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Event raises ¥3.4 million for Pakistan flood victims

by Minoru Matsutani

About 350 people gathered for a charity event last week in Tokyo to raise funds to support victims of Pakistan’s devastating floods this summer.

Tokyo Helps, a volunteer group founded by people from various countries, raised ¥3.4 million in the Wednesday night event held at the Vanity Lounge club in Roppongi. Half of the proceeds will go to the World Food Program and the other half to the aid group Oxfam, with both organizations planning to spend the money on aid for Pakistan.

“Your gracious assistance will be immense support for people in Pakistan,” Pakistani Ambassador Noor Muhammad Jadmani told the participants. “I want to thank you all for showing international solidarity.”

Despite the vast number of flood victims, “the disaster received much less attention and donation” than it deserves, Tokyo Helps President Samar Shaheryar said. The group continues to accept donations for Pakistan.

More than 20 million Pakistanis, or 12 percent of the country’s population, were injured or displaced as a result of monsoon rains in July and August, making the floods the worst humanitarian disaster of our lifetime, Tokyo Helps said. The floods have affected more people than the Haiti earthquake in January, the Asian tsunami in December 2004 and the 2005 Pakistan earthquake combined, the group said.

The four-hour charity event included live music and a raffle. Sponsors, including Robert Walters Japan, Peninsula Hotel Tokyo, Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo and Global Dining Inc., donated prizes such as a free hotel stay, dinner tickets and gift certificates. Musicians and a DJ performed for free.

“I came here because it’s for charity, and it’s a night out,” said an Australian woman in her 20s sipping a cocktail. The woman, who declined to be named, said she received her invitation via Facebook and is interested in attending similar events in the future.

After Jadmani’s speech, Tokyo Helps staff drew raffle tickets to announce prizewinners.

The prizes included four VIP passes to the Super GT car race, ¥60,000 gift certificates to French restaurant Beige Alain Ducasse, two brunches for two at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and a certificate for a “Japanese experience,” including two traditional dance classes, a kimono dressing lesson and dinner for two at the sushi restaurant Fukuzushi.

Then Tokyo Helps staff held a live auction for a five-night stay in a luxurious four-bedroom villa in Phuket, Thailand. Bids started with ¥10,000 and an American businesswoman working in Tokyo won it for ¥490,000.

“I believe passionately in giving back and appreciate people who donate time and hours to help flood victims in Pakistan,” said the woman, who declined to be named.

While food and medicine were initially needed for the flood victims, Pakistan now is in dire need of infrastructure aid, including shelters and electricity, Jadmani said.

Parts of southern Pakistan remain inundated with water, and the agricultural damage is believed to have affected as much as 2 million hectares of farmland, he said.

Tokyo Helps was created in January in the wake of the Haiti quake by a multinational group of Tokyo residents to organize fundraising events to help victims of natural disasters worldwide. Its first charity event was held to raise aid money for Haiti.

“We will continue to hold similar events in the future and raise awareness for victims of natural disasters as we did after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and this time for the 20 million victims left displaced after the flooding in Pakistan. Going forward, we will continue helping the ones in need,” said Denisa Kobayashi, head of the external relations at Tokyo Helps.