I wasn’t expecting it – the call that is. I was selected to be a part of the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan (ELP) fellowship program organized by the South Asia Center at Atlantic Council. A lot was happening around me, both professionally and personally. I wanted to do something different and in my own way, I WAS doing something but wanted to do more. I didn’t know exactly what or how to do it. Looking back at that moment in time, I thank God for the email from my friend informing me about the fellowship. I readily applied with strong determination and confidence.
The rest of the process went smoothly and in a matter of weeks, I was in the USA for the fellowship. To be honest, I did not know what to expect being the only Christian youth leader among 14 young Muslims. Yet soon we became like family, working together as a joint force of young people to change Pakistan for a better tomorrow. I tried my best to learn from others about their local problems, acquiring first hand information about situations which I had only known about through television and other forms of media. I literally felt at home, on arrival in the U.S., because everyone was just so friendly. All 15 of us fellows, gathered together, willing to know who you were, where you came from, and what you had going in your community and area.
The fellowship was headed and organized by a team of very friendly, professional, and knowledgeable people who saw to it that we were well-cared-for and that the fellowship aims were well communicated to us. I met with different recognized leaders, grassroots and global organizations, journalists, policy makers, human rights activists, technology giants, public figures, and various leaders of the U.S. I tried to learn more about American society, media, NGOs, and political leaders.
During meetings, discussions, trainings, and study tours I learned about local institutes, NGOs and community responses, and their several social, religious and economic issues. I also learned how the other communities and people of different geographical places live with peace, love and harmony as one nation in America and celebrate diversity. Through this fellowship I got the opportunity to meet leaders and international personalities who gave me inspiration to make me stronger in my vision and work. I found Mr. Shuja Nawaz (Director of South Asia Center , Atlantic Council) to be a caring, dedicated and concerned leader who genuinely wants to develop young generation of Pakistan for Pakistan’s progress, prosperity, peace and development. He wants the Pakistani youth to own their time, to stop sitting idly as other people tackled their problems, and to guarantee that all people around us had equal access to care, education, and social and economic needs.
The following words of Shikha Bhatnagar (Associate Director of South Asian Center) still echo in my mind:
“These are the best young leaders from Pakistan who are making things happen”.
It gave me added motivation, new spirit and encouragement that there still are good people who are ready to acknowledge and appreciate our work. Now that I am back in Pakistan, I am missing my group members; the amazing and ever smiling group leader Shikha Bhatnagar with her intelligent and always on point thoughts(!); Azhar who was full of questions but from whom I learned a lot and because of whom I’ll start reading books again; Mehjabeen, the most patient person in the group; Esha, innocent from heart and willing to do something new all the time; Sadiqa , full of determination and passion etc. I miss all of you, really, though thousands of miles apart, I will always be at the forefront to help you and support your initiative.
The amazing energy and positive ideas are what I truly miss. But I believe that I will not let that enthusiasm die, and I will instead put it to practice – it doesn’t matter how long it will take me. Things may be difficult to implement, especially with no form of support around me, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘’Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’’ I would like to say thanks from the bottom of my heart to the South Asia Center, Atlantic Council for making this journey full of learning, experiences, and exposure to make me a better person and responsible youth leader for the development and progress of Pakistan and beyond. Thanks!