, badminton and walking, are for me, moments of relaxation and sources of strength. Cooking and household works extending to fondness for feeding of dogs, cows and birds, are parts of my passion for service. I set aside a little time daily for reflection.