Who would have thought that the life of a famous American singer and guitarist would be addicted by a new kind of high – disaster relief? Todd Shea is an Irish-American Muslim who runs a worldwide charity under the name of Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS). CDRS provides efficient and quick disaster recovery options along with medical and humanitarian relief to people in disaster-affected areas of Pakistan.
He looks more like a lumberjack with blue eyes and red hair than a healthcare manager or cultural ambassador. His life story is incredibly inspirational, powerful, and twisty. Everything snappishly changed from canceling the scheduled gig at a famous gallery in New York to set up the makeshift dispensary at Ground Zero right after the incident of 9/11.
A formerly crack-addict is now addicted by a new kind of high as he witnessed the towers falling from his hotel rooftop. His addiction to disaster relief was good for people. Since then he is in constant motion as relentless disasters across the world have taken a toll on him. With a blunt style and loud voice he tears up uncharacteristically while adding, ‘If you keep running on four flat tires, eventually you’re just rolling on the rims; soon they are going to catch fire’.
He is found at the ground zero of any natural disaster. Instead of returning home after delivering assistance in earthquake relief efforts and emergency services in the wake of catastrophe in October 2005, Pakistan became his home as he decided to stay back. Since then his NGO is working in diverse varying capacities for thousands of people living half a world away from the comforts of life. He claimed to have never met a Muslim before 9/11 and had known nothing about Pakistan and Islam. He says “I was ignorant, didn’t know about the hatred out there.” The time where Muslims across the world was facing an identity crisis, Todd embraced Islam a few years later and continues to promote the positive side that Muslims are as cool, fun-loving, and humanitarian as you wish them to be!
“If every American could spend one week in Pakistan, they would never have a problem with Pakistan.”
Todd Shea Pakistan
His guitar and essentials in tow with a small bag pack makes him an unlikely ambassador who is ready to meet anyone who can help him raise funds, stimulate understanding and procure medicines. His efforts for Mother & Child Health other than setting up schools in remote areas of Northern Pakistan, water projects, animal welfare, women empowerment projects, and assistance to special patients are cherry on the top apart from disaster relief management.
“The reason I am good at disaster relief is that my life has been a disaster,” says Shea.
Often at times, he mixes relief work with music and it sounds incredible when you get to hear him sing ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’ at various shows and meetings across the world. He has helped raise funds through musical performances for major disasters across the globe in the last 2 decades.
Todd Shea – American sings classic Pakistani song Dil Dil Pakistan
With frenetic pace, you can witness him sleeping wherever he can – in cars, mountainsides, and open rooftops under the sky on rainy and sultry days or nights. He is a passionate humanitarian and continues to put balm on the wounds of disaster-stricken victims while bringing back priceless smiles on the faces of traumatized amid dangers and the ongoing fight against terror in the region. He uses music to promote harmony and understanding between people through an initiative called Sonic Peacemakers that assembles American and Pakistani musicians to share that is universal.
He is like many other Muslims around the planet who have sacrificed spent a major portion of their lives for humanitarian purposes. Once I heard words of the song while traveling with him careening down salt range mountains in blue Toyota Rush, ‘The man upstairs must be watching over me, cause my prophesized demise was not meant to be. I will rise again’.
He is a fearless man, unstoppable, strong-willed but sometimes reckless enough who can’t bear to hear a kitten whimper.
Here is his collaboration with Atif Aslam as well