Todd Shea is a humanitarian and the founder of Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS), a non-profit organization based in Pakistan that provides emergency relief, medical aid, and long-term development services to communities affected by natural disasters and conflict.
1. Please tell us about yourself and your journey in Pakistan?
I came here with a group of Pakistani American doctors in 2005. When I came back home from Hurricane Katrina and turned on the television and saw the earthquake in Pakistan all over every channel. This was a horrible disaster and I had been in South Asia earlier that year in a tsunami in Sri Lanka. When I saw the earthquake I was like I'm ready to help. By that time in the first two weeks, we saw that this operation was going to be needed for a long time. So, when they asked me if I would stay, I said sure, I'd love to. I would be honored to stay, they liked the way that I was helping to run the things and get the supplies with the army helicopters. In communication, security, food, blankets, tents, whatever was needed by the doctors was my responsibility. So, that’s how I moved to Pakistan and later started my own organization CDRS(Comprehensive Disaster Response Services).
2. When CDRS was founded and what are its missions and goals?
It was founded in 2005. Its basic purpose is to serve humanity. We support special patients with donors who want to help somebody with a surgery or with a certain maybe school fees for children if the mother and father haven't been able to work or maybe if they are injured or something. These kinds of things we do. We also have an animal welfare project that supports, the humane and Islamic permissible, depopulation of stray dogs and cats. We rescue animals and help other struggling rescuers and shelters. We provide 600 meals every day with a food truck that goes around Islamabad and the Pindi area. So, we do a lot of different good stuff and probably the project that is near and dear to my heart because we directly impact lives on a day-to-day basis. We have a house of blessings for widows and orphans. There we provide education and good nutrition counseling and everything like outings and entertainment.
3. What are the challenges and difficulties you've faced while running your organization and how have you overcome them?
Well, one of the biggest things to overcome is, getting funds and behind. There is a lot of trust deficit with NGOs in general, although we've been here for 17 years. I have been awarded and commented by so many organizations and individuals that have seen our efforts and appreciated our efforts officially. But still, there is just a general mistrust of NGOs. How are they spending their money? Are they being honest? There's always a doubt there, then there's doubt about me being a white American. Why am I here in Pakistan? The fact is I love Pakistan. It is because there are people here who need it and they asked me to stay. There's some bond here. It's literally about serving a higher purpose. And if you're serving a higher purpose and you're helping people in need, then you don't really need to live in a mansion or have a great car. This is what I believe.
4. What are the latest projects you are working on?
Well, the projects we are working on are the Nationwide Delivery of Family Food Packs/Fidya through food trucks on a daily basis, H20 Clean Drinking Water project, House of Blessings to the Orphans and the Widows, and the Benji Project for Animal Welfare and Rescue. Besides that we have done many other projects.
5. Any message you want to give to Pakistan or its people?
“My message to the youth of Pakistan is that life is a test and Pakistanis are tested greatly but at the same time, great nations are tested greatly. It just takes leadership and Ingenuity to steer in the right direction. My message to the kids is, individual brilliance is great, but individual brilliance will not create success for a nation unless there's teamwork. So teamwork is the most important part, trust each other and build a community.
Here are some lines of “Little Feet” a song written by Todd Shea,
“The happy sound of little feet upon the floor
Down the hall and opening up our door
Crawling across the sheets
Snuggling up to you and me
Little angels with those little feet
A little good morning kiss on the cheek
Now they're all grown up and moved away
Oh how I miss those little feet of yesterday”
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