By Husnain Ahmed (YES 2021-2022, Pakistan, placed by AFS-USA in Falls Village,CT)
There is a saying in the international exchange community, “exchange is not a year in one’s life, but a life in a year.” But what about the impact that the exchange year has left on the students? For some people, more confidence is the new impact, for some English fluency is the new impact, and for some serving the community is the new Impact. And I think, serving my community is the actual impact that my exchange year had on me.
While living in the U.S. I volunteered more than 100 hours at the fire station, food pantry, and high school, not for the certificate but for the experience, internal peace, and mental satisfaction.That’s why after returning to Pakistan, I made the decision to participate in community projects as much as I could. I came to know that the YES alumni Network in Pakistan is already working on the mission to serve the community.
In September, I participated as a volunteer for the Flood Relief Project and set up medical camps, distributing rations for the flood affected people in Pakistan under the supervision of my senior YES alumni. After this project, I participated in many other projects that were conducted by senior YES alumni on several topics such as podcasts and storytelling, and building libraries. I also wanted to conduct a project on my own, and for this fellow YES alum, Vareesha Zafar, and I conducted the Celebrating Inclusivity Project in November. This was the sparkle that fired my inner self to conduct more projects. I also conducted a three day long “English Language Workshop” for 9th grade girls and a four-day long “Teaching Global Perspective” for 5th to 8th graders at a local school in my community along with other YES alumni in December.
Recently, along with other YES alumni, Rameen Tahir, Taghreed Iftikhar, Arshia Sabir, Inam Hussain, Sameen Shaukat and one senior alum, Sagar Shabbir, we conducted three Christmas & New Year Celebration projects at different churches in two different cities. The main purpose of this project was to spread the message of love and peace and to respect cultural diversity. We participated in their religious ceremonies, told them about the YES program, and distributed gifts and refreshments to almost 300 children and most of them were from deserving families. Children made Christmas cards and gave them to each other. All three church administrations were very happy and gave us huge respect and a lot of prayers that we as YES alumni are working at such a young age and spreading the message of peace, it will definitely bring positive change in society.
This is the actual impact that I wanted to see in my life, and it’s just the start. To serve my community is one of those things that I learned during my exchange year. I would like to thank the U.S. Department of State, AFS Intercultural Programs, and American Councils, for their support. I’m sincerely grateful to the Society for International Education, iEARN Pakistan, the YES Alumni Pakistan Network, and especially to all my fellow alumni who worked and helped me on all those projects. It is said that, “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”