Alumni News Grants

Interfaith Sports Gala Builds Sportsmanship Among Youth

Interfaith Sports Gala

By Rimsha Ali Shah

Bracing himself against the oncoming serve of his opponent, 12-year old Shaheer was not sure what to expect: he was playing against young Jeremy for the first time and the only conversation they had had so far involved both of them picking up their rackets and taking positions across the court from one another.

But he did not have much time to procrastinate.  Once Jeremy served, the two continued playing for over an hour, with loud jubilations and sometimes frustrated sighs.

On the other end of the field, six-year old Joanna was running with the football, trying her best to emulate the footwork of her favorite player Ronaldo.  Playing on the attack, Joanna was the star of the match leading her team of eight excited female football players to success!  

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Alumni News Grants

Forging Bonds of Harmony Through Art

DIYA Group Photo

By Rimsha Ali Shah

How do you breakdown complexities for young children without overwhelming them?  Nurturing sensitized individuals who are attentive to the social realities is critical for a progressive future.  Is the answer simply traditional teaching or a more innovative, slightly disruptive, yet equally effective manner?  Arts, as a mode of communication, is fast becoming a preferred tool to empower and enlighten children on intricate realities of today’s world.

Raj Kumar, a 23-year old alumnus of the Global Undergraduate Semester Exchange Program from of Umerkot, Tharparker and a member of the minority Hindu population in Pakistan, is committed to fostering interfaith harmony by empowering young minds with the much-needed narrative of co-existence and brotherhood.   As part of the State Department’s campaign on Days of Interreligious Youth Action (DIYA), Raj Kumar set off to design a project that addresses this theme through an array of activities under the banner of “Promoting Peace Through Composite Heritage.”

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First Person

First Person: Hosting Iftar With Pyaar in Lahore

The Team Behind IftarWithPyaar

By Abdul Moeed Asad, KL-YES. 

On the last Friday of Ramadan, I met with some of the strongest people in my life.  It was over an iftar (ceremonial breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramadan) where we broke bread together on sunset and talked about our lives. These people shared their stories of loss and redemption – or the redemption that never came.  They shared it all, rather unsettlingly, in a monotone.  I sat there quietly baffled.  I do not know where this strength originates from.  I do not know and I hope that no-one has to know.

I was going through my Facebook feed one day and discovered a friend had organized an iftar for the transgender community.  At first I passed it off as a token gesture, something only superficially beneficial.  It took a little curiosity, some introspection and a Google search for me to realize that I actually knew very little of the stories about the transgender community, commonly referred to as the “Khawaja-Saras.”  It didn’t take long before I reconsidered the usefulness of iftars with the discriminated; therefore, I decided that I too should have an iftar with the Khawaja-Sara community and learn from them. 

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Alumni News Grants

Alumnus Paves Way for Intrafaith Exchange at University of Hazara

OMS

By Rimsha Ali Shah

“When I applied for the Peace Conference, I did not anticipate how it would lead the way for me to pursue my dream project.”

Delivering a session on “Youth Activism and Interfaith Harmony” at the PUAN Youth Activism Conference 2016, Dr. Muhaiman, an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) recalled his journey from a participant to a speaker.  During the November 2015 PUAN International Conference: Peace and Conflict Resolution, Dr. Muhaiman had not foreseen the journey he would undertake.  Inspired by discussions on peace promotion and compelled to make a difference to the notion of extremism, Dr. Muhaiman came up with the idea of Society for Peace and Resolution of Conflict (SPARC) with the mission to “eliminate all forms of racial, ethnic, linguistic, political and religious bigotry through peace, love, respect, tolerance and through culture.”

His workshop showcased how his project “Orientation of Madrasah Students” (OMS) engaged students from five madaris in Haripur and equipped them with language and technical skills, and exposed them to the learning culture of universities. 

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Alumni News Alumni Success Story

In Conversation With Moiz Rehan

Moiz Rehan

By Rimsha Ali Shah

Moiz was in the midst of a hectic study regime for his matriculation exams when a call he had been anticipating finally came through.  He had made it to the interview stage for the Kennedy Lugar – Youth Exchange and Study Program (KL – YES).  Despite having an English exam the very next day, Moiz braced himself and went for the interview that later confirmed his participation in the KL-YES 2012-2013 batch.  He was going to be in the U.S. for an entire year as an exchange student at a U.S. high school!

“Five years since the summer of 2011, I can now sit here and say that anything is possible!  That is what the YES experience taught me.”

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First Person The Alumni Corner

The Alumni Corner: Lessons Learned from Civic Education Week

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By Saif Ur Rehman, YES 2014-2015, Pakistan, hosted by YFU in Ann Harbor, MI

I am Saif Ur Rehman, an exchange student from Pakistan. I have been meeting wonderful people and learning a lot about America since the day I arrived. YES has given me so much to be grateful for, and Civic Education Week is one of the things I am most grateful for this year because it brought 100 amazing people from 33 different countries to Washington D.C. to learn about the American government system and to explore American history.

This workshop gave me incredible opportunities, like meeting Senators Debie Dingell and Gary Peters, and talking to them about my exchange experience; listening to the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan, and asking her questions; and discussing what life after the program is like with YES and YES-Abroad alumni. Not only that, but this workshop also allowed me to see the beautiful museums and memorials in D.C., and learn more about American history.

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Alumni News Grants

Fostering Harmony through Culture, Art and Dialogue

Fostering Harmony

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Asmat Jogezia had found his experience in the journalistic world to be an eye-opener to the realities of the world before him.  This time around, when he was joining a diverse group of participants for an interfaith harmony seminar, he was not too sure what to expect.

Music diplomacy building bridges of harmony

Music diplomacy building bridges of harmony

The two-day seminar titled “Peace through Interfaith Dialogues and Culture Harmony” was organized by Emerging Leaders of Pakistan fellow and leading human rights lawyer from Baluchistan, Jalila Haider.  Over 100 participants, including ethnic and religious minorities, civil society leaders, social workers, youth activists and media personnel participated in the program, which 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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First Person The Alumni Corner

Alumni Corner: Going to the US of A on a Training Program for Journalists Changed My Life Forever

aimen

By Aimen Tahir

When I was sent to the United States of America for the IVLP Program 2015, I went with many expectations, both good and bad – but I was surprised to find out how wrong I was about the country.

To be nominated by the U.S. Embassy for the IVLP Program 2015 on “Journalism and Security” was an honor for me. I was excited to participate in the program but was also concerned about the possible mistreatment, being a Pakistani in America.

Finally the day arrived: on 16th of May, 2015, I took my flight to Washington, D.C. from Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore. After a long and tiring flight, I landed in the land of opportunities. To my surprise I wasn’t discriminated against at all at the airport, as I had expected given my nationality.

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Alumni News Grants

Inclusive Education: Project Prompts Discussion on Disability Inclusivity in Higher Education

Disability Leadership

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“Would you call a person disabled if they are unable to read in a room that is pitch black?”

Or would that be an external limitation?

Can we define what is “normal”?

If not, how can we define “disability”?

Atif Sheikh, founder of Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP) and an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) on Disability Leadership, provoked the audience of education officials to reflect on what actually constitutes disability with his compelling questions.  The education management professionals were gathered at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Islamabad to discuss disability inclusivity at higher education institutes across Pakistan.  Participants hailed from the top universities of Pakistan, including Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Iqra University, Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), National University of Modern Languages (NUML), and other leading universities.

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Alumni News Reunions

Lahore Hosts Over 400 Alumni from Punjab for Sangat 2016

Sangat

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“Lahore, Lahore, Ae!” (Lahore is Lahore) sums up the colorful cultural vistas of this historic city.  Lahore, also known as the “Walled City,” holds vestiges from the Mughal Era, including 6 of the original 13 gates, historic mosques, and magnificent forts.  The city’s rich cultural heritage has earned Lahore the title of the “heart of Pakistan.”  On May 22, 2016 this incredible city hosted alumni from across Punjab for the first-ever reunion of Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) – Punjab Chapter.  Aptly called “Sangat” or “companionship,” the two-day reunion provided over 400 alumni of various U.S. State Department exchange programs the environment to connect, explore, and celebrate the cultural diversity this city holds through breakout sessions, dialogues, networking activities, and a city tour.

To nurture this companionship, U.S. Consulate General Lahore Public Affairs Officer Rachael Chen, encouraged all alumni to connect with at least 10 new alumni. “Access students, this is a great opportunity for you to learn how to apply for exchange programs like Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES), Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD), Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) and Fulbright, straight from the exchange alumni themselves,” she added.  

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