YES Programs



YES Alumni Grant: Special Educators’ Training Resource Workshop

Highligt Tariq Participants Signing The

By Iraj Tariq (YES 2016-2017, Pakistan, hosted by PAX in Buchanan, MI)

No question requires more contemplation than when I’m asked how my time as a YES exchange student has shaped me. I have spent a copious amount of time trying to come up with an answer that could possibly encapsulate a year’s worth of epiphanies and takeaways in a few sentences. Starting a conversation about your exchange experience is like that Pringles’ slogan: once you pop, you can’t stop! 

 I spent my YES year in Buchanan, Michigan – a traditional midwestern small town, known for its ample redbud trees, thriving downtown, and nurturing community. One of the most important things I learned during my time there is the influence a supportive community can have on an individual. The love and support that I received from my host family and the rest of the community resonates with me still today. I witnessed the wonderful things that can happen when an entire community advocates for inclusivity in all facets of life, which brings me to the crux of this article: my YES Alumni Grant Project.

Tariq Participants Engrossed In Session
Participants engaged in a workshop session

People with disabilities, especially children, are significantly disenfranchised in Pakistani society. Like many developing countries, the government has passed laws protecting some rights of people with disabilities, but most of the inclusivity efforts are spearheaded by NGOs and local startups. Under frequent financial strain, it is difficult for NGOs to fund training for their staff. Many individuals working for disability rights and inclusion in Pakistan lack the professional resources and guidance required to do their jobs successfully.

With the knowledge that many caring individuals work every day to support people with disabilities, but often lack resources or training, my alumni grant project team and I organized the Special Educators’ Training Resource Workshop (SETRW). SETRW was a three-day workshop, held in January 2020, for 50 educators and aides who work with and teach students with disabilities in Karachi, Hyderabad, and Quetta. 

Participants were trained by locally- and internationally-renowned experts in the fields of medicine, psychology, and special education. Each of the 11 expert trainers volunteered their time to the program. Session topics included developmental milestones, classroom inclusion, language and communication, and social and physical interventions to equip participants with the tools and skills required to best serve individuals with disabilities both within and beyond their classrooms.

Tariq Participants Practicing Communicating In Pakistani Sign Language
Participants practicing Pakistani Sign Language

We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants after the workshop. Emails and text messages of gratitude and appreciation flowed in. Many participants followed up to say that they are now applying the lessons learned during the workshop to their curriculum.

Muhammad Ehsan, an educator from Quetta, said, "I came all the way from Quetta to join this workshop. It proved to be very informative, exceeding my expectations. Attending it has inspired me to collaborate with everyone involved in this workshop to bring an initiative like this to Quetta, where other under-resourced special educators and aides can also benefit from such training sessions." 

Our evaluation of pre- and post-workshop surveys revealed that 100% of participants reported an increase in their knowledge about education for persons with disabilities after the workshop. 98% of participants' ratings improved when asked to rate how confident they were with their professional skills in teaching/caring for a child with disabilities.

Tariq Group Photo Of Participants At The End Of The Workshop
Group photo with workshop participants

I am beyond grateful to everyone who supported this initiative, giving my team and I the opportunity to give back to our community. Thank you to the YES Program, the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, American Councils for International Education, PAX, iEARN, the Department of Psychology at University of Karachi, ACELP, ICCBS management, the honorable speakers and experts who volunteered their time, our wonderful team of volunteers, and, of course, the participants for turning the small idea in our head and hearts into a reality. This project would not have been as successful as it was without your contribution.

To all those who have read this far, thank you. I wish to leave you with an afterthought: No matter our differences, we’re all capable of speaking one universal language – kindness. History is a testament to the fact that love has won more battles than the sword. So, today, tomorrow, many years from now – always choose kindness. 

#AccessForAll #ADA30