Tag Archives: Pakistan

Moving Forward

‘’Pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are products of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all civil societies in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the world’s citizen.’’
-Aga Khan IV

The greatest thing can happen only when you move your one foot forward, then you can’t imagine how many good things can come across you. Yes, I took one step forward to learn, to experience and to meet some good people. I came across an opportunity that seemed very interesting to me. I read the missions and goals of the organization and I decided that I want to be a part of this organization. It is a nonprofit organization named Atlas Corps. I applied for a position as the executive intern and luckily, I got accepted for the position. I was glad and nervous at the same time. I asked my friends how am I going to do it well, they answered ‘just believe in yourself’. Believe me this simple advice helped to bring the best out of me.

My first day at Atlas Corps was great and I can’t forget that one moment I saw different faces with beautiful welcoming smile. They introduced me to everyone and by seeing their smiling faces gave me the comfort. My supervisor is the greatest person I’ve ever met, Mr. Calum Field, who welcomed and showed me around the office.

On that day, my first assignment was something I’ve never done before and it excited me that I was going to learn something new. Mr. Calum Field is a very well-planned and active Executive Assistant   and on the higher position is Mr. Scott Beale, the Executive Director, a great man with great ideas. I found him very friendly and helpful. I came across many good things I can learn from them such as; how international organizations works, how they put together the work and idea of a diverse group of leaders. They all are leaders from different countries and I found myself as part of the team. My contribution was little but valuable for them as well as for me. What they do is they bring young leaders from all around the world to the United States of America to do volunteer work for one year. Atlas Corps is an international network of leaders of nonprofit organizations and they all promote innovation, cooperation, and solutions to address critical social challenges by building young leaders, and supporting innovation through an overseas fellowship of skilled professionals.

 

 

 

 

This internship taught me many things and increased my network as well. I am glad that there is an organization like Atlas Corps that focuses on developing professional youth and promoting innovations among skillful young leaders. Atlas Corps gives opportunity to the youths and focuses on their contribution to the economy.

I am also grateful for CCI Program for giving me such an opportunity to learn and to improve my leadership skills, networking skills and to learn from some great individuals.

Post written by Meher Sultana, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Pakistan

My Experiential Learning

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” (Benjamin Franklin).

It is sad when something so special to you comes to an end, my time would end in the United States of America very soon, but on the other hand, I am so grateful and happy for the incredible experience in a place where I never imagined I would ever venture to go to. CCI is the program which provide me this golden opportunity to visit my dream land. This program provide me many opportunities in these 10 months to learn technical skills, enhance my leadership capabilities and strengthen my language proficiency, networking and service learning, for which I am very thankful. I am going to talk about one the best opportunity provide by this program to learn and develop my professional skills is the internship program or experiential learning.

Currently I am working as a program assistant in Lincolnia Senior Center Virginia, United States. This is a community center which provide residence, meals, supportive services, medical guardian, transportation, shopping services and social, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs for older citizens. I am incredibly happy to have been a part of this organization as I have a strong will to help others in my life. My duties are to create a weekly calendar, Manage activities for seniors, engaged them in activities and games, maintaining suggestion programs, taking interview and making their life stories. I spend most of the time learning administrative stuff like, planning and implementation of activities for residents. Designs programs to encourage their social life, provide entertainment, relaxation, and fulfillment, and improve daily living skills. This is a wonderful opportunity I got to learn new things.

I was thinking that it will be very hard for me to adjust and understand in a new organizational culture and stratification in the beginning but when I start communicating and discuss thing with my director I felt relax. As a program assistant, I work under the guidance of the program director Miss Carolyn Martin who has an experience of almost 30 years in her respective field, and I feel fortunate to have met all the other staff as well. They are all colorful characters; people who have experienced a lot and are willing to share their knowledge with the younger generations. This is also a wonderful opportunity for me to make Networking. It prepared me to produce, team work and enhance leadership skills. Furthermore, what I most embraced about this internship is, I got chance to work in a democratic leadership environment that they include every staff in meetings, discussions and making decisions. My director always give much value for my openings and that gives me a great sense of importance, belonging and encouragement. I learned to be patient, to show good judgement and respect the different backgrounds and experience of a diverse group of people. I have increased my knowledge, humility, faith, hope, and passion I learned from my boss that I should not limit myself. Go out there and explore the world that is meant to be explored. She is one of the special, and influential person that has been a big part of my life. She gives me wonderful advice, and has taught me a lot about life.  She has taught me so much in such a short amount of time.

Post written by Naveen, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017 from Pakistan

Building Peace In A Diverse Society

“What we have to do… is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities”. Hillary Clinton.

The above-mentioned quote perfectly portrays a beautiful image of the American society and its culture. In this modern era where developed nations are doing research to shift mankind on the other planets from the planet earth, and on the same time nations of third world countries are still struggling for their basic needs of their life like, education, food, health, gender discrimination, women empowerment, injustice and rule of law is different for poor and rich. Although it is the responsibility of the state to equally facilitate its citizen with these all basic needs of life, but since the economy of the state is not stable, since its own expenses are managed through taking loans from international banks, how a country can do that? In the process of development and economic stability, a country has to face many external and internal challenges and currently, one of the main internal problems in my country is diversity which became weakness and a threat for its stability and economic development. When a nation is united, diversity can be power and when we split into groups then diversity become a threat to the stability of the country.

Growing up in a place where conflicts between religious and political groups are routine of daily life and being minority receiving threats from powerful groups is also a big challenge. During my studies, I have moved a lot inside my country and these conflicts vary from region to region. In some places, religious radicalism is the main element and in other parts, political division is one of the main reasons which divides our nation into minor groups. Personally, getting into trouble due to these issues were making me think about how and when we will be able to build peace in our society. Stories from developed countries were always fascinating me, and I was curious to see it personally that how these big states like the US, Canada, European countries and other developed countries are dealing with these challenges which are more diversified than the countries where we live in.

Today, I am lucky enough to experience few amazing months of my life with these cool minded people and this would never had happened without this great opportunity of CCI Exchange Program. Living with the fellows from twelve countries, sessions arranged on peace-building, visits to historical places like the Newseum, and through presentations on historical figures of black community, their continuous struggle for their rights gave me an insight about how these countries succeeded to build a peaceful environment for all the citizens with disregards their colors, beliefs, cast and nationality. From these all different experiences, I came up with few of the main findings which can help us in moving towards building a peaceful, safe, fearless and a happy environment for all the people in our countries including minorities.

First, Politics, secular education, and religion are three different things, and if all these institutions work within their limits then it can be helpful in building harmony and peace. Just educating the students and making familiar with these institutions is not a problem, but in developing countries, religious and political organizations are more influential and by using their powers these groups have damaged our education system very badly. Besides that, these both groups are the main reason for creating conflicts inside our educational institutions which further leads these conflicts on a higher level. Therefore, the involvement of these groups need to be discouraged inside educational institutions and instead of that, these institutions should provide different platforms for the youth to keep them engage in educational, positive and healthy activities.

Second, all the religions teach basic principle of humanity, but when we take our beliefs at extreme level, and when we try to impose our thoughts on other instead of convincing them or making them understand though a logical discussion or by inspiring them through our behavior and good deeds, and when we stop giving respect to others beliefs then it becomes a disaster in the process of building a peaceful society, which further becomes the one of the main barrier towards the development of a nation as whole.

Third, think tanks around the globe can easily predict the future any country through the engagement of its youth in different activities. Since we don’t have enough opportunities through government to keep our youth in positive activities, but being responsible citizens of the country, communities should provide platforms for their own youth to keep them engage in positive and healthy activities. It’s a saying “Evil comes into mind when we stay idle”. These positive activities will further lead our youth to make connections with like-minded people from other communities who will be engaging in the same kind of activities.

Further, “Diversity is the art of thinking independently together” Malcolm Forbes. Since my graduation, I have studied so many subjects in different institutions, but I have never studied something about diversity and its importance. Instead of that, we have focused on our own group “Sects” which has divided our society into minor groups. We start to introduce our self with the cast, region, province, and finally, if we don’t say something our beliefs, people will surely interrogate me which is totally  a personal matter, and if we found some religious differences then we must have some negative stereotypes regarding their beliefs and  unfortunately it’s because we have sown the seeds of hate which made this diversity our weakness, but it can be our power when we become unite like other nations and for that purpose, we should start educating people regarding the importance of diversity and peace building.

Additionally, Intercommunity exchange programs can play a vital role in building understanding between different communities. If I am living with a fear of being convinced by others beliefs, then there is something wrong in my own faith. We should not hesitate to learn about something new, we should not worry about sharing our thoughts and if there are differences we should give respect to them and something inspiring we should take it from them. Being an exchange student, I am living with the fellows from twelve difference countries, we have so many differences in religions, culture, food, and different living style, but still we had so many things in common and we cherish those common things together and we give respect for the differences we have and actually these differences makes our group more colorful and interesting. It’s just been few months that we were strange fellows from different countries and now I consider them like my new family “the NOVA CCI Family” where we share our joy and we support each other when we have problems.

In conclusion, building peace in a society, where enmity has rooted so deep, is very challenging but still giving up is not a solution. So, I will recommend everyone to be open mind and try to experience and learn new things through meeting with people with different thoughts and opinions. Tolerance and patience are important things while discussing on differences among us so we could have a constructive conversation instead of destructive and prefer to discuss the common things we have instead of differences, which will help us to bring more close to each other. The more unite we are the stronger we will be as a nation and vice versa.

Post written by Naik Alam, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-2017, Pakistan

Finding Inner Light

Namaste. Tu kaise hei? Me teek hu. Dhanyavaad.

So I had to learn how to say some basics in Hindi because it seems that, for almost everyone who meets me by the first time, I am Indian. People literally have come to me and said “Namaste,” or suddenly start speaking in Hindi. I usually said “Namaste” as well, but then I explain that I am not Indian, that I am Colombian. Then they apologize, but what they don’t understand is that there is nothing to apologize for. For me, it is a pleasure to be call Indian.

With this, I do not mean I am not proud of being Colombian. In fact, I am a proud Latina and I would not have wanted to be born anywhere else in the world. I just like the fact that people think I am Asian. By the way, Indian girls are beautiful, why would I be upset by that? Haha!!

Before coming to USA, I was already really interested in Indian culture, traditions, religion, movies and music. I remember taking dancing classes where the music was Indian and watching movies of this handsome guy who cooks delicious Indian dishes. I never thought I was going to meet real Indians, and that I was going to be taken as one.

Each October, the Indians and some Pakistanis Celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, one of their major festivals. Since my friends knew I love immersing in new cultures, they planned to invite me to go with them to the temple. I delightedly accepted, I love the idea of “the victory of light over darkness.” But, they not only took me to the temple, they also made me look just like one of them.
The preparations started about three hours early. I first did not understand why would it take that long, but then I came to know. Nilo, from North India, provided me the Sari, some Jewelry and a matching yellow Kum Kum (that I still have kept in a safe place). Nimmy, from South India, took me to her room and we started the complicated process or making me look as close as a real Indian. Some baby powder here and there, little perfume, a nice makeup and pink lips, smooth hair and all the jewelry on. The Sari was the hardest part; I will try to describe it in two words: safety pins. Nimmy spent like 12 safety pins in my Sari, but she is just so good at it that she made it look perfect. It had some folds in one of my shoulders that fell down to one of my hips. After the Sari, minimal retouches were needed and we were ready to go. The night before,
Nimmy applied Mehndi in one of my hands.

While Nimmy, Nilo and Naveen (who is from Pakistan), were helping me to get ready (or basically doing everything for me), I felt like I was part of something bigger. They made me feel like a part of their cultures, they taught me how to behave, how to move, how to act. They told me stories of their lives and their cultures while we were alone. I felt really close to them, and the feelings I experienced are hard to describe: I was just so special but so common at the same time.

Then, the guys came to pick the three of us up. I was concern about how people were going to react. What if they did not like me acting like one of them? My anxiety was getting bigger the closest we were to the temple. Once there, we removed our shoes at the entrance, washed our hands, and went inside. I never saw anything like that before. It was full of colors, people wearing beautiful and elaborated clothes, smells, and representations of different Gods.

My friends always indicated me how to act, how to pray and what to say to people. I think anybody noticed that I was not and Indian, thanks to my friend’s instructions. We went to each God, we prayed sometimes and we sat on the floor for a while. I was feeling delicate and protected. I was comfortable with myself. Indians and Pakistanis are friendly and kind, they gave us sweets and a lot of smiles.

Once in home, they cooked some Indian traditional food. I did not want to remove the Sari, I wanted to keep it on because I was feeling so different; out of my comfort zone, but I was enjoying it. Eventually I did, and the process of removing was almost as hard as putting it.

I am sure my Indian and Pakistani friends do not know yet how meaningful that experience was for me. It was a real immersion. I am glad they made me feel one of them, because sometimes is good to be someone else. I feel bless to be able to discover and experience all these different traditions, and to learn from them. If you are reading this guys, thank you! That day was unforgettable, you may not understand how much, but it was. You taught me how big and open-minded love and friendship can be. This festival truly brought lights to my life.

We do not have to forget who we were to learn who we are, or to leave an open door to who we would be. I am Colombian, I like to be Indian sometimes, and I have no idea what would I be tomorrow. But I am willing to discover it. And my mind is as open as my heart.

Post written by Vanesa de la Cruz, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Colombia

Different Cultures are Beautiful

Different people have different deliberations, beliefs and mindsets. It seems very easy to cope with different mindsets but it actually isn’t that easy. Culture has its own meaning. It’s beautiful, pure and attractive.  I found in some ways that our culture is becoming our comfort zone since that’s how we have been living our life since we were small, that’s how we have been raised by our parents, and that’s what we have seen in our surrounding the whole time. Many of you may not agree with some of other’s particular ways of living or the way they behave because everyone loves their culture and customs and think that’s the best one. Believe me, I do as well.  Therefore, I think living outside your community can teach you more. Experiencing different cultures makes you more open-minded and then you can make the world a better place. You understand better of how others think and why they behave in such different ways than yours. By understanding more and more, we can create peace and make the world a better place to live. Accepting different cultures will not harm you. It will bring the best out of you.

For example, I like Indian culture because I have seen several movies which show their culture very beautifully.  I like the way they celebrate Holi, Diwali, and the way they dress up.  Luckily, one of my housemates is a beautiful Indian girl named Nilofar. I started talking about Indian culture with her since I wanted to know more and even to experience their beautiful ceremonies.  After one month she came to me and said “I don’t like Pakistani people because they are immoral and cruel people, but I found you totally different”. Then she asked me about my country and my culture, she was very eager to know about my culture because whatever was in her mind was not the true picture of my country. I told her the things I know and I showed her several documentaries about my country. I talked about my people and our way of living. We found that media is actually saying different things about our countries that create conflicts between us.

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We break the barrier of hatred and fear because now we know each other better. We share stories, food, laughter, and even sometimes tears. I respect her culture and I experienced more of it by joining her celebrating Durga Puja, Diwali, and Holi.

I also learn how much Indonesians love spicy food, I get to know how Colombians can’t eat spicy food at all, I witness how well African people dance, I love the way Turkish dress so fashionably, I become close friend with my roommate from Bangladesh as well. The more I know them, the more I feel peace and strength in me. It’s not bad to experience different culture and change is a positive thing not negative. Some people see only the outer shell and they never try to give others chance to show the true picture of their life.  Life is beautiful and we can make it more beautiful by understanding each other and respect each other no matter what it is the difference whether in culture, or different religion even different skin color. It’s all about humanity which makes us all alike.

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Post written by Meher Sultana, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Pakistan

Why should I volunteer?

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A group photo with Shaheen Scout. July 2014

I belong to a country where community is defined as the religious group with whom I share my beliefs and religious practices. In my community we have a structure of serving community under a volunteer setup. For example, if we have doctors, occasionally they provide services frees of cost or with minimal charges, if someone is a teacher, he/she will be voluntarily serving in any community institution, likewise all the people in the community have a kind of volunteer responsibility which is kind of mandatory to serve and I believe that, it is the back bone of my community development.

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Group Scout Leader, Village Nomal, GB, Pakistan

Generally we think like what can we do, how can I serve my community, how can I be part of a worthy cause? Being a young student, having no professional experience, guess what could I do for my community? Believe me; I had much more opportunities to serve my community than any professional person because, volunteer services need time commitment and dedication. Since childhood I remained associated with different organizations with different responsibilities like, Group Scout Leader, Finance Secretary with a welfare Organization, As a Teacher in religious institution, Member of wheel chair committee, Administrator of JDC an Institution and member of Aga Khan Economic Planning local Board Gilgit.

In my educational career, I always remained an average student but today I am a participant of Community College Initiative program among 40 students of Pakistan. Till now it is one of the highest achievements in my career and this would never have happened without the skills I have gained from volunteer services.

Although with busy life it is difficult to manage time, but if you spare a short span of time for volunteering, you may have a greater impact on your personal life, professional life and your community. It is the best way to gain experience, enhancing interpersonal skills; it gives you a sense of accomplishment, an opportunity to interact with diverse group of people, an opportunity for selection of right career path and much more…

To begin with, Volunteering is a great opportunity to gain interpersonal skills like, being a good listener, a good communicator, responsiveness, promoting togetherness and settling disputes etc.

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9-11 Day of Service, photo by Caitlin Sanders, SCA

Secondly, volunteering is a platform where we can learn new things through participating in different events. While serving as volunteer we get involve in social, technical, funny and academic activities. Participation in event like Park cleaning, fund raising campaign and art exhibitions gave me an insight about these fields, which I could never learn in my routine classes.

Next, working for long hours, studying, assignments and other activities sometime makes us stressful. We can find such volunteer activities related to our own interest where we can have fun and enjoy, which may have a positive impact on our health.

Subsequently, I have handled a lot of tasks back in my own country but cleaning a pond in a park and controlling traffic in an event was something new and  interesting for me. Handling task smoothly in timely manners make us responsible and it gives us confidence to do something more.

Afterwards, networking is one of the most essential requirements for entrepreneurship minded people and nowadays finding a better job is all about networking. Volunteering lets you expand your relationships with other businesses and people with similar interests which can help you in finding better jobs.

Another main thing, volunteering is an opportunity to make choices from different professional fields, while participating in different events; you can select an interesting career field. Being student of economics I was planning to work in banking sector but my volunteer association with Aga Khan Economic planning board inspired me to think about entrepreneurship. During my services more than 10 families successfully initiated their own businesses which gave me a motivation to think beyond what I was imagining about my career and these were the experiences which linked me with such a wonderful international exchange program like the CCI Program, which is like a full package of experiential learning, theoretical studies, motivation and exposure visits.

Yet another important aspect of volunteering is meeting with diverse groups of people, for me it is a hobby; I enjoy participating in volunteer services because I love meeting new people and learning new things every day.

“Diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity”, HH Aga Khan”.

Volunteering is the best way to find people from different social backgrounds, cultures, food, experiences and ideas and only through mutual understanding we can bring peace in the world.

Finally, happiness and satisfaction cannot be purchased no matter how rich you are. The feelings cannot be compared to something else which we get after supporting a needy person.

In the end, I will conclude my writing with a beautiful quote by “Bob Marley,

“Live for your-self, you live in vain. Live for others, you will live again”.

Therefore I will recommend everyone to be a part of this worthy cause, which can help you being a successful person, helping you in living a happy, healthy and a meaningful life.

Post written by Naik Alam, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-2017, Pakistan