Yazan’s world has gotten smaller as he has connected with people from across the globe.
Six months ago, Pakistani alumnus Talha Qureshi ’07 had a vision. As a member of iEARN’s YouthCan forum, a networking site dedicated to the YouthCan Project, Talha felt inspired to actively address what he saw as a severe lack of environmental education in most schools throughout Pakistan.
YouthCan is an organization that uses technology to inspire, connect and educate people worldwide about environmental issues. Through his participation in the YouthCan forums, Talha conceived a plan to engage young people in community service projects that would promote environmental awareness, and envisioned a committee which would inspire students to become engaged in activities such as beach cleanings, the production of documentary films on environmental issues for elementary school children, tree plantings, recycling bin installations and environmental workshops that help make the environment a better place.
Talha tapped his fellow alumni to serve in YouthCaN. One of the committee’s first activities was a beach cleanup. The group traveled to the seacoast in Karachi, where they collected articles of clothing, shoes, bottles, plastic toys, cans, boxes and other items that had been disposed of along the coast. Local tourists and residents were extremely appreciative of the effort, and some even joined the alumni to help. “This Youth-can project provided me with an awareness toward a healthy planet,” noted YES alumna Syeda Muniba, ’09. “By getting involved in this project, I felt satisfied in contributing my part for a better future. Now I know the importance of a beautiful and neat planet, which will provide us with a prosperous life!”
The beach cleanup activity led to additional themes of “clean up” community service projects, including a playground clean up at the Government Boys Secondary School in Karachi. This playground was practically inaccessible due to the amount of trash found on the premises. YouthCaN, with help from the student body, was able to accomplish their task. In addition, a total of 120 saplings were planted at the school, and students pledged to adopt the trees and take care of them.
Other schools that benefited from YouthCan activities included the Federal Government Model School for Boys, where another tree planting ceremony was held, and the Kutyana Memon Association Girls School, where recycling bins were installed throughout the premises.
YouthCaN engaged in other project initiatives at Lakeview Park and Trail 1 Margalla Hills in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where they organized a public park cleanup and awareness campaign. Many volunteers signed up to be a part of this successful endeavor. Alumni also installed recycling bins at Quaid-e-Azam College in Rawalpindi to promote awareness of the importance of recycling, and held global warning lectures for students and faculty members.
With so many activities successfully executed, YES alumnus Zuhair Ahmed Khan ‘09 spoke of his experience. “Working with YouthCaN was an awesome experience for me. I always wanted to keep the environment and the country clean and make a difference. We planted more than 100 trees and plants in government schools and showed videos and documentaries about how to keep the environment clean. People were really happy to see us working to make this environment a better place!”
On April 26th, YouthCaN continued to expand upon its theme of environmental awareness through its participation in the worldwide YouthCaN Conference at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, via video conferencing. Participants at the conference were able brainstorm ideas and present several different environmental projects. Special consideration was given to issues regarding global warming, water conservation and endangered species protection. Students from the Government S.I.T.E Model School in Karachi, which is a public school for underprivileged children, also gathered at the iEARN Center to participate in the video conference that lasted almost an hour. Alumni were able to share and discuss all of their recent activities as participants in YouthCaN. The group’s participation received coverage from The Nation newspaper in its April 29th issue.
The activities of the YouthCan committee required a lot of planning, and the hard work has really paid off. Many of the activities have been featured in the local and national news. Future activities include the promotion and creation of YouthCan clubs in schools, as well as the development of an advocacy campaign for Corporate Social Responsibility, where alumni will reach out to the corporate sector and ask for its support in making the environment a better place. Talha’s vision has become reality.