Saach Foundation is born out of a string of events. Its precursor was Kashif-Talat joint account which myself (I was then with Aaj television) and Kashif Abbasi of ARY news established in the 2010 national floods that played havoc with the whole country on an unprecedented scale. Journalists are not supposed to be development workers, but that particular event swept away this keystone of our profession. It was impossible to stay neutral and watch our very own people pass through untold misery without doing anything practical for them.
Moreover, most of my travels to the remote corners of the flood-hit areas gave the viewers the confidence that a more authentic way to send aid across to the affected people was through our teams. The initial voluntary distribution of aid sent through us reached the right quarters. But soon managing the funds flow became a problem. The more flood coverage we did, the more funds came in. In order to streamline the system we established the joint account so that funds could be used more effectively. To manage the information flow for efficient use of this sacred public trust, we put together a remarkable team of voluntary workers who burnt the candle from both ends and spent a good three months documenting aid (which came in all types and sizes—from tea bags to giant-sized tents) and logistics.
The principle of this team-work was simple: unless specifically asked by the donor otherwise, the money-donation would be translated into relief goods for pre-identified projects and would be transported through the help of courier service (TCS in this case) almost free of charge. Local partners were selected carefully and were told that donations had no provision for any expenditure on non-productive activities (salaries, publicity etc) and that these costs have to be born by them on their own. This way we were able to create a unique network of voluntary services from start to finish and ensure that ALL of donor’s money/contributions reached where these were needed the most. While we worked as an informal NGO, our infrastructure was based in my office at Aaj, whose administration was most generous in allowing us to use facilities for this purpose such as computers, office space, food, beverages—even temporary stores were created to keep goods before these were transported to their final destination.
The expatriate community, who watched the flood coverage through local networks responded, with enormous interest. They were encouraged by the fact that whenever we asked for donations we did not ask them to contribute just to our fund but donate to whoever they wished to donate. We told them that we could provide them with our assessment of the situation and they could decide to pick partners of their choice. This flexible appeal for donations that did not bind the donor to a particular type of organization (in this case Kashif-Talat fund) unlocked donor inhibition and doubt and allowed them to understand that not every organization works to gather hard cash for itself.
The same principle underpins Saach Foundation which has institutionalized the Kashif-Talat fund. The organization is duly registered with Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP). It has an endowment from committed donors whose interest pays for the salaries of its small staff. The donations are only used for relief activities and not a penny is used for non-productive expenditure. In other words, Saach Foundation DOES NOT depend on donations to run its operations and therefore, can guarantee that whatever aid it receives will reach the most affected people. Although Saach, which has a 3-member board of directors and is in the process of being registered in the UK as well, works primarily in disaster situations, the aftermath of disasters is equally important for its activities. Providing the affected population with food is one thing, but without the provision of long-term shelter they would continue to remain vulnerable. Similarly, health requirements of communities in distress are both immediate and mid- to long-term. However, the primary work of Saach is short to mid-term.
Saach makes no claim of being a revolutionary organization, nor does it carry a chip on its shoulder. It is a humble effort by a team of dedicated volunteers to pay back to their countrymen and help those whose lives are put in jeopardy by natural and man-made disasters.