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Updated: Nov 12, 2005

The following article appeared Nov. 11th in the Eureka Reporter:
A one-man mission
by Shane Mizer, 11/11/2005

Casey Conner is going to Pakistan to help with the earthquake relief effort.

“One day I was sitting ... and I said, ‘I have got to go to Pakistan,’” Conner said.

Conner, a singer-songwriter who now lives in Bellingham, Wash., still has many friends and family to visit in Humboldt County. However, at the moment, he is much more concerned with his recent plans to visit Pakistan, where he stands to gain many more new friends through his individual effort to help the victims of the magnitude-7.6 earthquake that struck South Asia on Oct. 8.

The quake, which killed more than 87,000 people and injured approximately 100,000, has received little U.S. media coverage, but has raised wide concern, especially from the United Nations, over what will happen to the 3-4 million homeless left by the earthquake’s devastation, as winter approaches in the Himalayas and surrounding areas.

“More or less, I’m just someone that does his best to pay attention to what’s going on in the world,” Conner said.

However, Conner has been doing more than just paying attention — he has also made a huge commitment in an effort to raise the community’s awareness.

Beside encouraging people he encounters in the community to donate to one of the many Pakistan earthquake relief funds, Conner has spoken about the earthquake on KHUM-FM after a live musical performance he gave on Tuesday. Conner also organized a small vigil on The Arcata Plaza last week in order to inform residents about the earthquake and what they can do to help.

“The sheer magnitude of it is overwhelming,” Conner said.

On Sunday, Conner hands over his plane ticket to an attendant at San Francisco International Airport, where he will then board a plane headed for London’s Heathrow Airport. After that he’s off to Islamabad.

Conner expects to arrive in Islamabad on Tuesday, where he hopes to find and join up with a Pakistani nongovernment organization known as the Joint Action Committee. The JAC is comprised of several local groups encouraging unskilled workers like Conner to help out with duties associated with aiding earthquake victims.

“I don’t know really know what I’ll do, specifically” Conner said, adding that possibilities include everything from office work to mountain hiking to delivering supplies directly to earthquake victims.

Conner said that each day, he has mentally wrestled with himself about the decision to go to Pakistan.

“‘What is it that motivates me to travel to Pakistan as opposed to just donating the money for my plane ticket?’” he asked himself.

“‘Am I going to be in the way?’”

“‘Is this a selfish hero complex? Why would I dare to put myself there and buy a plane ticket instead of donating that money?’ You kind of doubt yourself,” Conner said.

The decision to go won out in the end, he said.

“I feel like it’s an experience I can bring back and talk about it to keep in people’s consciousness,” Conner said.

Conner intends to write frequently and maintain information with regard to his efforts on his Web site, www.caseyconner.org. There, Conner has also compiled links giving information about the earthquake as well as how others interested in taking part in the relief efforts can become involved.

Affirming his decision to go, Conner has already raised over $3,000 in the course of a couple of weeks, which he says wouldn’t have happened if he had just donated the money for his plane ticket.

Conner will return to the U.S. on Jan. 19. He plans to give talks about his experiences in Pakistan when he returns.

Jessicurl, an Arcata-based business that supplies natural products for people with curly hair, has also joined in the efforts to raise awareness of the earthquake.

Jessicurl’s “Women in the World Program” has selected a charity group called Mercy Corps, which is raising money for an earthquake relief fund.

Under Jessicurl’s program, customers who place orders on their Web site are given the opportunity to receive discounts on their products if they provide donations to Mercy Corps in the name of the Pakistan Earthquake Relief Effort, co-owner Dave Berman said.

(Shane Mizer can be reached at smizer@eurekareporter.com.)

Copyright (C) 2005, The Eureka Reporter. All rights reserved.