The best way to know each other, to develop better understanding of diversity and to harness the sentiments of peace, love and mutual wellbeing, is to spend time together under one roof as a family. Therefore, exploring such opportunities for our youth has always been an uphill task keeping various cultural, social and other societal barriers in view. SPO and VSO however, through a unique intervention as ‘Youth and Social Cohesion’ programme, translating this vision into reality with some astonishing success stories that have been gathered at quite nascent stage of the programme.
The ‘Youth and Social Cohesion ‘ programme envisions addressing the challenges related to active participation of youth in development process by enabling them to plan an active role in promotion of social cohesion. The initiative aims to involve capacitating primary actors as active citizens by providing them with tools of mediation, dialogue and conflict transformation and making them aware of their rights and responsibilities.
The cultural exchange programme envisioned as one of the youth engaging instruments, has been proved a success beyond the initial expectations. The host and guest families in Multan and Islamabad were identified and selected through a carefully designed process in order to eliminate all sorts of risk and ensure the wellbeing of the youth being part of the intervention.
Ayesha Bashir is amongst one of the guest volunteers that have been selected followed by a selection process and detailed interview. Architecture by profession, living in Multan with the host family and to be able to see the architectural marvels of this historic city has always been a fascination for Ayesha.
The remarkable thing that Ayesha has shared with the interviewers has been her successful academic journey and the encouragement she received from her father, who himself is a driver at International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI but always had big dreams for the bright future of his talented daughter.
Iqra Amjad, with her parents and two siblings (One brother and one sister), is the host of Ayesha in Multan and feeling immensely pleased to have their guest from Islamabad as one of her own family member. While narrating about the immediate reaction of her Family on the arrival of Ayesha as guest and to stay with them, she said that her father had some concerns regarding the adjustment of a girl from another city as it’s undoubtedly a huge responsibility.
Ms Nusrat Amjad, the mother of host volunteer while sharing her perspective said that she was very happy for this cultural exchange program as “Ayesha hmari aulad ki trah hai, main isy apni teesri beti smjhti hu” (Ayesha is just like our own child and I consider her as my third daughter).
Ayesha informed the interviewers that she was quite shy and remained bit reserved at initial stage for first two or three days of her stay with the host family in Multan but the mother of Iqra (The host) kept encouraging her to be part of family without any hesitation and just like a daughter in the family. Now she considers herself a part of the family and makes participation in all household chores and family activities. Iqra’s brother is now also well-adjusted with the guest and treats Ayesha as her sister.
This program was not new for Iqra as she had on opportunity stay in USA during another exchange program. She had to stay with American native families for a week and learned many new things on diversity and pluralism. She said that ToT remained helpful in selection of my guest as I had developed a good understanding with Ayesha during ToT activity.
While responding to reaction of relatives on this placement, she said that they did not intervene within my family affairs. Iqra’s father on the occasion said that he feels pleasure in taking care of Ayesha in the family, especially to manage pick and drop for Ayesha with Iqra and other family members during family gatherings including a recent wedding ceremony in Faisalabad.
During Ayesha’s stay at Multan with the host family, the mutual learning of the guest and the hosts about the culture, traditions, foods and local music and games has been tremendously enhanced. The crux of the sharing of their thoughts with the interviewers has been “Such cultural exchange programmes are truly blessing. Hence, SPO, VSO and PAIMAAN should continue this endeavor so that the people from different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds could be able to work together for peaceful and coherent society by eliminating all sorts of prejudices, discriminations and biased approaches from the society.