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

CYC

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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DIYA Project Builds Bridges of Peace through Composite Heritage

CompositeHeritage

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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In Conversation with Veengas

Veengas

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Sitting in the Daily Ibrat office, a Sindhi newspaper in Karachi, Veengas typed away the ending sentences to a story she had been working on.  She had been at this very office since 2008 when she decided to delve into the world of journalism and started writing on human rights, politics, and minority rights.  As she picked up the phone to give her interview for the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) blog, she recalled the journey she had had, sitting in this very office.

It was in 2011, while still working with the Daily Ibrat, that she stumbled upon an announcement for the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism exchange program.  At that time, this opportunity was what Veengas had been seeking.  She applied, got in and headed off to the United States for a six-week long exchange program that helped her increase her knowledge and strengthen her capacity as a journalist. 

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Summit Among the Summits: Youth Hone Leadership Skills at GBYS 2016

GBYS 2016

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

It was the morning of August 20, 2016, and despite the long overnight journey from Hunza to Skardu, there was not a trace of exhaustion on Amin Zada’s face.

The reason behind it was simple: he had been selected from over 300 applicants to attend the inaugural Gilgit-Baltistan Youth Summit (GBYS) high in the soaring mountains of Pakistan’s north.

“This is a very prestigious opportunity!  How could I not attend?”

This three-day conference was organized by Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders (SUSI) alumnus Habib Hasan.  Having attended and organized multiple international Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) conferences, Hasan wanted to organize a similar conference in his region.  “The purpose of this summit is to enhance the leadership skills of GB youth, give them a forum to share their ideas for socio-economic development and pave way for collaborative efforts for greater impact,” said Habib Hasan. 

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Empowering Youth Through Scouting: Scouts Exchange Their World with Alumni

EYTS

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Kainat was keenly watching Bilal light a flame to bind together the final knot for the monkey bridge prototype they were working on together.  With a twinkle of excitement in her eyes, she gazed on her left to see scouts crossing the eight-foot high monkey bridge and back at the prototype she had just helped construct using bamboo sticks and thread.

“I always wanted to be a girl guide and that is why I am here,” she said.

The proceeding two days introduced Kainat and 50 other Access alumni from Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Mansehra to the adventurous world of 50 scouts from across Pakistan, as part of the project “Empowering Youth through Scouting” (EYTS).

The three-day event led by Access alumnus Abdullah Razzaq, was held at the Pakistan Boy Scouts Association (PBSA) headquarters from August 19 – 21, 2016 and engaged the attendees in team-building exercises, information sessions, and a cultural night.  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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Youth for Change: Creating a Civic Education Youth Force in Shahdatkot

Youth for Change

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Being a bystander in his own classroom was a new role for Waquas, but one that he cherished more than ever.

At the head of the classroom stood Kajol, a student of grade ten at Government Girls High School, Shahdatkot.  Kajol had undergone a five-day extensive training program where she learned all about five key elements of civic education: health skills, conflict resolution skills, citizenship skills, self-management skills and social skills.

Kajol’s poise in the classroom was a clear indication of her command over what she had learned over the five-day mentorship period.  She had been selected in the 30 student-mentors’ cohort after a grueling application process.

“Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds”, she instructed her students taking the health skills workshop.

For Waquas Ahmed, the empowered mentor before him was a clear indication of the change he had envisioned his project would bring about.  An alumnus of the Teaching Excellence Program (TEA), Waquas had seen civic education in action during his exchange program.  “The lack of civic education integration in school curriculum is preventing our young minds from gaining the education that will help them transform lives.”

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First Person

Hijabi Diaries: A Different Perspective

Covereerie

By Tabish Shaikh, Global UGRAD alumna and Fulbright fellow 2015.

Amidst the disturbing events of this decade which are dividing the international community along cultural and religious fault-lines, there is a dire need to highlight some untold stories to emphasize the power of love and friendship – a connection that knows no boundaries.  Back in 2013, as a Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) student at Gannon University from Pakistan in the snowiest town in the United States: Erie in Pennsylvania, I got lucky to get to know a few people who took care of me, just like family.  That is when I experienced the true power of cross-cultural exchange and most importantly, I experienced why hosting matters.

Chris, the international student advisor at Gannon University helped me settle in as I tried to adapt to my host city.Kathy, who was a faculty member at Gannon University, along with her husband David used to occasionally invite me over for dinner at their home.  David used to make my favorite local delicacy – fruit pies, whenever I used to visit them. They introduced me to their extended family and friends and made me feel at home every time I visited them.  Our discussions would range from current worldwide issues to personal life gossips.  It was truly a home away from home!

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Innovation in Action: Education Outreach Visits Offer Practical Examples

Exposure visit to STEP

By Rimsha Ali Shah

The PUAN International Education Conference was held from July 22-24, 2016 in Islamabad with 200 exchange alumni from various U.S. State Department exchange programs from across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.  In addition to two days of intensive workshops and discussions on mapping education in the 21st century, the concluding day introduced alumni to innovative education projects in six leading institutes in Islamabad including, National University of Science and Technology (NUST), National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP), Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC) and a dialogue session between Madrassa students and the alumni. 

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