Alumni News Alumni Success Story

From Pakistan to Nepal: PUAN Delegation Bags Seven Awards at EIMUN 2016


By Rimsha Ali Shah

The delegation at the transit

The delegation at the transit

While in transit at the Hamad International Airport, Qatar, Abdul Moeed Asad, Ayesha Amin, Sara Hassan, Umer Hussain, and Wahid Khan posed for a photograph hoisting the Pakistani flag.  It was August 14, 2016, Pakistan’s 70th Independence day, and this delegation, later joined by Aruba Khalid, Azeema Ilyas, and Baitullah Khan, were all set for the first regional edition of the Everest International Model United Nations (EIMUN) 2016 held in Kathmandu, Nepal from August 15 -19, 2016.

Their journey was one marked with extraordinary tales!  From meeting the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Alaina Teplitz, to singing the famous “Dil Dil Pakistan” on 14th August; forging bonds with young leaders from South and Central Asia to staging a cultural wedding show on the global village; exploring Kathmandu and Pokhara, appreciating the cultural diversity to winning seven out of eight awards! 

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Alumni News Grants

YES Alumnus Promotes Better Understanding for a Better World


By Rimsha Ali Shah

“Airports offer an almost mystical space for retrospection. In the eerie stillness of air travel, confined to my seat, was when I started realizing one of the better weeks of my life was over.  I had been in Baltimore at a conference which aimed to inspire interfaith harmony, an opportunity offered to me on my Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program,” recalls YES alumnus Abdul Moeed Asad as he took us through the journey of organizing his first conference on interfaith harmony in Lahore.

“The central idea of the Baltimore conference was enough to inspire because the issue of interfaith harmony has always been strangely personal.  In my opinion, the lack of meaningful interactions with minorities is the key concern.  Therefore, I decided to inspire the same passion for interfaith harmony among the youth of Pakistan through an interfaith conference, to kindle the drive in youth to promote peace, harmony and foster friendships untainted by bias.”

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Alumni News Grants

Eid-ul-Fitr to Raksha Bandhan: Harmony Club Strengthens Religious Co-existence

Harmony Club

By Rimsha Ali Shah

Ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity is amongst the most treasured riches of Pakistan, a relationship that has sadly been marked with pessimism lately.  This narrative, however, did not sit well with Ambar Naz Sajid, an Access teacher and an alumna of the Cultural Immersion Program (CIP), Kazakhstan.  Hailing from Karachi, the melting pot of Pakistan, Sajid knew that harmony, compassion, love, and respect for diversity were still alive in her city.

It was at this time that she attended a virtual session with the Office of Religious and Global Affairs on an initiative centered around the theme of promoting interreligious harmony.  Days of Interreligious Youth Action (DIYA) provided Sajid the direction she needed to execute a project that engaged the youth of different ethnic and religious minorities through interactive activities that paved way for co-existence and collaboration.

Thus, she came up with the idea of the “Harmony Club”, a collaborative space with the mission to strengthen religious co-existence.  This was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  All alumni of various U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to $5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.

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Grant Opportunity

U.S. Agency for International Development has announced a $19 million grant opportunity called Let Girls Learn/ Pakistan.
This new Let Girls Learn/Pakistan project will address key barriers that adolescent girls and young women face in accessing educational and employment opportunities due to poverty, cultural norms, geographic isolation, and security.  The purpose of the Let Girls Learn initiative in Pakistan is to create or expand opportunities for adolescent girls to acquire the education and other, related skills necessary to become active, positive contributors within their families, schools and communities.usaidlogo
Follow the link for more information:
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Alumni News

In Conversation with Ayaz Mirani


By Rimsha Ali Shah

Under the searing heat, a young boy sat before a counter laced with fresh fish that lay on a bed of ice.   He called out to the pedestrians to come purchase the fish he was selling.  As he wiped the sweat off of his forehead and looked around him, he wondered about his future.

A few days before, an opportunity presented itself for students like him facing financial hardship.  Their teacher at Victor Public Higher Secondary School mentioned the English Access Microscholarship Program that was open for students who wanted to work on their language skills.

He knew enrolling in the program meant managing time far more effectively, so he attended his regular school classes in the morning after opening the shop, went back after school and, with support from his family, attended the Access classes in the evening.

Who is this young man?  How did this transformation of knowing just the native language to becoming well-versed in a foreign language come about?

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Alumni News Grants The Alumni Corner

Alumni Corner: Murree – Art Station

The residents, top from left – Suleman Khilji, Pradeep Thalawatta_ bottom from left – Sarah Mumtaz, Seher Naveed, Saira Ansari

This project was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  All alumni of various U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to $5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.

Rabeya Jalil takes us to Murree, where artists gather to reboot their own work and the town hosting them.  

It has been more than 15 years since the time when I used to visit Murree, with family, almost every weekend. But travelling to the same hill station, this time for an artist residency, was different. I had my memories and baggage of being ‘trained’ in the arts. I was looking (or pretending to look) at people and places as an ‘artographer’. Even while interacting with my fellow artists-in-residence, I kept thinking of and questioning the real meaning of gathering at a place to celebrate, create or store experiences.

Pakistan is beginning to have its share of artist-in-residence programs. But what makes an artist residency in Murree special is the place; a space with a rich past and thriving tourism. However, over time the sheer number of tourists and the associated commerce has marred this hill station – the natural scape and historical British Raj architecture and its archives continue to disintegrate. Much needs to be done to restore, document and highlight Murree’s creative possibilities. What better option could one think of than engaging artists, thinkers and writers to reinvigorate, rediscover and recreate such agnostic spaces?

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First Person

First Person: Chitrali Topi in D.C

KL-YES with Moulik Berkana

Saryal Saeed is a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (KL-YES) alumnus from Peshawar.  While he was in the U.S., he had the most interesting coincidence an exchange student from Pakistan could have.  His story is a testament to the power of exchanges and cultural diversity as a tool of forging connections. 

I was in Washington D.C. for one of our program activities as a KL-YES grantee.  By this time, I had adjusted quite smoothly with the public transport system in the U.S and had no inhibitions about traveling on public transport.  Like always, I had my headphones on in the Metro Orange line and, as my routine, I was eyeing the view we were passing by.  But that day what caught my attention was not a peculiar view beyond the metro, but within!  A man wearing a hat that was native to my home province – Khyber Pukhtonkhwa.  This hat, known popularly as a Chitrali topi, is not a piece of clothing easily camouflaged into the American attire – it stands out!  Especially, if you are dressed up in a suit.   I had a burning question in my head: how did he manage to get this hat?

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Alumni News Grants

Media Safety Training Sensitizes Journalists in Sindh on Safety Precautions

Media Safety Under SAFE Initiative

By Rimsha Ali Shah

Being a reporter in Pakistan, the fourth deadliest country for journalists according to a report by International Federation of Journalists, Safdar Sahito understood that while access to free expression was a fundamental right, practicing safe preventive measures in the field was equally significant.

This is why he enrolled in the training workshop organized under the theme “Media Safety under Securing Access to Free Expression (SAFE) Initiative.”  As the Chairman of the Gambat Union of Journalists, he was aware of how pivotal such a training was for journalists in the present reporting scenario.

“Such training programs enhance the capacity of the local journalists to face the security and safety issues during reporting,” he added.

The sessions held in Gambat, District Khairpur; Moro, District Naushero Feroz; and Nawabshah, District Shaheed Benazirabad in Sukkur were the brainchild of International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) alumnus Sahib Khan Bhand.  In 2014, he attended the IVLP on “Activism through Social Media” and since his return, he has focused on media-centric projects for local journalists in Sukkur. 

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Alumni News Grants

Crazy Youth Champions: Alumnus Spearheads Leadership Camp for Youth in Karachi


By Rimsha Ali Shah.

With a pen and paper in her hand, Maheen curiously looked around at the 24 unfamiliar faces seated at the School of Leadership with her.  Their trainer had asked them to break the ice with a simple question and answer routine and learn more about the people they would be spending the next two days with, learning the art of leadership through workshops, projects, and motivational speaker sessions.

By the end of the activity, Maheen had met 24 other young champions like her, learned about their communities and their strengths.  The nervous energy in the room had been replaced with a promising enthusiasm.  “It was a very useful activity for me.  I learned how to overcome my fear of networking and communicating with strangers.”

Maheen was part of the 50-member group attending “Crazy Youth Champions,” a leadership camp envisioned and organized by English Micro-scholarship Access Program alumnus Faiz-ud-din.  The participants, aged between 18 to 25, hailed from all over Karachi including Malir, Korangi, North Nazimabad, Lyari, and Gulshan.  The camp was held at School of Leadership, Karachi from May 25 – 30, 2016.  This was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  All alumni of various U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to $5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.

Workshops Help Boost Confidence of Participants

“Attending the leadership camp has helped me realize my potential.  I feel more confident and groomed for the challenges that await me,” stated Shagufta.  “Waqar Ali’s session was particularly engaging and taught me how important teamwork is.”

Sessions were structured around the key needs of the participants including teamwork, communication skills, decision-making and leadership, digital media, interpersonal skills and time-management skills.

CYC Session in Progress

CYC Session in Progress

Gufran Khan who conducted the session on “power of spoken words” believed in incorporating the understanding of emotional intelligence in individuals.  “In Pakistan, we don’t place enough importance on emotional intelligence.  This is why I have conducted many workshops on the same topic in different universities and institutes so that the young generation can be made emotionally aware of their surroundings.”

Maalik Khaskhali’s session on enhancing critical thinking skills helped participants polish their analytical abilities.  “I designed the visioning exercise keeping in mind that the participants should have long-term thinking in their minds about their communities,” he added.

Fatima believed such pieces of training constituted the best way to exercise the brain and “learn more about ourselves and our surroundings.”

The workshops spread over two days concluded with a special keynote by Umair Jaliawala, Chief Executive Officer, and Director at School of Leadership and a motivational speaker.  His motivational talk inspired participants to take action in the form of community development projects through collaborative efforts.  One such example was of Tahira’s project “Aware Yourself” geared towards skill development of students in local schools.  “The session with Umair Jaliawala really helped push us to give our best shot for a brighter future of our country,” she added.

The team of volunteers behind the success of CYC

The team of volunteers behind the success of CYC

For Faiz-ud-din, this project was a stepping stone in his quest to continue with projects that help youth become confident, aware and responsible global citizens.

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Alumni News Grants

DIYA Project Builds Bridges of Peace through Composite Heritage


By Rimsha Ali Shah

The audience at Foundation for Arts, Culture, and Education (FACE) was deeply engulfed in the intricate synthesis of instrumentation and captivating vocals of Shahram Azhar performing the enchanting poetry of revered Sufi mystic, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.

The classical ensemble featuring the rubab, tabla and harmonium anatomized the connection between Sufism and humanity through music.  This “Sufi Night” marked the end of “Promoting Peace through Composite Heritage,” a project by Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) alumnus Raj Kumar.

This was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  All alumni of various U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to 5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.  The project was also part of Days of Interreligious Youth Action (DIYA) – a project of the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, facilitated in cooperation with the Alumni Affairs Office of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. DIYA is a pilot program that seeks to highlight these youth-led civic initiatives and broaden their impacts.

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