Interfaith Alumni Group Remembers Victims in Peshawar

Alumni in Sargodha organized a peaceful protest to condemn the deadly terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar.  Led by the Tang Wasib Organization, more than 150 Muslim and Christian students, under the age of 12, joined hands to pray for martyrs and their families in and lit the candle of courage, compassion and commitment to promote peace.  Rubina Feroze Bhatti, an IVLP alumna and CEO of the NGO said “We cry, we mourn, and we pray, but WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP!”  1450209_1579777862245160_6027095907481338172_n 10407285_1579778035578476_8744651884685367664_n10868080_1579778108911802_6358312544459622438_n
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Lahore Alumni Hold Vigil in Solidarity with Peshawar

Alumn10172859_10152948767124859_6820898738697239015_n (1)i are joining others across Pakistan and around the world mourn the terrible loss of life in Peshawar.

Yesterday between 40 and 50 alumni participated in a nighttime vigil. After the initial display, alumni walked in silence around Hussian Chowk, and held a prayer for the departed.

Alumni from Peshawar gave accounts of the situation on the ground and alumni decided that   to prepare and send letters to the affected community to share their sorrows and let them know that they are not alone.

 

 

 

 

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Entrepreneurship Conference Provides Breeding Ground for New Ideas

By Hira Nafees Shah

GEW Conference Group Photo

Participants of Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network’s Entrepreneurship Conference with U.S Ambassador Richard Olson

International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alumna Mehreen Rashid was confused. Having worked for ten years as a broadcast journalist, she had decided to jump into entrepreneurship when she felt that her profession was not providing her the satisfaction that she needed.  She set up her media company but kept running into bottlenecks,unsure about how to proceed next.

Help arrived in a timely fashion, when Rashid registered to take part in an Entrepreneurship Conference organized by the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network from November 21st to 23rd in Islamabad.

The event was the largest U.S. alumni event organized for Global Entrepreneurship Week in the world, bringing together more than 300 alumni of 24 different U.S. sponsored exchange programs under one roof. IVLP Alumnus Kashif Khan, who is also the President of GEW-Pakistan, was the main alumni organizer for the affair.

Economic empowerment ultimately depends on entrepreneurs – people like you – who are willing to take that first risky step and invest their time, talent, and resources in an idea that they believe in,” said U.S Ambassador Richard Olson, the chief guest at the occasion. “Just as a secure and stable Pakistan is vital to the American national interest, an economically vibrant Pakistan will contribute to the prosperity of this region of the world.”

Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal with other speakers and PUAN-GEW Planning Committee the first day of the conference

Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal with other speakers and PUAN-GEW Planning Committee the first day of the conference

Economic empowerment ultimately depends on entrepreneurs – people like you – who are willing to take that first risky step and invest their time, talent, and resources in an idea that they believe in,” said U.S Ambassador Richard Olson, the chief guest at the occasion. “Just as a secure and stable Pakistan is vital to the American national interest, an economically vibrant Pakistan will contribute to the prosperity of this region of the world.”

Motivating breakout workshops, thought-provoking videos, and a competitive pitching session, formed the core of the three day event. The highlight of the first day of the conference was a keynote session moderated by Sidra Iqbal, which was attended by Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, P@SHA President Jehan Ara, Afghan Fulbrighter Masoud Juya, Nabeel Qader of the Punjab Information Technology Board, and Amin Hashwani, Director of the Hashwani Group and President of the Pakistani-India CEOs Business Forum.

“The government has started a number of youth-related loans so that the youth can become job-creators and not job-seekers,” said Iqbal, while highlighting the government’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship during his session.

Breakout Sessions Impress Participants

Startup Cup Founder Sean Griffin during Breakout Session 1 on ‘Journey from Idea Generation to Business Opportunity’

Startup Cup Founder Sean Griffin during Breakout Session 1 on ‘Journey from Idea Generation to Business Opportunity’

Day Two of the conference kicked-off a series of breakout sessions tailored to the needs of specific business sectors. “Muneeb Maayr’s session was the best because the advice that he gave was very good that everybody should develop financial skills and market themselves properly,” said Umul Awan, a Fulbright alumnus.

“I really liked Sean Griffin’s session because he gave us invaluable statistics on starting a business.  For example, he told us that on average it takes 18 to 30 months to earn 15 hundred rupees from a startup,” said Mutawakkil Abbasi, a UGrad alumnus. Besides Maayr and Griffin, nearly 40 speakers attended the event, including Farrukh Malik of discretelogix.com, Azhar Zaheer of Picycle, Saad Hamid of Invest2Innovate, and Qazi Fazli Azeem, who reflected on their personal journeys building startups and provided practical industry advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Starting a business is easy, building one is very hard! Persistence is key and consistency is very important,” said Sean Griffin, the StartUp Cup Founder.

Many alumni praised the panel session on Entrepreneurial Success Stories, which included local heroes like Master Ayub, Yasmeen Lari, Qurban Bibi, and Rafi Imran Amjad, among others. Master Ayub received a standing ovation when he narrated the story of how he set up his school and it grew from having one student to a huge network of pupils in the span of 28 years.

Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect gave a presentation on Combating Poverty for Disaster Preparedness.Pak Wheels CEO Muhammad Raza Saeed advised the entrepreneurs not to lose focus and remain dedicated to their ventures.

“The Entrepreneurship conference is really good because I am getting an opportunity to meet great people,” said Iqra Sadia, UGrad alumnus. “I have also learned how to flourish my idea and gained a lot of mentorship.” She added that she gained the most from a session led by Zafar Khan, CEO of Sofizar, who spoke on building one’s own startup.

Zafar Khan’s session was part of a second round of breakout workshops. Other workshops included by Raheel Waqar of White Rice Communications, Saad Amanullah Khan, former president of the American Business Council and a highly interactive session by Musstanser Tinauli of Foori Mazdoori, in which participants were divided into groups and pitched ideas.

Alumni conducting a team exercise during Musstanser Tinauli’s breakout workshop

Alumni conducting a team exercise during Musstanser Tinauli’s breakout workshop

One of the highlights of the event was the diversity of participants, and the unique opportunities for networking as part of it.  As the conference progressed,the alumni received ample opportunities to network with each other and to flesh out their business and social enterprise ideas.

“I want to create a news syndicate for Quetta so that I can improve the image of the city,” said Farwa Kawal, SUSI Alumna. “The sessions in the conference were inspiring enough to spark my interest in becoming dedicated to my idea.”

Osama Khawaja, a Fulbright alumnus, remarked that “the conference is an excellent experience because people are here from the northern areas of Pakistan and have also received an opportunity to participate.”

Established professionals also benefitted from the reunion. Umar Adnan, a Fulbrighter who launched a startup E4 Tech at NUST, said he found the conference extremely useful.

“The first thing that I will do after this conference is to include three mentors on the board of advisers in my startup,” he said. “I also received a lot of clarity in many other business issues by attending this event.”

Alums Learn about Social Entrepreneurship

The conference also explored the role of social responsibility in business development, and financial sustainability in social enterprise.  In this vein, an outstanding panel discussion was held with Zeba Hussain, of the Mashal Model School, Humaira Bachal, President of the Dream Foundation Trust, Faraz Khan, CEO and Co-Founder of SEED Ventures, Ayesha Batool of Main Muhammad Bukhsh Trust, and Slama Jafri, of Worldpol.net.

“I started my school when I was 12 years old and now 1200 families are registered with us,” said Bachal, while outlining her struggle for education.

The final series of workshops taught the attendees how to scale their enterprises after launching their businesses. Famous musician Haroon Rashid talked about his newest venture, Taazi.com, which provides legal music downloads that support a decent living for musicians in Pakistan.

Center Stage Alumnus Arieb Azhar during his musical performance at PUAN-GEW Conference

Center Stage Alumnus Arieb Azhar during his musical performance at PUAN-GEW Conference

Meanwhile, IVLP Alumna Shamama Arbab, Director of Euro Industries Peshawar, encouraged her audience to take action and gave them tips for survival over the long run. “Stay aligned with your inner self and always have a contingency planning for any business that you have,” she said.

In this phase of the conference, Sean Griffin of StartUp Cup invited his audience members to develop their business plans.  “Sean gave me a monthly and a weekly target which cleared my perspective,” said one participant, Mehreen Rashid. “This conference has done away with the fog in my mind as far as my business is concerned, so now I need to do a lot of homework.”

Ideas into Action

All of the lessons of the conference came together on the third day, when alumni and local university students pitched their business ideas in front of investors. The pitches introduced Pakistani ideas and products to address needs in the Pakistan and South Asian markets, including everything from improved solar panel production and biogas generation systems to monitors for water filtration systems, to medical devices for the treatment of kidney stones.  Event speakers and investors carefully judged the events and took real interest in the potential projects.

NUST Student Fawad Bhatti won the first prize for his pitch  ‘Tre-Quant,’ a “wearable tremor quantifier”

NUST Student Fawad Bhatti won the first prize for his pitch ‘Tre-Quant,’ a “wearable tremor quantifier”

But perhaps the greatest take away from the whole episode was the realization that entrepreneurship not only improves economic conditions in Pakistan, but also has the potential to pave way for better relations between Pakistan, the United States, and its neighbors.

“Entrepreneurship is a very good alternative to bring nations together, as business is not affected by ethnicities, backgrounds and nationalities,” said Masoud Juya, a conference participant and founder of Kahkashan-e-Sharq University in Afghanistan.

To take a look at the photographs from the event, check out this Flickr link:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pakusalumni/sets/72157649053098498/

To find out more, visit:

https://www.facebook.com/PUANGEWC14

 

Fulbright Alums Take the Lead on Social Enterprise

By Hira Nafees Shah

Students enjoying Rabtt Summer Camp 2014

Students enjoying Rabtt Summer Camp 2014

18-year-old Abdullah Nasir stood in front of the teacher with bated breath. Although he had memorized his speech, words failed him when he noticed the eyes of his professor and class fellows on him. The fear of public speaking is a common affliction, but Nasir overcame his fear by enrolling in a summer camp that provided training for public speaking in a class that was part of a summer camp.

“I would get very nervous in class and used to be a backbencher at school,” he said. “But now after attending the public speaking course, I can speak on any given topic and also am ahead in college.”

Dubbed “Rabtt”, this summer camp, the brainchild of Fulbright alumni Imran Sarwar and Aneeq Ahmed Cheema, aims to inculcate critical thinking, empathy, confidence and creativity among government school students like Nasir.

Besides public speaking, the three week intensive camp also included courses like world history, arts, theatre, thinking skills, English and mathematics. Rabtt is a non-profit established in response to Sarwar’s work with students from the National Outreach Program at LUMS, and Cheema’s experience with the Seeds of Peace exchange program. The program is funded in part by a grant from the South Asia Institute at Harvard University.

“Rabtt encompasses building connections, so we wanted to allow students from public and private schools to have a dialogue,” said Sarwar. “We wanted to break the divide between them, enable them to talk to each other and work towards the development of a more empathetic society.”

The young men were able to further polish their vision after completing their studies in the U.S on the Fulbright program.

“My Fulbright exchange experience provided me the confidence and audacity to undergo a venture like Rabtt,” said Sarwar.

Summer Camps Begin

In 2014, the Rabtt summer camps took place from Monday to Saturday on the premises of the government schools, with about twenty ninth-grade students taking part in each class.  Classes were taught by Rabtt fellows, who worked for the program for one year.  The fellows strove to make the classes activity based and discussion oriented.

“I used to be quite aggressive and would fight over little things,” said Haider Abbas, a participant. “But after reading world history, I learned that it is necessary to respect each other’s viewpoint.”

Another student claimed he had gained admission at Government College University, only on account of his communication skills, which he improved through his studies at Rabtt.

Summer Camp being conducted at a Government School for Girls

Summer Camp being conducted at a Government School for Girls

To express his gratitude, he also started volunteering at the NGO and believes that a positive change has occurred in him through his experience.

“My family says I have become more responsible and confident since attending the summer camps and am also able to represent myself in a much better way,” said Khizer Mehmood.

The camps have not only benefited the students, but also the mentors who have taught there.

“My experience with Rabtt was very real and practical,” said Aaleen Mehboob, an undergraduate student. “I am working at the organization for a year, so going forward I will be able to better gauge how people from different backgrounds react in different situations, and will be able to plan something with hiccups in mind.”

March towards a More Empathetic Society:

Rabtt has grown by leaps and bounds since it was first launched in the summer of 2011. It started out training 30 students, but reached out to 300 government students from seven schools in 2014.

Not everything has been smooth sailing for the organization, which depends entirely on the dedication of its volunteers who work free of charge, and donations and grants which keep it financially afloat.

Female students enjoying creating an art exhibit during a Rabtt Summer Camp 2014

Female students enjoying creating an art exhibit during a Rabtt Summer Camp 2014

To help meet the school’s needs, Sarwar and Cheema launched a massive crowd funding initiative on Indigo to raise 10,000 dollars for the organization in 60 days.

“About 150 donors participated in the crowd funding drive and contributed funds ranging between 5 to 60 dollars, so we were able to meet our objective,” said Cheema. “The money keeps on coming, so I can’t remember any major problems that we have encountered along the way.”

But the Carnegie Mellon University graduate still believes that if Rabtt achieves long term financial stability, his team will be able to focus more on quality and offer more varied courses to its students.

Despite the challenges, the founders also say that there are substantial rewards that make it all worthwhile. For example the graduation ceremony was a grand event attended by more than 800 people including families of the students. Each class received an opportunity to perform at the function and art exhibits of the pupils were also on display.

“I went to Alhamra for the first time in my life for my graduation ceremony and performed a play in front of so many people,” said Summaiya Shaukat, a participant.

Students performing at the 2014 Graduation Ceremony

Students performing at the 2014 Graduation Ceremony

“The graduation ceremony was very good and I gave a speech and performed in a play on the occasion,” said Haider Abbas. “My brother told me that he was proud of me and my mother showered me with affection, so I was very happy.”

Rabtt also offers workshops for its students who want to build upon the subjects that they have learned in the camps. Sarwar noted that to achieve this objective, his non-profit conducted 66 workshops from September 2013 to February 2014, which left him with a deep sense of contentment.

“It is quite satisfying when we receive feedback from the students that Rabtt has created a difference in their lives,” said the Harvard University graduate.

As for the next step, Sarwar and Cheema are striving to consolidate gains that they have made and also hope to conduct future projects in South Punjab.

To find out more about Rabtt including how to volunteer, visit:

http://rabtt.org/home/

https://www.facebook.com/Rabtt

Lahore Reunion celebrates Alumni Engagement in Punjab

Participants of PUAN Lahore Alumni Reunion

Participants of PUAN Lahore Alumni Reunion

More than one hundred and fifty Lahori alumni gathered for the annual reunion of their chapter to celebrate the success of the alumni-led programs in the past year.

In addition to performances by alumni, the event also included a “Peecha Kucha” presentation of slides featuring the variety of community service projects completed by alumni during the year.

Awards were also distributed to recognize how these programs have targeted mission goals of the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network and have made a difference for people hailing from underserved communities.

Management Officer Catherine McSherry presented “Emerging Leaders” awards to young exchange program participants who worked tirelessly in the past two years to support alumni engagement in Punjab. They bravely dealt with the challenge of harassment and continued the journey of assisting alumni network to conduct successful programs with transgender communities, disabled persons and children of sex workers among others.

Public Affairs Officer Rachael Chen connected with the audience via Skype, and thanked the alumni for their valuable contributions to Mission Pakistan.

To check out more photographs from the event, visit:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.647867871997359&type=1

 

 

KP/FATA Chapter Reunion Pays Homage to Community Service Work Of Alumni

By Hira Nafees Shah

Group Photograph at PUAN KP/FATA Third Annual Reunion

Group Photograph at PUAN KP/FATA Third Annual Reunion

Keeping its fine tradition alive, the KP/FATA chapter of the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network held its third annual reunion in Peshawar on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014.

More than one hundred and fifty alumni enthusiastically took part in the polished event and paid homage to the resilient spirit of the people of the province.

“We are working in a hostile and risky environment, but still alumni members actively participate in our events.” said Faisal Shehzad, PUAN KP/FATA President, while addressing the audience at the outset of the gathering.

Shehzad’s words certainly rang true at the reunion as participants who went to study to the U.S on Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), Global UGrad, Study of U.S. Institute for Student Leaders (SUSI), Fulbright and International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), among others, all showed up to discuss their exchange experiences.

“I really like the reunion because it makes you feel as if you are a part of this special community, a part of this family,” said Bela Khan, a UGrad alumna.  “A lot of love and affection was showered on us at this event which has increased our feeling of belonging to the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network.”

This feeling of bonding was also mentioned by the chief guest U.S Consulate Peshawar Public Affairs Officer Raymond Stephens at the occasion.

“When you return to Pakistan from your exchange experience, you are an alumnus and part of our family,” said Stephens. “The alumni come back to Pakistan as citizens of the world; they have more confidence and understand Americans better.”

Chief Guest U.S Consulate Peshawar Public Affairs Officer Raymond Stephens doing the Cha Cha Slide with YES Alumni

Chief Guest U.S Consulate Peshawar Public Affairs Officer Raymond Stephens doing the Cha Cha Slide with YES Alumni

Showcasing Chapter Activities

The reunion featured video screenings of the work done by Global UGrad alumnus Farmanullah Mohmand and Community College Initiative Program (CCIP) alumnus Wasim Khan to motivate the audience to give back to their communities after returning to Pakistan.

An impressive lineup of chapter activities conducted with the supervision of the KP/FATA Alumni Coordinator Usman Saddique also spoke volumes of the amount of community engagement carried out by the chapter over the course of the previous year. Some of these activities included a Ration Drive during Ramadan, alumni visiting victims of the 2013 Peshawar church blast and Tech Week events that were held in four different cities of the province.

In addition to youth, senior exchange participants also attended the function, and brought a great deal of flair and sagacity to the proceedings.

“I was in contact with different people from the SUSI exchange program,” said Hadia Akbar, a UGrad alumna. “But here at the reunion, I also met people from more professional programs and this reunion has helped break barriers between students and professionals.”

“It is good to see the senior and professional alumni at the KP/FATA reunion because it has a trickledown effect,” said Arsalan Majid, a UGrad alumnus. “For example many YES alumni are asking me questions about how they can get into the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST).”

KP/FATA Chapter Highest Recipient of Alumni Small Grants

Panel discussion on Alumni Small Grants

Panel discussion on Alumni Small Grants

A panel discussion at the gathering also revolved around the Alumni Small Grants administered by the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network’s office based at the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan.

“The KP/FATA chapter has the distinction of being the highest recipient of Alumni Small Grants,” said PUAN Alumni Outreach Officer Asim Hamza Gilani, while giving a breakdown about what makes a successful application.

The panel included four successful recipients of the small grants from the local chapter like Nabila Afridi (Crafts Bazaar), Ahmed Qazi (Model Provincial Assembly), Saeedullah Orakzai (Nat Geo Photo Camps Exhibition), and Mutawakkil Abbasi (Empowering Widows project).

The audience greatly benefited from videos that were aired about each respective project by the U.S Consulate Peshawar, so that they became familiar with the work of the grantees as they talked about it.

“I found the session on Alumni Small Grants quite useful especially the discussion related to making the budget in the application,” said Ikram Akbar, a UGrad alumnus, after the session.

Awards were also given to alumni for meritorious services that they had rendered for the chapter during the previous year. Sana Ejaz, a Pakistani recipient of the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) for the year 2014 was also among the prize winners.

AEIF Winner Sana Ejaz receiving an award from Deputy PAO Kedenard Raymond

AEIF Winner Sana Ejaz receiving an award from Deputy PAO Kedenard Raymond

Certificates were also given out to mentors and mentees who took part in the annual Mentorship Program. A hilarious skit and a YES alumni dance on Cha Cha Slide with the chief guest Stephens was the highlight of the reunion, and brought the function to its successful end.

“The U.S Consulate Peshawar is doing a great job especially the Alumni Coordinator who tries to engage every alum and keeps coming up with new activities,” said Humaima Ashfaq, an IVLP alumna.

“The reunion was an awesome event,” said Mohammad Asfandyar, a YES Alumnus. “It was very well organized and the sessions were very well executed.”

To see more photographs from the reunion, check out this link:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pakusalumni/sets/72157648610614829/

For more information, check:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/PUAN-Kp-Fata-Annual-Reunion-2014/1493430767571787

CCIP Alumnus Takes Journalism to New Heights in Gilgit Baltistan

By Hira Nafees Shah

Participants of the Youth Eye-Citizen Journalist Project with CCIP Alumnus Amin Muhammad

Participants of the Youth Eye-Citizen Journalist Project with CCIP Alumnus Amin Muhammad

College student Mohammad Kashif woke up at seven o’clock each morning during his summer vacation. Being from the Hyderabad area of Hunza, he spent over one-and-a-half hours traveling to Karimabad each day.

Kashif embraced the long ride and gladly gave up extra sleep to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist.

“I want to pursue journalism as a profession, that’s why I travel everyday from Hyderabad,” he said. “It has been an awesome experience which has exceeded my expectations.”

Kashif and a group of 44 other participants were selected out of scores of applicants to take part in a unique training with the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) program “Youth Eye-Citizen Journalist.”  The two-week course promised to provide the students with all the ropes of video story-telling and included many active female participants.

Community College Initiative Program (CCIP) Alumnus Amin Muhammad

Community College Initiative Program (CCIP) Alumnus Amin Muhammad

Amin Muhammad, a Community College Initiative Program alumnus, launched the pilot project in November 2013, in three towns of central Hunza valley — Baltit, Altit, and Hyderabad. Baltit Rural Support Organization, Hyderabad Local Support Organization and Altit Local Support Organization stepped in to provide community ownership for the endeavor.

“I felt that trained human resource in the media sector is very limited in Gilgit Baltistan,” said Muhammad.  “I also wanted to highlight tourism, cultural diversity and the different traditions that we have in this region, so that Pakistan’s image can be changed in a positive way.”

The alumnus added that he was motivated by his exchange program in Madison, Wisconsin, where he worked with community access television stations.  Youth Eye is intended to pass his learning to the community that he grew up in.  He also expressed his opinion that the issues of Gilgit Baltistan region have long been ignored by traditional media outlets in Pakistan.

The U.S. Department of State administers the AEIF grant which funds proposals submitted by U.S sponsored exchange alumni in ten key areas including Freedom of Expression.

“The AEIF is a global platform and projects are selected on open competition,” said Muhammad. “$25,000 is also a handsome amount to create positive impact within the community.”

Students Learn Video Story-Telling:

Students shooting interview with a female carpenter

Students shooting interview with a female carpenter

In the backdrop of snow covered mountains and open skies, a group of youngsters can be seen carefully managing the camera while an energetic female student balances a boom pole near their subject. The subject is a female carpenter who sits shyly in front of the citizen journalists, ready to be interviewed on tape. A number of other female carpenters are sawing wood in the background.

As the director shouts roll, the pupils begin their interview with supervision from the organizers of the project.

Numerous Organizers and trainers most of them U.S State Department alumni– including Majid Ali Khan, Hina Farman, Atif Ahmed Qureshi, Manzoor Alam, Samiullah Qara Baig, Najeebullah, Naveedullah Baig, Faiza Iqtidar, Sahar Naqvi and Alicia Dean all contributed to the event’s success.

“The training has been a very good experience,” said Sultana Ahsan, a participant. “My confidence in collecting visuals has dramatically increased and I have learned a lot through practical work.”

Students learning video editing from Trainer Majid Ali Khan

Students learning video editing from Trainer Majid Ali Khan

The course outline of the project included sessions on Field Reporting and Event Coverage, Script Writing, News casting/Anchoring, Production Techniques, Video Editing and Graphics, Documentary Storytelling and the Effective Use of Social Media.

The sessions took place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday in the month of May, and included students ranging from 18 to over 50 years of age.

Maula Maudad works as a Tour Guide at the scenic Baltit Fort, which was built 800 years ago on a hill with a breathtaking view of Hunza Valley.  He joined the project because he wanted to relate the history of the fort in a much more compelling way to its visitors and thought that storytelling classes were the best bet in helping him to achieve his objective.

“I am interested in storytelling and joined the program to gain clarity,” he said. “The project taught me how to capture shots and edit properly.”

“I enjoyed anchoring the most during the project and I received a platform to do it in a talk show that we organized,” said Nida Jafaq, another participant.

Lectures, presentations; film screenings, group work, field assignment and studio work were all part of the training, which helped introduce the students to the different forms of video shooting and production.

“I can tell if the person handling the camera is eligible to use it or not when I watch dramas, and now see them just to understand the various shots,” said Hina Alam.

March towards Community Television:

Students shooting a mock talk show on camera

Students shooting a mock talk show on camera

Some participants also highlighted a void in the local community that Youth Eye has the potential to fill.

Herika Bano was displaced with her family when the Attabad incident took place in Hunza. The lake was formed due to a landslide in the Attabad village which killed a number of people and blocked the flow of the Hunza River.

“If I had been trained before as a journalist, I could have informed people when the Attabad incident took place, and we might not have ended up as internally displaced people,” she lamented.

But Bano is also hopeful for the future.

“When I heard that such a project was being launched in Hunza, I left my papers and came here,” she said. “We can show the world that there is no war here and we are living together peacefully in Hunza.”

The closing ceremony of the venture took place at the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network’s Islamabad chapter reunion. Amin Muhammad and his participants took an arduous 19 hour road trip to reach the capital, but it proved to be worth it.

Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Williams complimented the alumnus for the successful screening of his project during the event.  The students were also overjoyed at the opportunity to showcase their work in Islamabad.

“It felt very good to see people watching our citizen journalism videos,” said Masooma Masum, a participant. “Some of them also came to us and asked us how we had made the videos.”

“No project of this kind had ever taken place in Hunza before,” said Abdul Rauf. “This venture has helped to bring potential journalists forward and now people know that citizens of Hunza also have talent.”

Members of Youth Eye Citizen Journalist led by CCIP Alumnus Amin Muhammad with Minister Counsel for Public Affairs Thomas Leary at Islamabad Chapter Reunion

Members of Youth Eye Citizen Journalist led by CCIP Alumnus Amin Muhammad with Minister Counsel for Public Affairs Thomas Leary at Islamabad Chapter Reunion

The Islamabad trip also included a visit to the local park for the students, where the recording of a live PTV show was going on, so that they experienced how a professional shoot takes place.

As for Muhammad Amin, he feels that this is not the end of Youth Eye Citizen Journalist project, but only the beginning as the studio that he had set up is still being used by his pupils to produce more content.

He also happily recounts that a number of the participants have gone on to become contributing reporters for local news outlets like Pamir Times and GB TV, so that they are getting hands on training in how journalism is practiced in the real world.

For the next step, Muhammad is striving to turn his initiative into a Community TV, so that his pilot can be replicated in all seven districts of Gilgit Baltistan. But for now, he feels proud and grateful at having being able to successfully give back to his community.

“Parents in our area don’t have resources to send their children to do courses but my students received this training at their doorsteps,” Muhammad said. “My pupils told me that before they could only think about doing such work, but now that they have received this training, they are very thankful.”

To find out more about Youth Eye Citizen Journalist project, check out this link:

https://www.facebook.com/YouthEyeHunza