Not everyone is willing to experience the issues facing the world or ones that they might even care about. It is easy watching from a world away and it is a totally different when you walk a day in their footsteps. I wanted to quit subsisting in a sense of verisimilitude. I wanted to genuinely empathize with the people struggling in Pakistan, because until I do, I will never be able to do anything for them. I have been to Pakistan before, but I never really got to talk to and hear the stories of the people that are struggling.
It has been a little over a month since I have been in Pakistan as an American Pakistan Fellow with the National Rural Support Program (NRSP). I have met so many amazingly talented and resilient people. It is a sustainable program which is continuing to grow, helping in reducing poverty, and it is developing the rural communities. NRSP is mobilizing the rural communities and is helping them be self-sufficient.
Through NRSP, we were able to go to Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. When we got there, everyone was so welcoming and kind. We were able to sit in on a training session and meet with women who are trying to make a change in their communities through the help of NRSP and other organizations. They are empowering these women to take on leadership roles. We later went to a community which had benefited through a previous program which was related to sanitation. They were able to convince the villagers to build and utilize bathrooms, as well as improve hygienic practices. The program we went to do research on and speak to them about was called “Waseela-e-Taleem.” Through this program, a family receives money as an incentive to send their children to school. They really want their children to be able to go school, and are able to do this once given the right tools and resources.
At this point in my life, I know I have a long way to go and a lot to learn. But I am no longer afraid of going into the dark or falling. I have realized that all I need is a flashlight to light the way, and maybe, sometimes not even that because, as the people here have shown me, sometimes we are the light itself. I do not want to “help” anyone. I just want to be able to hold their hand as they look for their own gateways. I will never forget these people and their stories. I know I am imperfect, and that I cannot help everyone alone, so I just want to try to live, breathe, and be together.
APF Fellow, Urwah Ahmad
Journalism New Media Studies and Political Science Graduate at St. Joseph’s College
Placement: Waseela-e-Taleem Program
Having come to the New York at a young age, Urwah’s Pakistani identity still plays a big a part in her life. She has served as Senior Class Representative and on the Budget Committee at St. Joseph’s College. She was also the Digital Editorial Director for the Campus Newspaper. She has previously interned or worked with the Brooklyn Reporter, Tzu Chi, and the State Department.