Apropos your editorial ‘Beyond language’ published on June 9, 2021, where it is mentioned that our Prime Minister should start a project of empathy. In this regard, I would like to share my experience from about 10 years ago when I was a student of A Levels and first visited Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore for a summer volunteer programme. The experience left a lasting impact on me.
There was a young Pashto speaking girl under treatment at the hospital. We did not understand each other’s language. Yet, she grabbed my hand to show me around the souvenir shop, pointing at things and using gestures and facial expressions to communicate. During my two weeks there, we began to look forward to seeing each other. She made me realise that the power of human connection transcends all barriers of language, ethnicity and race. There was another Pakhtun boy, a teenager, who taught me sentences in his language and I was touched by his willingness to reach out and share his culture.
The programme offered young children who were seeking treatment an excellent opportunity to internalise empathy. But it seemed that we were touched more than the students themselves. The project reflects the values of our Prime Minister and I hope that he will initiate other such projects at the national level to bring people closer together and creating a diverse and inclusive environment for all.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2021.