By Rimsha Ali Shah
Arfa Mohib, Naureen Akhter, and Rubina Bano stood admiring the 300-year-old fort perched on a gigantic old rock. A few steps ahead, a group of alumni was appreciating the old-age artifacts preserved in the fort, while another cluster posed against the backdrop of the famous Shigar Rock that held the ruins of the 11th Century fort Karu Dong.
This year, the reconnect event was held at the unique heritage site of 17th Century FongKhar, the palace on the rock, popularly known as the Shigar Fort. The excitement of going through old architecture and reconnecting with friends amid the backdrop of such historic richness had lifted the spirits of all 200 alumni who were present at the Shigar Fort for the reunion.
They had traveled from Ghanche, Gilgit, Ghizer, Hunza, Nagar, and Skardu to attend the sixth annual reunion of Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network’s (PUAN) Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Chapter on October 22, 2016.
“This is my third reunion since my exchange program,” says Arfa Mohib. a Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) alumna, “This reunion is so much more special because of the location! I am in love with the heritage and history this site holds.”
The reunion showcased successful projects undertaken by alumni in the region, including self-funded initiatives, chapter activities, and small grants projects. U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale, through a video message, lauded the commitment of the chapter, particularly the chapter leadership, in promoting volunteerism, creativity, and people-to-people ties. Chief Guest of the event, Commissioner Baltistan, Raja Asim Ayub appreciated the efforts of the chapter in conducting projects on pivotal issues of tourism, climate change, skill development, tourism, and hospitality, etc.
Alumni Share Success; Celebrate Impact
“Our alumni have taken the lead in conducting events on important international days like the International Tourism Day, World Youth Day for Democracy, and World Health Day with their own funds to increase awareness and sensitize the youth in their communities,” comments Ashiq Hussain, Finance Secretary of PUAN – GB Chapter. “Our activities have directly benefitted 500 individuals across Gilgit-Baltistan.”
Arhum Ali, an alumnus of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program conducted a free medical awareness camp in Ghanche. Nadia Ali, an alumna of the English Access Microscholarship Program led a clean-up campaign in Gilgit to promote eco-friendly habits among the students. Shabana Ali, an alumna of Access led an art competition under the theme of “Paint for Peace”. Another success story from the chapter was of YES alumna Irum Fatima, who conducted a training camp for students at her high school and equipped them with key skills of digital diplomacy, video production, photography, and content development.
The reunion also showcased success stories of entrepreneurial ventures initiated by alumni. Yasin Yusuf Ali, an alumnus of the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP), laid the foundation of his training school after returning from his exchange program. “I realized that the lack of trained professionals was a big gap in our community, and to counter that gap was my sole motivation behind setting up my skills development school.”
Reunion Promotes Arts and Culture
President of PUAN – GB Chapter, Shamshad Hussain felt that youngsters had limited avenues for projection of local arts and culture. Therefore, through this year’s reunion, Hussain launched the work of three young and talented poets and painters, each of whom had their distinct style of presentation. These artists all belonged to the graduating class of the English Access Microscholarship program.
Through their wit and humor, the poets entertained the audience before them. Samad Shah, an alumnus of CCIP thoroughly enjoyed the poetry recitation by the youngsters. “The event has truly brought people together and facilitated a local cultural exchange among the participants.”
With this reunion, the chapter also bid farewell to the outgoing leadership: President Shamshad Hussain; General Secretary Taqi Akhunzada; Finance Secretary Ashiq Hussain; and Youth Group Directors Karim Aftab and Karimullah Baig.
Check out photographs from the reunion on our flickr account.