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Empowering Pakistan...

Land of the Pure is partnering with Power to Pakistan to empower the country's youth and improve the country's outlook for the future. Both non-profit, youth organisations engage Pakistan's younger population and empower them to support development in social, political and economic respects. Till date, Land of the Pure has featured multiple authors and artists from across the country, giving them the spotlight they need to become confident, well-rounded individuals. Power to Pakistan has fundraised for the Moqah Foundation for many years now as well as carrying out multiple 'exchange to change' programs. This partnership aims to bring more traction towards both initiatives, so that our efforts are able to bring as much change as possible!

By Macy Hopkinson

What if I told you that I have a proposal to engage thousands of smart and diverse student diplomats who are eager to engage in a meaningful dialogue about their respective familial, cultural, and educational experiences? What if I told you that this force could be mobilized quickly and that the program would be highly cost effective? What if I told you that the interaction between these emerging leaders could engender lasting change that would improve relations between the U.S. and Pakistan? Well, today, I do have a proposal to bridge the gap between the United States and Pakistan.

Three years ago, I founded Power to Pakistan, a non-profit organisation raising funds to support education and development in Pakistan. The organisation, now working with the Moqah foundation, has supported many children, specifically young girls, in gaining an education. Power to Pakistan was created in an effort to support the often-ignored communities of rural Pakistan, and explore Pakistan's culture, landscape and potential in depth and with an open-mind. We run two schools, operated by the Moqah Foundation, in rural Pakistan where students are given the quality education they deserve. Power to Pakistan also carries out international pen pal exchange programs, Exchange to Change, between students in the United States and Pakistan.

Power to Pakistan ran a small pen pal exchange between students in Aspen, Colorado and Bhara Kahu, Pakistan. The letters included meaningful discussions about cultural differences and misconceptions. My pen pal, for example, discussed the challenges that she faces as a girl growing up in a conservative Pakistani family. I was surprised to see how easily these students, who are from completely different backgrounds, connected with each other.

I will let the words from student letters speak for themselves:

"My thoughts have totally changed about the U.S., especially after this pen pal program. I learned that U.S. people are very nice and they take care of needy people, which I think is the best purpose of being human." - Pakistani student

"The pen pal exchange helped me to gain perspective into the lives of students just like me from other countries. It helped me to realize how we are similar in some ways, sports etc., but different in others, celebrations and culture." - U.S. student

After realizing the immense changes in perspectives that this program had, I wanted to implement it nation-wide. Thus, Exchange to Change was created to break cultural stereotypes and build peace between the two nations.

Pen pal exchanges have the potential to change the views of an entire generation. Participating students have brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and countless extended family members and friends. They will also grow up to become parents and mentors to future generations. What if each of these students were to share what they have learned about the other culture with their social network? Think about the potential impact if Exchange to Change were to be expanded across hundreds of schools in the U.S. and Pakistan, with thousands of students acting as diplomats.

Radical views and hatred against the U.S. are often born within local families, many of which have had exposure to the United States. Similarly, ignorant views of Americans toward people from Pakistan often result from misinformation and a lack of a rudimentary understanding of Pakistani culture and beliefs. If we are going to eliminate these prejudices, we need to address the problem at its root and go directly to the Pakistani and U.S. people, particularly, children, whose minds and opinions are still developing. Exchange to Change is simple, practical, and effective, and has the potential to start a revolution of new thinking and possibility. Supporting our mission would be giving education the importance it deserves, and allowing the change-makers of tomorrow to see the world as it is.

Editing by Myra Ahmed



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