KARACHI: “We bore the entire expenses from our pocket money, including the planning, transporting and execution.
This is because we accepted the challenge,” said Shamim Arisaro, one of the members of the British Council’s Active Citizens Programme. The programme, started in 2008, aims to develop young leaders in the country where the majority is below the age of 25. It tries to facilitate dialogue among the youth, build youth networks, provide capacity building and develop youthled social action projects. On Wednesday, 18 groups of young people in their early twenties, more than 100 individuals in total, were invited by the British Council so that their efforts could be appreciated.
The programme is currently underway in Bangladesh, Nepal and the UK, apart from Pakistan, said Nabeel Alvi, the programme’s head. “The British Council trained youth in many different sessions in different parts of the country under this programme.” Of these, almost 18 groups of active citizens from Karachi and Hyderabad gathered at the ceremony. Inspired by their training, young people worked to bring a positive change in their communities, with visible results.
For instance, the teachers of ten government schools in Hyderabad city were motivated by one group to attend classes and understand the importance of their role as mentors and educators. The Sindh United Youth Active Citizens from Hyderabad identified hepatitis B and C as well as pollution as the major issues in their area and worked towards their eradication. Meanwhile, the Youth United Group, also from Hyderabad, ran an awareness campaign on environment through a seminar, a walk and tree plantation in the Qasimabad Bhittai Park.
A group from Karachi, the Visionary Foundation of Pakistan, involved the government to work for the blind and sick, with wonderful results. One of their projects was training bus drivers to be more sensitive towards visually impaired passengers. The participants only received training from the British Council. Arranging funds and logistics was their own responsibility. Talking about the will of the young people, trainer Atta Muhammad Soomro said that if we see a cause in anything we would do it.
Muhammad said that this is what they trained the young people in. “If we know that we are doing something for the benefit of our community and society we do it automatically.” he said. Discussing his experience, Muhammad Jahanzeb from Hyderabad said that he realised that he could bring about a change and create awareness. Sara Riaz from Karachi, who aims to provide motivational education to children who cannot afford it, feels that community work is a source of satisfaction. Commenting on the efforts and role of the participants, the Sindh Secretary for Youth and Sports Shoaib Siddiqui said that “we should motivate our youth to take action and work for others and to tell them that we have hope and expectations from them.”
The British Council too was impressed. “We had no idea these people would do the job so effectively and involve whole communities at such grassroots levels,” said Obaid Hussain Khan, the projects manager. Three final projects will be selected for the final competition.