YES is highlighting an alum from each year of the program.
My name is Maria, I participated as a YES Scholar in 2004-2005. As a YES scholar, I was just an ordinary girl from Pakistan with the dreams about my future. However, upon my return from USA, I was married into an under-resourced family.
I began my married life in Baldia Town, Karachi in Pakistan. Most community residents in Baldia Town are rikshaw, van, truck, and taxi drivers, or daily wage laborers. My own father-in-law was a rikshaw driver. As I adapted to my new life, I found it challenging to see people living below the poverty level.
The socio-economic environment in Baldi Town contributes to a distinct lack of educated and literate people in the area. Most youth, especially young girls, do not go to school because parents cannot afford their education. Due to the conservative nature, females are not encouraged to go out of the house - even for educational purposes. Most mothers in the area are illiterate which negatively affects children's upbringing. Women are unable to perform daily life tasks efficiently, such as completing basic arithmetic, or using public buses because they can’t read buses routes. If children are allowed to attend school, parents can’t help them in homework assignments. Most women are housewives because they are not allowed to leave the house due to conservative husbands.
After a while, I decided that instead of staying depressed and cursing my situation, I would help women in my community gain an education and hopefully help them better their lives. My one year as a YES Scholar in Reno, Nevada taught me to engage in communities and be proactive in helping. I learned how to persevere and change failures into success. Another major big lesson I learned, which spoke to the success of the YES program, is that I carried out all program activities without compromising on tradition, values, and norms of my community.
In efforts to accomplish my goals, I approached the iEARN-Pakistan team with my vision. They were exceptionally helpful and supported my initiative wholeheartedly. By leveraging the YES Alumni network, they helped me established a Community Learning Centre in my home. My humble one-bedroom home became a Community Learning Centre during the daytime. The Learning Centre, is equipped with two computers with access to the internet and all necessary course material for English language classes and adult female literacy classes. My husband, an employee for the navy in a small post, has played a phenomenal role in helping me realize my dreams and goals, and my two children were the greatest motivation for me to bring change in the community.
In the first year of the program, I focused on the following goals:
The Community Learning Centre targets girls and women of all ages with a desire to learn and improve their lives. Some girls from the area also volunteered however way they could in all classes. iEARN-Pakistan professionals provided me with guidelines, resources and training to lead the Learning Centre efficiently.
On May 26th, 2012 the Learning Centre held a Graduation Ceremony for all individuals who participated in the Centre's programs. Highlights from the Centre are numerous, but here are a few I'd like to share:
In approximately two years, I successfully provided English Language training to young females who are going or have gone to school. This program engaged students two-hours a day for five days a week. The course covered basic English language skills including, grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, oral comprehension. A few students are now Montessori teachers in neighborhood schools.
The Computer Training Program engaged young females on practical application of computer usage. They learned basic internet skills, technological terms, and web surfing skills. In over a 3 months period, they were able to use computers efficiently. One student, whose father collects and sells junk on a push cart, learned ICT and English language skills, was soon employed by an NGO in the interior of Sind; she now earns a decent pay, and can provide housing for her entire family and education for her siblings.
The Basic Literacy Program targeted older women. Most participants in this program were mothers who were eager to learn basic day-to-literacy. Using Visual Learning methods, I taught them basic vocabulary and mathematic calculations. By the end of 3 months, many of them were able to read and comprehend newspapers, TV slides, signboards, bus routes, etc. They were also efficiently using cell phones on their own. A number of women who came to the Learning Centre suffered from depression, isolation, financial vulnerability, and hopeless from their lives. The Basic Literacy Program provided them with an opportunity to direct their thoughts and attentions in different things such as reading and discussion sections that fostered community and honed their hidden abilities and talents.
Back in 2004, when Maria completed her YES exchange year, President George Bush addressed the YES students in the closing ceremony; in his address he quoted Maria Taqdees; " Maria, from Pakistan . . . put it well in an essay she wrote about her experience. There's some Americans who may be watching this on TV now, and I want them to hear what Maria wrote. She says, 'The very important thing I learned about America is that it's a melting pot where you can find the world in one place living together. I really appreciate this,' she said." Maria continues to positively impact her community, and plans to expand the Community Learning Centre's reach throughout the community. To see pictures from the Community Learning Centre Graduation Ceremony, please see below: