At Global Encounters, exposure to thorough service learning plays an integral part in developing a sense of global citizenship, as well as to encourage interaction between the participants and the local communities in which they surround themselves with. As an alumnus from the GE Pakistan Program, 17-year-old Sofia Babool shares her experience working with 11 other students in the Sultanabad Colony in Karachi, Pakistan.
Global Encounters is an international programme for adolescent Ismaili Muslim youth focused on service, leadership development, culture, and global citizenship.
A Targeted Approach to Sustainable Development: The Relationship Between the Recipients of Aid and the Conductors of Aid
Immersion in the Sultanabad community-based school was an ample opportunity to not only intimately interact with the Ismaili students present, but also fully understand the complexities of sustainable development in the education arena.
Upon arrival into the community-based learning center, the senior staff members and the principal provided 11 of the GE participants, including myself, with a thorough outlook as to the needs of the school as a whole, which included English-targeted learning, developing new methods of student engagement, as well as encouragement for amplified parental involvement. British participant, Aly Ali, said that “attending to the kids of the school and inputting our own pedagogy into their learning seemed like a daunting task at the first moment of asking, however, such was the aura of the school and the willingness of the pupils and their highly capable teachers that the daunting feeling was soon transformed into love and passion for the students.” As a previously Council-run initiative, the school is now donation-supported, with a trained staff of over 30 individuals. After conducting a thorough needs assessment, the following areas were targeted:
- Informative: Personal hygiene and public health
- Academic: English language teaching aids
- Societal: Environmental consciousness
- Awareness: Understanding Gender Binaries
These four areas of development were chosen based on our thorough analysis within the first two days of exposure. However, this week and half occurrence was a clear window as to the time, energy and analysis needed to provide an effective plan for sustainable development. Conducting projects and creating intricate lesson plans were all designed with the idea of maintainable progress in mind. Would the projects and methods for student engagement be present after we left? What would we have to provide to the school to ensure the sustainability of our work after we were gone? These were the questions that we were forced to contemplate, and creatively analyze for application.
As an additional sector of my trip to Pakistan, all the participants were given the opportunity to attend an AKDN exhibition in the Serena Hotel in Islamabad. Exposed to various leaders of diverse AKDN institutions, for the first time I fully understood the density of strategic planning and assessments that are conducted on a focus area in need of development, whether that be related to education, health or rural support. AKDN is the physical manifestation of the Imam’s vision of the cosmopolitan ethic, and intimate interaction with the students in the community-based school provided me with a small sample of the grass-root level work the Imam’s institutions conducts.
The conglomeration of these four projects, as well as the AKDN exhibition were opportunities to not simply target areas of development needed for colonial improvement, but they were also outlets through which I was witness to the complexities of underdevelopment and the beauty of great potential. I fear, however, that too often many fall into the trap of looking upon international service learning as a simple way for privileged individuals to provide pockets of opportunity for others, however, the truth couldn’t be further away. Global Encounters taught me that service learning was an opportunity to work with our Ismaili brothers and sisters, and to acknowledge that the recipients of aid and the conductors of aid both have the responsibility of the constant sharing of knowledge.