Rebuilding the city

January 14, 2024

A squash player teams up with an engineer to provide housing to the flood affected

Rebuilding the city


n 2022, severe flooding hit parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The rehabilitation process is still under way in the affected areas.

Besides dozens of international and local NGOs and humanitarian organisations, some unsung heroes are supporting the flood-affected community.

Noorena Shams, a professional squash player and administrator, who hails from Lower Dir district and has represented the country on various global platforms, is one of them.

Rebuilding the city

Noorena hails from a war-torn area. She knows what it is like to be displaced. When the catastrophic floods displaced thousands of people across the province, she realised the need to do something – and soon.

She set out, using social media to enlist help. With the help of like-minded people who supported her throughout the campaign, she pulled off a remarkable feat; building more than 30 houses in Dera Ismail Khan, one of the worst hit districts.

Asked about the process of rebuilding and how she tackled the challenges that arose on the way, she says that Asmar Hussain, an engineer by profession and photographer by passion, had reached out to her in 2022 at the end of July and requested her to collaborate with him in raising funds for the affected people.

“I was able to raise funds using social media,” says Shams. “I also asked the people I knew to donate for the cause. Many cricketers, showbiz stars and corporate owners sent in their donations. Some of them chose to remain anonymous,” she says.

The focus wasn’t only on DI Khan alone. Nowshera, Charsadda and Pashmal Bahrain in Upper Swat were also in need of help. “After the campaign, we helped thousands of families and provided aid and hygiene kits to more than 20,000 women,” she says. “A year later, I was contacted by Asmar again, this time for another cause,” she says.

“We also collaborated on a photography exhibition and a documentary on the devastation caused by the floods in DI Khan in August 2023,” says Shams, adding, “We invited people to participate by buying artwork and pledging to build houses for the widows in the flood-hit area. People started contacting us to participate in the cause after watching our social media releases.”

“The widows had lived in tents for over a year without electricity. We did not have much money at this point. A simple house costs around Rs 300,000,” she says.

“We sent invitations to the Akhuwat Foundation, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Youth Affairs Department and Sony Cameras for the exhibition. A majority of individuals we contacted agreed to support our cause and participated in the exhibition. The event captured huge attention,” says Shams.

While they were working on the documentary in DI Khan, Shams became privy to the challenging circumstances the flood affected were facing there. The roads were damaged and bridges had been washed away by the floods.

“We didn’t have a technical team initially. After consulting some experts, we decided to raise the houses we were reconstructing,” she says. “We used steel rods and concrete blocks,” she adds.

According to Noreena, the number of people living in tents ran into the thousands. “But they were resilient people, especially the women. Many women approached our team and asked for cement, bricks, blocks and other construction materials so that they could build their houses on their own,” she said.

The writer is a freelance multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney

Rebuilding the city