11/11/2005, 00.00
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All Pakistan Minorities Alliance ready to adopt 500 quake orphans

by Qaiser Felix
The group has set up a tent-school where children can play and "come out of their mental shock". It asks people to pray for the victims, "but also for us". Reconstruction will be long.

Balakot (AsiaNews) – The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) has asked the government for the permission to adopt 500 children orphaned by the October 8 earthquake.

Khalid Gill, chief organiser of APMA's base camp in Balakot, 40 km from Mansehra, said that "Shabbaz Bhatti, our chairman has asked the Pakistani government for the charge of 500 orphans. We can give them shelter, food and an education," he said.

"To help the quake victims in this terrible tragedy, we reached at Abbottabad on the evening of 8 October. Then our medical team and rescue volunteers rushed to Balakot and Muzafarabad, the most affected cities," Gill said,

"Our team actively took part in rescue operations and gave first aid to injured people and helped in transferring seriously injured to hospitals, but after the initial emergency, we have started our own programme," he added.

"On 12 October we set up our base camp at Boli village, 4 km from Balakot and 36 km from Mansehra district in North West Frontier Province. Our 50 volunteers are helping people here day and night."

"We have opened a tent school in our base camp for quake-affected children in which 150 children of the area as well as from surrounding areas are receiving an education. We have arranged for free books and transportation for these children," he added. "Five qualified teachers are teaching in this tent school. [Plus] we have organised a few games like cricket and badminton for the children too so they could come out of their mental shock."

In addition, APMA has formed a veterinary team to treat wounded animals, especially donkeys and mules, which play a fundamental in local transportation.

After the first emergency, the current crisis situation in Kashmir "will last at least four or five years," Gill said. .

"We have been registered with Pakistan Relief Coordination Committee," he explained, "and we have long term small business plans for earthquake survivors".

Finally, "praying for quake victims", he said, "was our first thought, but the world must also pray for survivors and the volunteers who are helping them. It will take many years of hard work before reconstruction can be achieved. Help cannot stop coming and our own strength cannot let us down."

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