News of the catastrophic Haiti earthquake revived painful memories for members of a Pakistani doctors’ group in Louisville whose homeland was struck by a devastating earthquake in 2005 that killed more than 80,000 people.

The group wanted to find a way to help the victims in Haiti. But beyond that, it looked to make a lasting impact locally by crossing ethnic and religious boundaries.

So the group — the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of Kentucky and Indiana — made more than $9,000 in donations through local civic and religious charities, including those with Jewish and Christian ties.

The group consists of about 150 doctors of Pakistani descent living in and around Louisville, ranging from Elizabethtown to Southern Indiana. It’s affiliated with a North American association of thousands of doctors; many of them are Muslim, while others are Hindu and Christian.

“It was such a major disaster in Haiti, we were trying to pitch in as best as we can to help them,” said Dr. Abdul Jabbar, a Southern Indiana-based doctor who is president of the chapter.

But rather than give through an international organization, it chose to give through local groups working in Haiti.

“We wanted to definitely collaborate with the local different faiths to … promote the pluralism in our society and promote more harmony,” he said.

The group gave $5,176 to an outreach organized by two Louisville synagogues and numerous church and school groups to aid the national charity Hope for Haiti.

The physicians group is also donating $2,000 each to Edge Outreach, a Christian group providing clean water to quake victims, and Supplies Over Seas, a charity that is airlifting medical equipment and supplies toHaiti.
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“We were really impressed with the work they were doing,” Jabbar said. “Hopefully this will lead to more cooperation.”

Paul Rosenblum, who returned from Haiti shortly before the quake as part of the Hope for Haiti program, said he was “delighted” with the cooperation.

“They’re an outstanding group of people,” he said. “It will help us not only with the Haiti projects but will help us build better relations in our community.”

The project is coordinated by Keneseth Israel Congregation and Temple Shalom, in support of the larger mission of Hope for Haiti to promote education in that impoverished country.

The synagogues, along with Greater Good Hope Baptist Church and several school and civic groups, have been providing medical aid and clean-water projects to a Haitian community called Ravine Sable.

In fact, like the physicians group, the synagogues structured the project so they could not only benefit Haiti but also build relationships across religious and ethnic lines, Rosenblum said.

Allen Montgomery, senior executive of Supplies Over Seas, said that in addition to the financial donation, more than a dozen members of the Pakistani group helped sort medical items bound forHaiti on a recent weekend. The charity, which ships surplus medical supplies and equipment throughout the world, is overseen by Hand in Hand Ministries and the Greater Louisville Medical Society Foundation.

The Pakistani volunteers “were tremendous,” Montgomery said. “That’s what we’re so excited about — that there will be an ongoing working relationship.”

Dr. Muhammad Babar, treasurer of the Pakistani group, agreed. “It has given us an opportunity to know each other,” he said. “We are hoping to build on it.” (The Courier-Journal,Louisville, KY, USA)