Archive for November, 2008

Note from Dial 1298 CEO (Mumbai)

November 28, 2008

Note from 1298 Dial for Ambulance CEO – all 1298 staff are safe and working round the clock to help the injured victims. Thanks to everyone who has contacted me with their offers of help & support. I am safe and staying close to office / apartment. More on my personal blog.

Dear All,
Mumbai is witnessing terror attacks in various locations; over 100 people have been confirmed dead and over 275 injured since last night. Many more are sure to be reported injured or dead as the paramilitary forces gets the situation under control. A number of injured can be saved if timely medical attention can be delivered to them.

Dial 1298 for Ambulance team has been at the scene since last night helping and saving blast accident victims . We are in touch with the BMC’s disaster management cell and the fire brigade in coordinating the rescue attempts of the hostages and transferring the injured people.
We at ‘Dial 1298 for Ambulance’ request your help in informing Mumbaikars, that if they require or if they know anyone whom might need medical emergency help, they can call 1298 for an Ambulance. The service is free of charge and we will have the victim transferred to the nearest Government / Municipal hospital free of charge so that victim will get medical attention at the earliest.

One can access the 1298 Ambulance service by dialing 1298 from either a landline or a mobile.
We seek your help in informing Mumbaikars through your channel/publication;  we will together be able to save lives that might otherwise be lost in this time of crisis.
For an Ambulance DIAL 1298

(Request you to pass on this information, to your colleagues and friends  so that  we are able to save maximum lives during this terror attacks)

Sweta Mangal

Thanksgiving Sadness

November 27, 2008

I awoke this morning to the terrible news that Mumbai had been bombed yesterday evening.  So far 125 are dead and 327 injured.  Apparently, one of the terrorists in custody is of Pakistani descent.  I hope to goodness that this will not derail the recent talks of partnership between the two countries.

The Acumen Fund team immediately went into action to check on all of the fellows in India along with those of Indian citizenship to see if they and their families were safe.  It’s comforting to know that there is such support here and abroad.  

Apart from the dreadful news, this day has been like any other.  Earlier this week, I tried to contact the US consulate in Karachi to see if they had any Thanksgiving plans open to US citizens, but they did not.  While I may celebrate Thanksgiving alone this day, I still have the fresh memories of my family’s Thanksgiving celebration on November 9.  I traveled home for a wedding during my final weekend before leaving the states.  My sister, brother, and brother-in-law all came home as well for the festivities.  We cut-a-rug at the wedding and then enjoyed our last meal together for the next 10 months.  I am so blessed to have such an incredibly loving family that supports me and loves me back home!                 

Joel Montgomery

The REAL Pakistan

November 22, 2008

Bombs, Taliban, Terrorism, Extremism, Danger.  This is the Pakistan that the media portrays.  Since my arrival to this country of 162 million a week ago, my picture of this land has transformed into a grand landscape painted by one of the Hudson River masters. 

The sketches of this masterpiece began to take shape when I arrived late on a Saturday evening to the house that will be my home for next 10 months.  The family that welcomed me immediately accepted me as one of their own.  Now, I must confess that as a Southerner, I have been brought up with certain ideals of hospitality, but the level of acceptance that I received that evening makes us Southerners look plain old rude and shallow. 

The first color began to hit the canvas as I traversed the land to visit poor farmers in the desert. Dust and desert shrubs stretched on for many miles in every direction.  The only colors to break free from the abyss of shades of brown were on the bright pastels of the kurta shalwars that the women wore.  As we neared, women would shield their faces with vibrant orange or red or pink fabric.  80% of these people live on less than one dollar a day and are entirely dependent on Mother Nature’s grace to give them rain during the summer.

The dabs of color began to mix together as my colleagues and I sat on the side of the road drinking tea before embarking on the rest of our journey.  Converted WWII-era trucks that the British had brought many years before passed us decorated with intricate detail and hauling several times the amount of cargo that they had originally been designed for.  Their unique horns seemed to posture toward one another in an attempt to dominate the others.  Men sat on rope coaches conversing about the day’s events and enjoying the comforting warmth of a teacup that warded off the coolness of the evening air.  A nut vendor passed roasting small chickpeas and selling peanuts by the bag full.   

This is the REAL Pakistan and I have only gained a glimpse of its complexity and beauty.  Now, I am not denying that there are elements Bombs, Taliban, Terrorism, Extremism, and Danger in this country, but which country can repudiate the existence of these elements within its own borders (minus the Taliban)?  I wonder how might the world’s view of this country be if a more balanced portrayal of its reality were shared.

Joel Montgomery             

I Don’t Know Why You Say “Goodbye”… I say “Hello”

November 19, 2008

Given the fact that I have lived abroad on several occasions, I have not really anticipated much about the 10 months that I would soon spend in a foreign land. I was busy enough with training and arming all the necessary documentation to get my visa to think much about what life would be like once I arrived in Pakistan. That all changed on my last day with the Acumen Fund team in New York. During the day, Acumen Fund held its Investor Gathering for all its key investors in a shareholder meeting that is atypical in the non-profit world. As part of the afternoon session, my cohort of fellows and I performed a 10 minute presentation to give the audience some background into who we were, why we were there, and where we were going. In preparation for the event, Rives, the renowned slam poet, helped us refine our ramblings into a more thoughtful and more entertaining package. The performance held special significance given the fact that this was the last day that our team of fellows would be together until out mid-project meeting in March 2009. Many of us were leaving for the field the very next morning. 

During the evening, my fellow fellows and I greeted guests to the Investor Gala with silk scarves. We mingled with the greater Acumen Fund community and I was impressed by the way that the engagement of most of the people in that room was far deeper than a simple financial commitment. I am convinced that social change requires much more than capital; it requires a passionate community that is committed to breaking molds and blazing new trails. It was at the Investor Gala that the importance of my work took on a new meaning. There is a movement brewing. For too long, the traditional aid models have thrown trillions of dollars at developing countries and in most cases making the situation far worse. Acumen Fund, Endeavor, and other like-minded hybrid organizations are challenging the old guard. We are leveraging the power of business to empower the poor. As I leave for Pakistan, I am eager to live this work firsthand.

Joel Montgomery


November 18, 2008

(With $5 in cash and $6 metro card the fellows were sent out into NYC to spend the day – this is an excerpt of my experience)

My friends and I were trying to find a shelter that was close by. As we walked along, we met Charles who had a table setup on the street that read United Homeless Organization. We felt that it would be best if we asked Charles where the shelter was. Now, why would Charles try to help us? What could we ask him such that he would give us the address of the shelter? So my friends posed as homeless people stirred up a conversation with Charles asking him for help. When he came to know we were homeless there was an instant sense of connection he felt with us. Even though he did not know the exact location he started to think how he could help us. Just as he was thinking of options, his friend Anthony walks by. He shouts out, Anthony, can you please help these folks? Can you give them directions to the shelter? Anthony says Sure, why dont I just walk with you to the shelter, I am going there anyways? Thats how I met Anthony!

Anthony was a tall, skinny, curly haired man. His cheek bones protruding out almost like those youd find amongst native Indians. He was wearing a denim jacket and trousers with sneakers that looked fairly new. I started walking with Anthony and I introduced myself and he did the same. What follows is an excerpt of my conversation with Anthony.

He said My real name is Yusuf Ali and I am from Puerto Rico (same as Charles, whom we had met earlier).

He also indicated that he had some heritage from Saudi Arabia. This background was certainly intriguing. We continued our conversation.

I asked What about your family? Where are they? Do you have any kids?

He said I have eight children six boys and two girls. They all lived with my wife in Brooklyn and my parents also lived nearby.

I asked Anthony where do you work? Or what do you do for a living?

He said I conduct seminars on HIV/AIDS throughout New York city, about three or four seminars per day. He kept talking and I kept listening.

He said I used have a nice Audi A6 which I sold and bought a house for my parents as I wanted them to live nicely. Whats in a car, I can always earn money again to buy it, but my parents should be living well? As Anthony was talking, I was just thinking to myself. Does he really want anything different than I do? A good life where kids, wife and parents are all taken care of, isnt it?

I continued the conversation; I said Would you like this Biscotti, it goes well with the coffee? How long ago did you come to America?

He took the biscotti, put it in his jacket pocket and continued talking I grew up in this country. In fact, I was in the army, in the special forces unit. I was very good at rope climbing. They (the army) had trained me and sent me to Iraq when the war began. But I tell you, I dont like Bush, he is really a trouble maker.

All this while we were walking along and my friends were following us. We perilously crossed the road without any regards to the traffic on it as if we were in our own world. Just as we crossed the road, Anthony excused himself and entered a pharmacy store. I waited outside the pharmacy patiently. He was in the store for nearly fifteen minutes. He came out ignored me and started walking away. I walked up to him and tapped him on his shoulder with a hope to continue our conversation. We walked a few steps quietly. Just as we reached a crossing Anthony took a turn and went off. I didnt know what had happened between him entering the store and returning but it certainly seemed like he was in no mood to talk to me any more.

I continued walking alone thinking about Anthony, who was he? What did he want in life? What did I want in life? I dont have these answers, but I can say this all my life I have lived on the hope of doing better than what I am doing or where I have been in life and that has kept me going. Was Anthony telling me the things hed like in life? Was he living in the hope that hed have a eight children, comfortable life for his parents? I can only hope to answer his questions. I can only hope that Anthony gets what he desires in life.

As Aristotle rightly put it Hope is the dream of a waking man.