Even though I grew up in a moderate middle-class household, from early childhood, I was taught by my school and society to hate India. And although the country had become a symbol of hate, we never failed to enjoy their Bollywood movies and music .Throughout my life I had been told that Indians are our enemies, they don’t like Pakistani and there is a huge difference between us, we can never be united and much more – until at some point I found myself being brainwashed and started to consider India as the biggest enemy of the fortress of Islam. That’s how I was grown up listening to bad comments and stereotypes about Indians, Ah!
But then, fortunately I came to United States and after having interaction with them, I realized I have been indoctrinated with lies and my whole world view changed upside down.
Throwing back to July 15, 2018 (04:30pm), the day when my journey towards United states started-I was wandering around anxiously and in hurry at the London airport to see where I can get my luggage and to whom I should ask for help in that big crowd full of strange faces. In that situation, I heard a soft voice coming from behind and addressing, “Excuse me, ap Pakistan sy hen? Which means, “Excuse me, Are you from Pakistan? I, without any hesitation turned around and saw a girl wearing a big, sweet smile and offering her hand in order to greet me. I nodded my head and extended the conversation by greeting her back. I found myself satisfied by talking to her and after having some “gossips”, I came to know that she is from India and the most important she turned out to be CCI participant. That was the biggest jerk for me to haven Indian sitting beside me. I talked to myself-she is from India but still we are sitting together and having gossips like we have known each other from years. That was the first good impression about Indians for me.
As the days went on, I started to spend more time with my Indian friends. It seemed like we are from the same country, sharing the same language, same culture, same food, and same clothes—then, where is the difference? After some days, I realized that we have many things in common to love instead of hating and that hatred between both countries has political motives and has nothing to do with common people, like me and my Indian friends.
As CCI participants, we helped in celebrating each other’s Independence Day and tried to make it worth. My all Indian friends along with my other CCI friends came to our celebration of Pakistan’s independence and transformed it into a room full of cheers and joys. I still remember when one of my Indian friends came to me while everyone was busy in celebration, and said, “I wish if we could make it one nation again and stay together forever”. That was the moment that made me so emotional and I simply hugged her and replied her,” Let’s take initiative to make it possible”.
Our friendship strengthened with time, and we frequently and openly discussed how we were raised in our specific cultures to hate the other on the basis of religious or political backgrounds. It was not until a personal connection was established that we found that there were more similarities between us than there were differences. We shared our joys together and offered shoulders when in pain or sorrow, we cooked together – no shocks – you can expect luddoos to be as round, gulab jamuns as dripping and jalebis as complicated as in Pakistan. Moreover, we laughed together and sometimes went crazy while planning things together on how can we diminish these stereotypes that is falling us apart.
To me, the fact that Pakistanis and Indians are so close to each other in the United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the world suggests that it is largely petty politics and propaganda that hold them back in South Asia. There is so much that the two groups can accomplish by communicating with and learning from each other, as similar challenges exist in both societies.
I am so thankful to the CCI program for this impactful experience that supported and helped us to come closer while breaking all those stereotypes created by conflict-promoting politics in both states and letting us to know the actual reality. And I believe, WE, little drops of water can make the mighty oceans.
Post written by Maria Eiman, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Pakistan
I have not imagined this few months can change me and my life!
Visiting US was one of dream, then one day I received a call from US Embassy which brought me here and gave me wings to change the world, my eyes were full of tears, that is the CCI Program.
I have spent more than six months in US, and now I am not that old one, I had so challenging situations to come here but these memories and achievements are worth than those situations.
Coming to volunteering, in past I have never volunteered but when I volunteered here it always gives me positive vibes, helping the needy is something which money cannot buy, it brings the humanity, mercy and positivity in individuals.
Internship, working with children is always makes me happy, because I believe todays good children will be tomorrow’s better citizens! I have learnt many strategic ways in teaching and child care. Also learned the ways to work on children positive behavior. This will really help me in my future.
Oh my god! Coming to the PSP (mid-year retreat) this was the best experience of mine; the journey was unforgotten. In just one week I have learnt a lot and enjoyed too. The workshops taught me leadership skills and today I have a sophisticated personality because of those workshops. I have never traveled back home but I can say travelling teaches us a lot.
The CCI Program has given me a best social host ever, she is so kind and lovely, I spent my most of the weekends with her it feels like I am home. We go for lunch, volunteering, traditional events, museums and botanical gardens (luckily me and my host love gardening and plants). we even cook together. It is so worthy and memorable I cannot even forget these moments.
I was nothing back home but now I am so Improved, I was so afraid to speak in public, but now have the ability and speak the CCI Program taught me how to be confident, and I have so many achievements which impacted on my life, I learnt to be responsible,
punctual, honest, hardworking. I even got a certificate for best improved person, I feel so happy I have learnt so much in this few months. One of the biggest achievement is my parents agreed for my higher education even though our community does not allow but I am the one who is studying higher education. I have taken a step towards my community to change it.
I came to this program with a dream (to start a school), but now I have two action plans one is teaching women about safety, ethical values, diversity, English, humanity classes. My first action to make change in the community. And the second is to start a school for special children, underprivileged, single parent children, children that are LGBTQ. Because every CSI class gave me a idea for better development and I am going to implement these ideas and what I have learned here.
A girl whose world was just her house now she is able work for the community to change the world! The CCI Program is giving a reason for living in this world, this program gave me so power and made me strong to face the obstacles in future, my inspiration is mother Teresa and now I can take a step to become a next mother Teresa by public service and for better change! THANK YOU CCI Program!
Post written by Anjum Begum, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India.
The visit to one of the most iconic house in the United States – the house of the George Washington the first president of the United States –11 states to be exact was one of the memorable activities we did together as the NOVA CCI Cohort. As the cohort we filled up the vans and travelled to the Mount Vernon, the George Washington Estate. When we arrived we were struck by how huge the estate is and how beautiful it is. After getting our tickets we proceeded right inside the Estate and our tour began.
It began first by watching a short film about the life of Colonel Washington and the history of his bravery and impeccable leadership. After that we went to visit his mansion. Inside the mansion we got an opportunity to visit most of the rooms – the one that stood out was the green room which is the biggest in the mansion. It has been restored to what it was after the death of President Washington. It’s called the green room because most of the walls are painted in green which was a rare colour during his time and we saw his mirror and all of the paintings he had acquired. Then we proceeded to other rooms which are still kept in their original look – this was just only the first floor. Up the stairs we went to the second floor and we saw all the bedrooms and how things were kept in the bedrooms was mesmerizing.
After the tour of the house we went to see the slave quarters – who would have thought that the beacon of liberty owned slaves. The quarters are being kept to their original look even though they are not the true reflection of what the living conditions of Washington slaves were. The quarters were cramped and crowded. They were not conducive for human occupation. Our coordinators Kelly and Kate tried to explain the dilemma that was faced by Washington on the issue of slave ownership. Thus revealing the flawed aspect of his character.
After the slave quarters we visited the Washington education centre which is like a mini museum and it housed every memorabilia of the great George Washington. We saw many items that belonged to him including his gun, sword, dentures, military regalia and etc. then we went to see the Potomac River which has gorgeous scenery and soothing view. And then we proceeded to visit his tomb – in his will he had commanded that he be buried in his estate. And then we went to visit the monument of remembrance for the slaves that toiled for the Washington family. There are no distinctive graves for the slaves just one huge monument.
Virginia is a beautiful state and this beauty is exquisitely exposed at the Mount Vernon estate – this compelled us to capture all the memories and we had FUN. A wonderful trip ended at 3 o clock pm. We went back with more questions.
Post written by Maria Eiman, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Pakistan
Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students