By: Rimsha Ali Shah
The tweets were pouring in by the minute from all over the world, each accompanied by #PUANISB15. For many alumni, the PUAN Islamabad-Rawalpindi Chapter’s annual reunion was their debut at the largest gathering of exchange alumni from across the twin cities. For others, the evening brought forward memories made in a bygone era. It was for everyone, an evening to connect with the newly returned cohort of alumni, buzzing with the energy and passion to work for their community; an evening to reconnect and recharge by learning about the fantastic projects that were being undertaken by the senior alumni; and an evening to engage and get inspired by the enthusiasm of 600 exchange alumni.
What makes this meet-up a must-attend is the versatile group of people in the PUAN Islamabad-Rawalpindi Chapter…from teenage YES alumni, to Global Undergraduate (UGRAD) and Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) college students, to mid-career professionals of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP); the diversity of age, occupation and experiences makes the event an enriching experience for all those attending it.
Alumni Awards: A Token of Appreciation from PUAN
Ruhani Barkat, a SUSI alumna said,
“This is my first reunion and I am amazed at the success stories, commitment and passion of the PUAN family. Next year, I hope I will be among the Emerging Leaders from PUAN receiving the award.”
Each year, the emerging and distinguished leaders from Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) are awarded for their continued commitment to the cause of engaging and empowering communities. This year, not only five distinguished alumni, but eight emerging leaders, nine mentors and 20 members of PUAN received tokens of appreciation for their continuing support towards the network and their promising activities for community empowerment.
“The focus of my activity was to give women an open and safe environment for physical activity that is not only good for their health but also for their psychological development. Vanessa O’Brien’s presence and the support from the PUAN leadership have been instrumental in making this project a success.”
These were the words of Shah Rukh, an alumna of the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Project Artemis sponsored by the U.S. State Department, who conducted her small grant project on “Empowering Women through Sport.” Alumni small grants are available to all alumni that are part of the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network. Alumni have empowered their communities and built on their exchange experience by sharing the skills and knowledge they acquired during their visits. From Islamabad, the following four projects were among those implemented through the Alumni Small Grants:
Shah Rukh, Goldman Sachs alumna, PUAN Project: “Empowering Women through Sport”
Natasha Jozi, Fulbright alumna, PUAN Project: “We Are All Mad Here”
Kamran Javed, English Access alumnus, PUAN Project: “Young Scout Leaders Camp 2015”
Natasha Ejaz, Legislative Fellow, PUAN Project: “Engaging Pakistani Youth in Anti-Narcotics Efforts”
An Evening of Many “Firsts”
For Malala Khan, a UGRAD 2015 alumna, it was her first time attending the annual reunion, having recently returned from her semester-long exchange program to the United States. For UGRAD 2011 alumnus Farhan Azhar, on the other hand, it was his first time not attending the annual reunion – though he still sent his regards from Massachusetts via Twitter.
What else happened for the first time this year? For the first time…
- PUAN volunteers curated, designed and printed the newsletter called the PUAN Post which provided the yearly round-up of activities,
- A group selfie with U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Jonathan Pratt and six hundred exchange alumni was snapped,
- DCM Jonathan Pratt met with the exchange alumni from the twin cities,
- Many alumni met Country Cultural Attaché Daniel Mattern and Assistant Cultural Attaché Erin Molnar Mains
With the conclusion of the reunion, members of the Islamabad- Rawalpindi Chapter embark on another year’s journey of inspiring, leading and empowering their communities with the support of the 15,000 alumni that make up the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network. As Haseeb Kiyani, PUAN Islamabad-Rawalpindi President, said,
“A group of thoughtful people can change the world. You are that group.”
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