Hundreds gather for Pakistan flood relief fundraiser at Winnipeg mosque

Hundreds of people gathered at the Manitoba Islamic Association in Winnipeg Saturday to share a meal and prayers and raise money to support emergency flood relief efforts in Pakistan.

Event organizers said they hoped to raise $100K to help aid group working in Pakistan

Event volunteer Alina Mukhtar's extended family members live in Pakistan, and some have been displaced by the country's catastrophic flooding. (Jenn Allen/CBC)

Hundreds of people gathered at the Manitoba Islamic Association's Grand Mosque in Winnipeg Saturday to share a meal and prayers and raise money to support emergency flood relief efforts in Pakistan.

After a record monsoon season, catastrophic flooding has affected 33 million people in the country. Over 1,000 have died.

"There's still a lot of people that don't understand the depth of how devastating [this] is," volunteer Alina Mukhtar said.

Mukhtar's immediate family lives in Winnipeg with her, but her extended family is in Pakistan. 

She's been in contact with them as much as possible, though some of her loved ones, including her cousin and grandmother, have been displaced and lost their homes.

Mukhtar was volunteering at the event as a ticket handler. The event sold out their 300 advanced tickets, and the 50 tickets available at the door. Organizers said they hoped Saturday's event would raise $100,000.

Money raised from ticket sales and donations made throughout the event are going to Islamic Relief Canada, an international aid and development charity.

Event organizer Hamza Khan's brother is on the ground in Pakistan with Islamic Relief, providing emergency shelter, medical care, food and hygiene supplies.

"He has actually arranged a lot of funds personally as well, where he is getting the people ... the necessary things like food, water, shelter, medicine," Hamza said.

It's hard to stay in touch, because the flooding has damaged telephone and internet towers, he said.

Hamza said he hopes that communities worldwide can come together to help Pakistan not just in the short term, but also in the long term when it comes time to rebuilding.

Belle Meiklejohn came out to support the Pakistani community after hearing about the event on the news. 

She lived near the Assiniboine River during the flood of 1997 in Manitoba, and remembers almost having to evacuate. But the devastation of 1997 is nowhere near what Pakistan is experiencing now, she said.

"Somebody pointed out that the carbon footprint of [Pakistan] is low and yet, here's a country that's received the impact of climate change. The number of people who have been displaced is only a few million short of the Canadian population," she said.

Mohammad Khan, one of the organizers of Saturday's event, said he was moved by the amount of people in Winnipeg who have shown support. He's heard from neighbours, community organizations and other religious groups.

"It's beyond colour and skin and the faith that you have. Humanity comes first, no matter what," he said.