Belonging to a social setting, the most rural area of Pakistan, throughout my childhood, my family lived in a hand-to-mouth situation. Having mere farmers for grandparents and struggling parents, we were able to scrape enough only to feed us daily and pay a few bills. Given the circumstances, my young mother had to step foot outside the safety and privacy of her house, and struggle just like a man to help in reducing some of the burdens.
Despite being continuously tormented by a narrow minded society for working in a workplace full of men and hardly any women, my mother pressed on because nothing else mattered to her except a better future through better education for my siblings and me! Day and night, rain or sunshine, through their worst days, my parents struggled, pushing themselves beyond their limits, because they had three children to educate and raise.
Hearing about theKL-YES programand how the people who were able to avail this wonderful opportunity began a completely new and exhilarating chapter of their lives, a fire of passion started in me. It hit me like a lightning bolt, and my resolve was as hard as a rock. There was no fear and no hesitation. It came all too naturally, like something meant to be. And I’d made my decision;I was going to be an exchange student.That is because I had a purpose in mind, a drive far too strong to be ignored.
The dream of being an ambassador and to bring a change in the society compelled me to step out of my comfort zone to try to achieve what most would only imagine. Separation from friends and family, saying goodbye to familiar surroundings and starting a completely new chapter of my life didn’t faze me. I had my mind set on a goal and nothing could stop me from accomplishing it.
In spite of all the hardships and suffering, my mother’s dream of me receiving a good education managed to survive. But it disheartened her that there were hardly any schools in our village, and the teachers could barely string two words of English together. Realizing I’d never be able to come to my full potential in these circumstances, she mustered the courage to move to another part of the country all by herself with her three children, leaving my father behind.
For more than a year, she struggled alone and managed everything by herself. Pushing aside all of her own desires and needs, she paid my school fees through loans and borrowed money. Doing everything in her capacity and even more, she brought me to this level today, and I know I have to live up to her expectations. I have to keep achieving more, because even my minute accomplishments are proof that her efforts have not gone in vain.
However, in many ways, my life was much better than that of the thousands of other people in my village, Chitral. I’ve witnessed accounts too difficult to forget and images too vivid to push out of my mind. The sight of houses made of mud being blown apart by the harsh weather; children whose parents couldn’t afford to send to them to school or even properly feed or dress them; frail, aged people who were suffering every day because the expenses of going to a hospital are too much to bear; and people on the streets because the flood had completely demolished their houses was more heartbreaking than anything I’ve ever experienced. I don’t think I can even begin to imagine their hardships and pain.
Yet, regardless of everything, barefoot children in rags with dirt on their faces wore the brightest smiles you would ever see.“We want to go to school,” they’d said with their heads held high.They wanted to be doctors or pilots so they’d walk around clutching books in their tiny hands. That moment, I wondered,is it fair they’d never be given a chance to accomplish their goals? Is it fair their dreams will be crushed just because they had immeasurable talent but no money or opportunities? Why is it that innocent people with hearts of gold should be deprived of basic necessities of like food, water, shelter, etc.?
My heart yearns to do something for these people. I want to be able to uncover their potential and find means for them to channel it. Seventy years down the road since independence, Pakistan has witnessed mostly nothing but failures. Despite having vast potentials for renewable energy, one of the biggest coal reserves, millions of hectares of cultivated land and an enormous labor pool, my county’s survival depends on foreign aid and loans! In the face of such economic upheaval, I as a citizen of such an embattled nation decided to fight for myself to progress and help many others like me, who don’t have my brave mother and opportunities like me due to which they can’t even complete their college level education!
That is whythis scholarship mattered so much to me. It gives me a chance to grow as an individual and shapes my personality. A sense of responsibility and leadership has been instilled in me. By putting the skills and traits I’ve managed to gain as a cultural ambassador, I wish to bring a positive change in my life along with the lives of those people who aren’t as privileged or lucky as me.
It is my vision to work for the development of rural areas of Pakistan like Chitral, where there is so much talent but very limited opportunities. If people in these areas were given the chance to get a good education and come to their full potential, there would definitely be an addition of highly bright minds to the world; people who actually posses the dream and ability to transform the society. I want to create awareness about education and exchange programs in these areas, so that the people can utilize their abilities in a highly positive way and transfigure their lives.
Cultural exchange programs are a wonderful platform for future leaders of the world, and I believe the people of Pakistan have the potential to represent the true essence and beauty of their culture. Hence, when my YES journey comes to a close, I wish to keep working as a cultural ambassador and make people realize the significance of exchange programs in this era of stereotypes.I aim to break the various misunderstandings that exist about different cultures in the world and portray their beauty and uniqueness instead.I feel that it is my goal to convince more teenagers to avail such opportunities, as it is surely a very memorable experience where you are constantly progressing as an individual while learning so many worthwhile things.
In conclusion, I’d say that theYES-programis definitely the best thing that has happened to me in my life. I’ve realized that there is so much more you can accomplish in life, and if you were given this chance, you should definitely be thankful. For every day you are living someone’s dream, you are becoming a source of inspiration for someone out there and making your nation proud. This program made me a leader; an ambassador. What else could I ask for?
This is merely the beginning, for I aspire to achieve much more. I continue to have a thirst for the knowledge needed to give back to my community, to help others, and most importantly to prove that what really matters is not where one comes from, but where one’s heading!