Drawing strength from their diversity, Pakistani youth chart a roadmap for their future — The Ismaili

Participants at National Youth Camp 2012 in Karachi come together for a group photograph. Photo: The Ismaili Pakistan / Al Jalil
Participants at National Youth Camp 2012 in Karachi come together for a group photograph. Photo: The Ismaili Pakistan / Al Jalil

Young Ismailis from across Pakistan grappled with the challenge of re-imagining their country’s future last year at the National Youth Camp 2012 held in Karachi. Some 80 participants aged 18 – 22 engaged in dialogue about differences and commonality, reflected on how to make positive life choices, and learnt how they might transform their hopes for a better world into reality.

Themed Dream, Dare and Do…, the camp — organised by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Pakistan (AKYSBP) — led participants on an exploration of social, economic, health, educational, and other issues and opportunities that face the youth. They were challenged to develop a “Vision 2020” for the Pakistan Jamat, which would include innovative solutions to improve quality of life.

“We were extremely fortunate to [have met] with the National Council and Jamati leaders [who shared] the work of AKDN and also the guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam for the youth,” said Amjad Ali Shah, a camp participant from Hyderabad, Sindh. “We worked in a group project called Vision 2020, in which representatives of the Jamati institutions shared the objectives, activities, challenges and success stories, and later we worked on the challenges and presented our views and solutions in the camp.”

Group discussions included a roundtable forum in which the Jamati and AKDN institutional representatives spent time with the campers, explaining their institutional roles, impacts and challenges. Photo: The Ismaili Pakistan / Al Jalil
Group discussions included a roundtable forum in which the Jamati and AKDN institutional representatives spent time with the campers, explaining their institutional roles, impacts and challenges. Photo: The Ismaili Pakistan / Al Jalil

The 80 participants, who came from across the country, brought with them a range of cultural backgrounds; notably, some 13 per cent of them were Afghan youth living in Pakistan. Counting many from rural parts of the country as well as youth with special abilities, the camp was broadly inclusive, with young women representing 40 per cent of participants. Twenty-four individuals were visiting Karachi for the first time.

The mother of one youngster, who is physically challenged and wheelchair-bound said: “I was impressed with the level of care and support extended to my son, Imran by AKYSBP. My son was in tears on the last day of the camp – he just didn’t want to go home as he was leaving the 80 friends from all over Pakistan who made Imran feel like a family member.”

The group’s diversity was evident and frequently cited as a unique part of the camp experience. Originally from Afghanistan, Tehmina Shahnazar said: “I consider myself lucky to be part of this one-of-a-kind camp, where I saw diversity at its best. Being from Afghanistan, I had always wondered if I was going to be the right fit for this kind of National Youth Camp, but I saw youngsters coming from all backgrounds.”

Participants take a keen interest in the music session during the National Youth Camp. Photo: The Ismaili Pakistan / Al Jalil
Participants take a keen interest in the music session during the National Youth Camp. Photo: The Ismaili Pakistan / Al Jalil

Arif Jan of Aliabad, Hunza agreed: “It was great to be among youth from different regions and also Afghan youth and learn about their culture. We learnt many new things — for example emerging careers, which are not commonly discussed in our regions like Gilgit-Baltistan.” (…)

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