Help the survivors of the Pakistan Floods – A Shoutout to Oprah

This week’s Cause of the Week is the Speak Up Oprah Campaign spearheaded by Myra Shaikh.

The broad purpose of their cause is to spread awareness about the flood relief efforts for the 20+ million victims in Pakistan.

The more specific goal of the Speak Up Oprah campaign- they are asking everyone to write to Oprah Winfrey and ask her to talk about the devastation that is going on in Pakistan. The media has been grossly neglecting what the U.N. calls “the worst natural disaster in recent history.” Oprah supported relief efforts for Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, and tsunami victims. What happened in Pakistan is much worse than all of those combined, yet people are not hearing anything about it or doing much to help.

This is purely a humanitarian cause, geared to help those who are less fortunate and for those whose cries for help are being ignored. Please help us help the underdog.

Make sure to listen in to their tweets from @msaikh81 and from our accounts this week! You can donate to the cause by visiting http://www.pakistanfloods.org/. Also, follow along with the Hashtag #pkfloods

Read on for the interview with Myra and additional information about how they have been using social media to help aid the cause.

pakitstan

How did the whole idea come about?

I’ve always been a softy for humanitarian efforts… especially for kids.  After the tsunami and Haiti earthquake happened, I would forward emails from Unicef to all my friends asking them to donate as well. When I heard about the scale of this natural disaster and the lack of support it’s been getting in light of “Islamophobia” and the Ground Zero mosque controversy, I felt the sense of urgency to do something more than just donate. I kept getting emails at an unusual rate from Unicef, and even after donating, they were appealing for more help and donations because they just couldn’t keep up. I’ve donated through Unicef several times in the past, but never saw so many appeals from them at once. I then forwarded the emails to all 200 people in my contact list, which I had never done before… half of them probably didn’t even remember who I was! I also contacted the president of Pakistan Association of America (www.paamich.org) asking him about any relief efforts underway and volunteering opportunities, but there were none at the time. I then contacted people I knew who were involved in DIL in Houston and asked for advice in started my own fundraiser event. Around that time I had also written a few letters to Oprah via her website and regular mail… but felt like my one letter would be lost among the thousands she gets everyday. It occurred to me that if I could get as many people as possible to write to her and ask her to say something for the flood relief efforts, it might make a huge impact. That’s when I got the idea of using Facebook to reach out all my friends and ask for their support.

Why is this cause close to your heart? Why should other support it?

This cause is close to my heart in part because I come from a Pakistani heritage, but overall because of my love for humanity and desire to do whatever I can to ease someone else’s suffering. My parents are from Pakistan, but I’ve only been there twice. Once when I was 6, and again when I was 18. I have some relatives in Islamabad and Lahore, but don’t personally know anyone who was affected by the floods. I hope others support this cause purely for love of humanity and goodwill, regardless of race, creed, political agenda, etc.

Do you have any other events or fundraisers that you would like others to know about?

I’m volunteering with www.pakistanfloods.org as well.  The website is “A global response to the world’s biggest natural disaster and humanitarian crisis in recent history”. There, you can find comprehensive and up to date information about ongoing relief efforts.

What advice would you give to others that might like to take on such an amazing endeavor?

My advice for when you feel something is horribly wrong and would like to see a change: if the old way doesn’t seem to be working, you should try to “think outside the box,” and get creative. Bounce ideas off of someone you trust. Ask others who feel the same as you for advice and support. Social Media is an excellent way to get your word out and reach a mass amount of people. I believe we can accomplish anything, it’s only a matter of drive and desire to want to make a difference. And don’t be afraid of failure… the only time you’ve failed is when you decide to stop trying.zZ

How has social media helped your organization?

After starting the campaign through Facebook and getting a lot of positive feedback, I thought of all the possible ways to reach her or her producers and  decided to join Twitter. I used Twitter to reach out to any connections Oprah may have. I also started following people who were tweeting for Pakistan and had a lot of followers, and shared my ideas with them. I met a lot of like-minded and kind people very quickly. They helped me get theword out, and we helped each other in spreading awareness for all different relief efforts and updates on the situation. I’ve also been tweeting to celebrities, journalists, charity foundations, non-profit organizations, or anyone else who has a lot of followers asking them to help spread awareness for Pakistan’s relief efforts in general. I’ve asked the members of my cause to join Twitter and to also use it for this purpose.

My main objective is to shine as much light on the situation as possible and try to make up for the lack of media attention. I don’t want to be one of those people who just sit around, waiting for someone else to do something to help. For me social media was the only thing that made this campaign possible. We’ve gotten tweets and re-tweets from Tom Cruise, Imran Anwar, Oprah’s producer Jonathan Sinclair and her good friend Nate Berkus… Jonathan Sinclair is now following me on Twitter as well. We couldn’t have done that without Twitter. At least I know we are getting their attention, and they are reaching out to their fans because of it. It gives everyone equal opportunity for a chance to be heard, which is something Pakistan isn’t getting enough of.

“Initially, Myra utilized the “Causes” application on Facebook as a method to reach mass amounts of people with her message. After surpassing her first goal of 2,000 members, Myra decided to join Twitter to reach out to Oprah’s connections directly. While exploring Twitter, she quickly was initiated and met like-minded people who helped spread the word about her efforts. Some of her key successes on Twitter include tweets about the Speak Up Oprah campaign from Chris Anderson (curator of the TED Conferences), Imran Anwar (entrepreneur who founded the .pk internet email domain), Jonathan Sinclair (Oprah’s producer) and Nate Berkus (Oprah’s good friend).
As far as Myra’s new realization of the power of social media (she didn’t know what a hashtag was until she signed up for Twitter on August 23rd), she says social media is the only thing that made her campaign possible. When referencing Twitter, Myra continued,
“It gives everyone equal opportunity for a chance to be heard, which is something Pakistan isn’t getting enough of.”
— Quoted from http://mshahab.posterous.com/social-media-for-social-good-increasing-aware

What do you have planned for the future of The Speak Up Oprah Campaign?

As of now, my main goal for the campaign is to spread word and try to convince Oprah and her producers to start talking. I’m not sure if they even know the gravity of the situation. We are sending pictures, tweeting articles, trying to enlighten them about the situation and asking for their help. We will continue to recruit as many people as we can for the cause until Oprah’s people acknowledge our efforts and she speaks up for Pakistan on her show.

Help Support the victims of the Pakistan flood

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