Scuffing through the powdered-sugar dusting of snow on the streets the other day, zipping up my bulky down coat against the chill, I realized there’s no avoiding it: another New England winter is here. And with the Midwest reeling from a giant snowstorm last weekend, we Bostonians are not the only ones bundled up against the cold.
In northern Pakistan’s Swat Valley, winter is also settling in. December through February are the coldest months in this mountainous region, bringing heavy snowfall and below-freezing temperatures. This winter could be especially difficult for the thousands of people in who lost their homes, belongings, and livestock during Pakistan’s devastating floods earlier this year.
That’s why Oxfam is working to distribute thousands of winter survival kits in the Swat Valley before snowstorms cut off access to remote communities. According to Oxfam’s Jane Beesley and Caroline Gluck, who recently put together a photo slideshow about the kits (above), “Oxfam is distributing the survival kits—which consist of quilts, shawls, sweaters, and socks—with the help of its local partner, Lasoona. These warm items will go to the most vulnerable families who lost their homes and possessions, including female-headed households.” (Click on each photo in the slideshow to learn more.)
Local people sew and knit these warm items as part of Oxfam’s cash-for-work program, which provides a much-needed source of income for those who lost their livelihoods in the disaster. “Everything has been damaged in the floods. Earning some money is the key thing now,” said quilt-maker Malyara Gujar, a 68-year-old widow from Ingorederai village in the lower Swat Valley.
Looking at the photo of Gujar’s handmade quilts—stacked in thick piles, their cheerful colors promising warmth—I can appreciate the power of these everyday comforts, especially in light of the long winter to come.