The following story is perhaps the best example of who Lucy was and how she reacted when she encountered suffering and distress:
On the 8th of October 2005, Kashmir in northern Pakistan was hit by a massive earthquake. The actual death toll will never be known, but NGO estimates put it at 380,000. On 20th October, Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN, said that “a second, massive wave of death will happen if we do not step up our efforts now.” An estimated 120,000 people were stranded out in the open, without food or shelter, many with terrible injuries, and winter was closing in.
Through her links with TCF (a charity providing education for under-privileged children in Pakistan), Lucy Monro flew to the area to cover the story as a journalist. However, compassion took over and she broke one of her cardinal rules as a journalist: she got involved.
TCF introduced her to LMKR, an oil services IT company with an office in Islamabad. Many of their employees came from one of Kashmir’s worst hit mountain regions, so they’d closed their doors to business the morning after the earthquake and declared themselves a makeshift humanitarian team. Lucy joined them and together they stocked a convoy of vehicles with tents, medical supplies and food and headed off on a 180km drive northeast to the remote hill station of Sudhan Gali.
Their convoy was ransacked. They were forced to retrace their steps and return to Islamabad. Undeterred, they restocked and started out all over again. This time, though, they donned military clothing and were left alone.
At Sudhan Gali, they found a team of emergency surgeons and medics from South Africa working in appalling conditions and forced to operate in the open air. Without hesitating, Lucy called Allan Greenfield, who was back in Dubai with some friends:
“I need a tent.”
“How big a tent?”
“50m!!!??? That’s a big ask, but OK, I’ll get it. Somehow …”
Allan drove out into the desert to where he knew some wealthy Pakistanis were having a camping trip. He explained what was going on and that he needed funds to buy a tent and take it to Kashmir. He showed them Lucy’s pictures. They agreed to help. With their support, Allan not only went and found a tent and negotiated a price, he redesigned the covering and structure to cope with the impending snows of winter and then added a full suite of cabling, lighting, junction boxes and generators. His was a comprehensive job.
Lucy, in the meantime, had returned to Dubai looking to charter an aircraft and had succeeded in pinning down a Russian transport plane. But the price was horrendous. So she started calling people, influential people. Slowly, the price came down. Not one to sit idle, she also made the most of her time between calls, walking around Dubai collecting cash from people she knew in a plastic Spinney’s bag!
Lucy and Allan’s arrival in Islamabad did not run smoothly: the Pakistani military tried to seize their equipment. Undaunted, Lucy showed the pictures on her laptop to the pilot and he steadfastly refused to let the soldiers on-board. Just in time, LMKR appeared with their vehicles and the tent was transported and erected next to a refugee camp outside Islamabad.
Meanwhile, Allan was aware that a man called Sadiq, who used to work for him in Abu Dhabi, hailed from the region and was up in the mountain village of Moldura. LMKR lent Lucy and Allan a couple of Land Rovers and they set off to see if they could reach the village, carrying tents, food and medical supplies. They were still wearing military clothing and they now marked their vehicles with doctor badges. It was not an easy excursion. The roads were damaged and terribly dangerous – so damaged in fact, that at one point, Allan made everyone else get out and walk across a particularly hazardous looking section before he quickly drove the vehicles across on his own, one by one.
Eventually, the road ended and they were faced with a narrow goat track. Locals were descending in droves and declared the track far too perilous for Lucy and Allan to climb. Allan suggested to Lucy that maybe the locals knew best, to which she responded, “But we have to try!” So, they pushed on and climbed through the night, crossing huge cracks in the ground, with heavy packs of supplies on their backs. Finally, they reached Moldura: it was completely flattened. The route they’d climbed up looked lethal in the daylight.
They set up the tents they’d brought and distributed the food. Allan showed everyone they encountered a picture of Sadiq and eventually, they found him. He embraced Allan in a warm hug and said simply “Boss, you came!” Sadiq had lost 33 members of his extended family.
Moldura was a terrible scene. Sick and injured people lay strewn about the rubble, exposed to the elements, and doctors were conspicuously absent. Medical help was critical. So Lucy and Allan headed back down to the LMKR base camp and persuaded a couple of South African surgeons to climb back up with them. Once there, they set up a triage unit and began to treat those in need, many of whom had terrible wounds.
Aftershocks happened continually, compounding the devastation. They needed more help. Lucy and Allan’s answer was to climb to the top of the mountain and together with people from the village, clear trees and rocks to shape a rough-and-ready helipad. Lucy then got on her sat-phone and put in another round of calls. No helicopters were available. She tried everyone she could think of. She exhausted the phone directory. Then she started haranguing the UN. Two weeks later, the first of the helicopters arrived.
Allan, meanwhile, had spotted timber milling machinery nearby and together he and Lucy came up with a concept to build 100 timber homes. But officialdom in Pakistan stopped them. So, Lucy returned to Dubai and got out her Spinney’s bag again. She then headed back to Islamabad with Allan’s designs for a wooden house, met Sadiq, bought the materials herself and they built Sadiq and his family a new house.
LMMT will consider making a grant to any charity involved in the advancement of human health (including the prevention, or relief of sickness, disease, or human suffering as described in the example above).