Kamal Udin (YES 2011-2012, ACES, Sioux Falls SD)
I hail from Gilgit-Baltistan, an underserved region in the mountainous northern part of Pakistan. The region is naturally scenic, culturally very rich, and it is famous worldwide due to the hospitality of the local people. There are also big challenges that people are facing in the form of lack of early childhood and quality education, health awareness and facilities, and other social issues.
When I returned back home after the YES program I felt that I am capable of helping people due to the experiences and exposure I had through YES; I had completed nearly 90 hours of community service during my YES year, which meant I learned better management skills and built a habit of helping underprivileged individuals. I had realized the importance of volunteerism and the network of change makers. I joined the active YES alumni group of Pakistan and became engaged in community service projects. I have participated in a diverse range of projects that focused on creating awareness, motivating youth, and facilitating citizens. So far most of my projects have focused on the development of youth, education, and awareness about opportunities because I believe only through better education and educated mindset the community can grow. The most inspiring factor about doing these projects is that these become a source of hope or happiness for someone who is living a stressful life. I work with schools in slums and deprived areas where students can barely afford clothes and shoes. Those kids get motivated about their future when they hear about how to set goals and how education is going to change their life in the next few years.
After observing the sheer need of an institution that could provide quality education in my village Gupis, I founded the school named “Quaid-e-Azam School.” The school aims to provide modern educational system and facilities in the far-flung rural area. The YES office in Pakistan helped me to establish a Learning Resource Center in the school to provide a comfortable study environment for the students. The project is helping students in building reading skills and improving writing skills in a young age. The variety of reading material in the learning center gives a rich exposure to the visitors about the outer world.
This year I received a YES Alumni Grant for an Educational Expo Project, which was completed in a two month span. I led the team of alumni, volunteers and professionals to carry out career counseling sessions at 13 remote villages of Gilgit-Hunza region. The project benefited more than 5,000 students as career counselors and field experts took sessions and provided handouts to the participants which contained information about various local, national, and international scholarships. This was a special project for me because the residents of these areas face several issues including access to up-to-date information, educational facilities, and platforms for professional grooming.
It has been a proud moment for me to emerge as one of the most active youth leaders in the region and this is all because of YES. YES gave me the confidence and exposure during my exchange year and later when I returned to Pakistan it gave me the wonderful country leadership of Mrs. Farah Kamal (the YES Country Coordinator) and the rest of the YES team. The YES office in Pakistan has played a huge role in motivating alumni to work for the betterment of their society and they have provided every support.
YES is the best thing that happened to me, it brought a huge change in my life. I got to experience a bigger perspective of the world by interacting with people from all around the world. I also experienced the culture of the United States firsthand and got to remove many misconceptions and stereotypes I had about it. After coming back from the U.S., I felt a completely different person; more aware of the world, the community, world peace, and harmony. YES program gave me a very rich exposure and equipped me with significant skills such as leadership and communication skills. I believe the most important thing I learned during my YES year was knowing and understanding people and respecting them regardless of what ethnic background, what country, and what religion they belong to. Before participating in YES program in had never thought that such an exquisite family bond can be formed outside the natural family.