YES Programs



The Art of Recycling

Hair Pins

By Maria Taqdees (YES 2004-2005, Pakistan, hosted by ASSE in Reno, NV)

My name is Maria Taqdees, and I live in Karachi, Pakistan in a town called Baldia. Baldia is an area of Pakistan where people struggle to earn enough money to cook two meals a day, so they often have to decide between education and food – and most of the time, food wins. The literacy rate is quite low in Baldia, so people also lack awareness about advanced technologies, medical care, hygiene, women’s rights, and law and order.

In 2004, I participated in the Kennedy Lugar YES program and went to the U.S. for a one year scholarship program. While I was there, I was like a blank paper, and it was my mentors, teachers, and host family who filled me with colors and taught me that we all are here on this planet for a reason. We have been given gifts, and we have to figure out our responsbility towards the people around us.

After moving to Baldia, I started a small institute for women because I believe that if you want to educate an entire nation, you must teach their women. I named the institute the YES Alumni Community Learning Center. After a few years of teaching basic literacy, computer skills, and English, I came to understand that it would be more beneficial for the women and children if we also taught them vocational skills. I began offering vocational courses such as mehndi design, tailoring, jewelery making, textile design, cosmetology, and interior design. This is how I began the journey of converting the YES Alumni Community Learning Center into the YES Alumni Vocational Training Center. 


In 2015, I received a YES alumni grant for a project called, “Recycling Crafts for Children.” In the first phase of grant, local children collected materials from their neighborhoods such as plastic bottles, broken vases, newspapers, plastic spoons and cups, paper plates, curtains, wood, and other items that people normally throw out as garbage. We recycled these items into beautiful art work. These local children already have jobs and get few moments to enjoy their youth. They loved being at the center, playing with colors, making art, and being creative. In the second phase of the project, I added vocational courses for the women and held a exhibitions to display and sell the art work to build the women’s self confidence that they can run their own business.

YAVTC is briniging lots of positive changes into many lives. Starting an institue was not easy in the beginning. I want to thank the YES program and the U.S. Department of State for having faith in me. I also want to thank iEARN and my mentors in Pakistan.

Shiny Stuff