Blanket Relief

How one man's simple idea is getting thousands of blankets to quake survivors in Pakistan


| December 1, 2005


Richard Berger felt the aftershocks of the earthquake in South Asia this October in the form of the constant stream of news relaying stories of survivors' hardship. The tales of the catastrophe struck Berger as overwhelming, but rather than burying his head in a pillow until the news cycle changed, the Seattle entrepreneur started hatching a plan of action.

Berger knew he could do something to save lives, but he was feeling a bit strapped for cash when the earthquake hit, so he didn't just drop a check to a nonprofit in the mail and call it good. 'If my finances were in better shape, I would have probably donated enough for me to feel good about it,' Berger told Utne.com. Instead, he said, he asked himself the question, 'What step can I take?'

Berger decided to make a contribution that would provide tangible relief, and that was also light, inexpensive, and transportable. After hearing that there weren't enough winterized tents in the whole world to provide adequate shelter for people who were rendered homeless by the quake, he made a trip to an REI store and purchased several emergency survival blankets. He then called Adventure Medical Kits, the company that markets what he deemed the most durable of the blankets; AFMInc., the blanket's manufacturer; and the humanitarian relief organization Mercy Corps. Each signed on to Berger's campaign, a story recollected on Mercy Corps' website.

With the companies and Mercy Corp on board, and a heartfelt email to 300 people, Berger was able to raise enough funds to purchase 26,000 blankets to send to Pakistan at $1 each. AFM pitched in another 3,600 similar blankets. DHL donated its shipping services and had the first 3,600 en route on November 21, with the remaining 26,000 in the mail two days later. The blankets are expected to arrive in Pakistan within a week. Mercy Corps' Eric Block says the group will gauge the need for more blankets and may begin taking donations to enable a second shipment. Meanwhile, it's still collecting funds for earthquake survivors. For his part, Berger hopes that at least another 25,000 blankets will eventually be sent to Pakistan. 'With the size of the need, I'm not stopping until it's over,' he said.

Go there >>Blanket Campaign Warms Survivors

Go there too >> Mercy Corps Donation Site