U.S Assistant Cultural Affairs Attaché James Cerven, American Teachers and SUSI Alumnus Daniyal Hassan with children from Mashal Model School
Splattered with mud and grinning from ear to ear, more than a dozen school children of varying ages dashed around the playground. It was raining lightly but neither the kids, nor the American grown-ups who joined in their soccer match, seemed concerned.
With a forceful kick, a Mashal Model School student sent the ball wheeling past the American goal-keeper who tried in vain to slow it down. With that goal, students from the school claimed victory in what is hoped to become a yearly football tradition.
This friendly match took place at the Mashal Model School and American teachers who were on a week-long visit to Pakistan to assess the progress that their Pakistani counterparts had made after returning from a the Study the US Institutes (SUSI) program in the United States.
Aside from the match, the educators also helped students draw, paint and fold origami with scores of children from the charity school.
“The community service session was very moving and a life-changing experience for me,” said Geoff Friedman, one of the teachers who took part in the activity. “These children have materially very little and it’s nice to see how some wonderful teachers have provided them with affection and support.”
Reunion Draws Alumni from Across Pakistan
This initiative along with a reunion for SUSI Alumni in Pakistan was the brainchild of SUSI Alumnus Daniyal Hassan who completed the project with the help of an Alumni Small Grant from the Pakistan-U.S Alumni Network. All alumni of various U.S sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan can apply for the grant in order to give back to their communities.
SUSI Alumnus Daniyal Hassan with Islamabad/Rawalpindi Alumni Coordinator Shahid Waseem
“When we were in the U.S., our SUSI teachers told us that they would be visiting Pakistan in February,” said Hassan. “I decided to go for this project because I had told them that we will have a reunion when they would come here, to which all SUSI alumni will be invited.”
The event saw participation by more than 50 alumni who eagerly made their way to Islamabad from across Pakistan, so that they could reconnect with their American professors.
“The reunion is very good and I am very excited to see our American mentors here,” said Haleema Hasnain, SUSI alumna. “I am also happy that they are having a good time in Pakistan.”
“The American teachers visiting Pakistan are an encouragement for us,” said Syed Nazakat Hussain Shah, an alumnus from Gilgit Baltistan. “This is because if no updates are taken from us, then the benefit of the SUSI exchange program will be lost.”
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Michael Hannahan
The reunion also featured an address by the head of the American delegation Michael Hannahan–who thanked the organizers for arranging the function and also expressed his delight at meeting his Pakistani mentees.
“We have accomplished our goals with this trip because we needed to bring American teachers to Pakistan and follow up on the barriers that Pakistani teachers were facing,” said Hannahan. “We are also facing a role reversal with Pakistani students because now they are showing their country to us.”
Interactive Group Activities
The reunion took place in an informal and relaxed setting. A number of interactive group activities were also held which were geared towards introducing alumni from different SUSI batches to each other, so that they could form new bonds of friendship.
Two videos covering the experiences of 2014 student leaders in America drew laughter and appreciation from the crowd.
Meanwhile, two SUSI Alumni Ahmed Qazi and Jawad Ahmed Khan also shared their success stories, since returning to Pakistan from their exchange experience.
SUSI Alumni networking with an American Teacher during the reunion
“Extremist ideology killed my mother and we need to work on that ideology to overcome it,” said Qazi while talking about his mother who was martyred in the December 16, 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. “We need to look towards conflict resolution so that all people vulnerable to that ideology can be saved.”
On the other hand, Jawad Ahmed Khan proudly mentioned the outreach that he and his friends had carried out in Balochistan to inform the students in his province about various U.S.-sponsored exchange programs available to Pakistani students.
The University of Massachusetts teachers, including Professor Hannahan, also took part in a panel session on the impact of exchange programs in the reunion. They stressed that people to people contacts are the best way of improving ties between Pakistan and the U.S.
As the event came to a close, the main organizer Daniyal Hassan had mixed feelings about the successful culmination of his project.
“We all had tears in our eyes when we were saying goodbye to our American professors,” he said. “But I am also grateful to the Alumni Small Grant because it helped me to achieve my dream and fulfill my promise to my mentors.”
To take a look at more photographs from the reunion, check out this link: