Alumni News Grants

Bold and Brave: Workshop Unlocks Key Survival Tips for Women with Disabilities


By Rimsha Ali Shah

“For the first five years after my accident, I was bedridden and oblivious; there was no guidance available for a person like me with such a severe disability because of my spinal cord injury.”

Fast forward to the present.  An independent and self-assured Maria Qureshi was now mentoring a group of 30 women on how to improve their lives on their own.  Her personal struggle is what prompted Qureshi, an alumna of the International Visitors Leadership Program on Disability Exchange, to design and execute a specialized training workshop for women with spinal cord injuries.

Recalling how she overcame the obstacles she faced by sheer willpower and motivation stemming from meeting like-minded people, she said:

“There are some things you only learn through life experiences.  Through this project my purpose is to give hope to the women present here that life has not ended for any one of us.  This disability is not a hurdle – it is an opportunity.”

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Alumni News

In Conversation with Afzal Khan

Afzal Khan, IVLP alumnus.

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“Even as a student of business administration, I was aware of what I wanted to do in life: change lives – and not in the cliché term, but with actionable change through policy and legislation.”

In this month’s spotlight profile, we document the journey of Afzal Khan, an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP).  Having worked with corporate giants like Mobilink and Relacom, Khan switched spheres and ventured in to the political arena in 2010.  He talked to us about his exchange experience in the U.S. as a participant of the 2013 IVLP on “U.S. Political Process”, a cultural exchange with participants from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Afghanistan learning about governmental processes and the role of non-profits during a six-week exchange in January 2013. 

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Alumni News Reunions

Sinder Alumni Reunion: Exchange Alumni from Sindh and Gwadar Convene


By Rimsha Ali Shah

Decorated with smiles, chatter, and giggles, the Pakistan-American Cultural Center was alive and full of pleasant nostalgia on the evening of April 16, 2016.  Despite the humidity encapsulating Karachi that evening, alumni from across Sindh and Gwadar decided that “the show must go on!”  The Sinder (Sindh – Gwadar) Reunion brought together 200 alumni from Jamshoro, Karachi, Gwadar and Sukkur.

Faisal Malik, Country President of the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) applauded his team of volunteer alumni who had tirelessly worked to make the reunion happen.  From success stories of alumni who had commendably completed their alumni small grants supported projects, to unearthing the hidden talent through a game of tongue twisters, to a super energetic musical performance by renowned pop musician Salim Javed, Sinder enabled reconnections and new connections to form amongst the alumni present.

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Alumni News Alumni Success Story Grants

21st Century Learning: Empowering Educators through Innovations in Learning


By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“As an educator from Pakistan’s higher education sector, this symposium has helped me learn the cutting-edge technologies and pedagogies that are out there,” said Tanzeel, an attendee of the first ever international conference for educators in Pakistan.  Addressing these key developments in an age of education revolution was the primary theme of the 21st Century Learning Symposium, held on March 19, 2016 at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST).  The symposium was organized by Youth Impact to empower local educators with 21st century learning methodologies and technologies through a day of interactive, focused, and targeted workshops with local and international trainers.  The man behind this vision is International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) alumnus, Abdul Samad Khan.  The symposium was made possible with the help of the 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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Alumni News Alumni Success Story

In Conversation with Kamran Javed

DSCN09990147 (Copy)

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Standing in the center of the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) ground for the third installment of Music Mela, Kamran Javed was feeling the mid-day April heat but his focus did not falter.  Having previously served as the logistics lead for the first two Music Melas, Javed was now promoted to Project Coordinator for this year’s Music Mela, where he was in control of multiple teams working to finalize the set up: sound, stage, seating, check!   The now confident young leader recounts his experience of 2007 as the first batch of students in the English Micro-scholarship Access Program and could not have imagined he would be heading logistics for the biggest music festival in Pakistan, in addition to conducting his own Alumni small grant project, serving as an international scouts trainer and a mentor to young access students and alumni and being recognized as an Emerging Leader within the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  We sat down to talk to Javed and learn more about his experiences now and as an Access student.

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First Person The Alumni Corner

Alumni Corner: Youth Activism and Rickshaw Wala


By Mohsin Shah.

As soon as I got off the coach, a rickshaw wala showed up and offered his services. We agreed on 120 rupees fare to my destination. On our way, the Rickshaw wala asked me if I returned from abroad.

“No, I am returning from Islamabad.”

He looked confused as he stared at my suit and luggage. I quickly got to his thoughts and smiled;

“Well, there was a conference in Islamabad. I attended that. Now I am heading back home”.

Rickshaw wala: “May I ask what kind of conference it was?”

Me: “of course! It was on Youth Activism. Where we had different sessions and speakers to discuss the role of youth in various fields of life. About 200 local and international alumni’s participated in the event”

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First Person

Indo-Pak: Enemies at Home, Friends Abroad

Wagha-Attari Border

In the year 2011, Pakistan had lost semi final match of the Cricket World Cup to India. Generally, we support only two teams: Pakistan, and the one playing against India. For the final match, I was supporting Sri Lanka but off the mark India won the match. It was a very difficult time for me and like every desi I promised not to watch cricket again, but unlike other desis I have kept that promise. I still do not watch cricket match but I am only interested in the result: who won, who lost? The bruises were still green when I was selected to attend the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program at Troy University in Alabama, United States.

The first Indian I met asked me: “Cricket daikhte ho aap? (Do you watch cricket?)”

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Alumni News

Alumni Discuss PUAN Success Stories in Round Table Discussion


“Joining Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) is a lifetime package,” Maryum Qasim, an alumna of the Kennedy Lugar – Youth Exchange and Study program explained to Dr.Katherine Brown, Executive Director of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy while discussing her work as an alumna with PUAN.  Qasim was among the group of seven alumni who were present to discuss their PUAN success stories, community outreach activities, small grant projects, thematic conferences and the mentorship program with Dr. Brown on April 18, 2016.

Dr. Brown appreciated PUAN’s work and their resilience in such trying times.  “I am amazed by all the projects led by PUAN and the impact it has had on communities at large.”

“My exchange program helped me find myself and my true calling of being in the development sector and working with persons with disabilities, instead of as a computer sciences major,” said Sumaira Malik, an alumna of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) who was hired after a successful Mentorship Program at Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP) with Mr. Atif Sheikh, an alumnus and mentor of the Disabilities Exchange Program..

Arshad Bashir, an alumnus of the Fulbright Specialist program, spoke about how exchanges help to build professional linkages, and shared his personal example about a leadership course he is preparing in the form of an exchange program between Pakistan and Russian academic partners.

Hussain Haider, an alumnus of the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan program and founder of Beydaar Society, highlighted his recent experience as  part of the planning committee for the recently held PUAN International Youth Activism Conference.  Haseeb Kiyani , an alumnus of the Legislative Fellowship Program and current President of PUAN – Islamabad Chapter, shared the journey and overall achievements of PUAN since 2008.Ahsan Mukhtar, co-curator of TedxIslamabad, an alumni small grant project, spoke about the grant application process.  All alumni of various exchange programs are eligible to apply for the alumni small grant of up to $5000 USD for projects focused on empowering communities.  Some of small grant projects concluded, include TedxIslamabad, Juniper Preservation Project, Empowering Women through Organization and Development and Cyclone.  For more details on applying for the alumni small grants, please visit:

Additional participants included Asma Mohsin, Program Manager, USAID Training for Pakistan Project, Islamabad, General Secretary, PUAN ISB/RWP Chapter, Legislative Fellow alumna; Prof. Zabta Shinwari, IVLP alumnus, Dean, School of Biological Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Senior Executive Member, PUAN ISB/RWP Chapter (2015 UNESCO’s AVICENNA Prize for Ethics in Science); Ahsan Mukhtar, Program Manager, i2Invest, Islamabad, ECA-PUAN Grantee TEDx Programs 2014 & 2016, IVLP alumnus; Sumaira Malik, working at Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP), Islamabad, Global U-Grad alumna; Hussain Haider, Executive Director, Beydaar Society (Youth led organization to promote education) and ECO Change, Islamabad, Emerging Leaders of Pakistan alumnus.

For photographs, visit our flickr profile.

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Alumni News Thematic Conference

PUAN International Youth Activism Conference: Empowering South Asian Youth Leaders


By Rimsha Ali Shah.

As her plane landed at Islamabad airport, Karuna  could hardly contain her excitement to be back in Pakistan.  Karuna, along with three other Nepalese participants, was excited to take part in a Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN)  youth activism event  bringing together people from not just Nepal and Pakistan, but also Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.  As a young lawyer, Karuna knew the exposure and networking possibilities awaiting her at this conference to hopefully assist her in pursuing her dream of activism for the welfare of the Nepalese people and her ambition to be the first female prime minister of Nepal.

The PUAN International Youth Activism Conference held from April 8 – April 10, 2016 hosted 200 alumni of U.S. State Department sponsored exchange programs from the South Asian region for three days of workshops, skill-training, panel session, networking and community outreach activities, all focused on the theme of empowering youth with skills for leadership roles.  Fulbright alumnus Pervez Hoodbuoy in his opening remarks commented on the importance of cultural exchange for professional and personal growth in today’s globalized world.  Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan, in her remarks said, 

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First Person The Alumni Corner

Taking the GRE Smartly


By Amna Sabahat.

“Don’t give up unless you have put all your efforts in it!”

Well, the fact that you opened this post about GRE ensures that there is a will at least!  And all you have to do is find a way to do it well.  Trust me, we all are capable of making it through.  Don’t disappoint Darwin’s survival of the fittest and our ancestors’ genes.  The GRE is not as daunting as it seems and, speaking from personal experience, it only takes a little work every day to ace it.  With work and studies, it may seems a bit “unreal” but let’s get to the “how-to” part and you will realize, it is not an insurmountable mountain!

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