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Students from a low income urban settlement in Rawalpindi visit the United States Educational Foundation in Islamabad for a career counselling and mentoring workshop

It is a widely known fact that Libraries and access to information and skills provide people with the opportunities to improve their lives, reduce poverty and improve future prospects. The Akhter Hameed Khan Resource center (AHKRC), a non-profit developmental organization, embarked on a similar journey to create a reading culture and promote literacy in underserved urban communities. It established a Library and Learning Center for underprivileged children and young adults to cater to the need for books and promote a love for reading in Dhok Hassu, a low income urban settlement located on the outskirts of Rawalpindi city.

Dhok Hassu students visiting USEFP Islamabad

Realizing a growing need for access to information the center also started conducting English and Computer literacy classes, storytelling, mentorship, and guest speaker sessions which became widely popular among the local school children.

Recognizing the excitement and response these kind of interactive sessions inspire, AHKRC in collaboration with the United States Educational Foundation (USEFP) also hosted a mentoring and career development session for these students at the foundation’s advising center in Islamabad.

In August this year, a coaster carrying an excited batch of students between the ages of 14–18 was taken to the USEFP offices in Islamabad for the work shop.

At the center, educational advisors Omer Zulfikar and Mashal Naeem warmly welcomed the students and briefed them about the role of USEFP in promoting education through a comprehensive network of programs and services that are available for securing admission in Pakistani and US universities. They assisted the students in researching career choices and exposed them to available opportunities as they navigate their career options.

Counseling Session in Progress

As the session progressed, the advisors shared information about the type of services USEFP provides for students and explained some of the steps involved in pursuing education in the US. They also briefed students on how to gain admission in universities in Pakistan and shared insights for those aspiring to visit the US for higher education.

The participating students were encouraged to devise a future plan of action as they navigate a route to the type of career they are passionate about pursuing. The students listened intently as they were advised to identify, polish and hone any unique skills that they possess. It was interesting to see how the students were able to relate to the subject as one eager listener quipped “I trained with a tailor during my school break and polished my sewing skills. Can I turn this into a business someday?”. His remark received a resounding yes and he even got some tips on how he could start his own business someday. The counselors also stressed on the need to develop a habit of inquiry and constant research.

Initially, the students seemed hesitant and reluctant to participate, but as the session progressed and with support and encouragement from the advisors they opened up and sought advice regarding their studies and field of interest. One such energetic participant was an eight year old student who shared her ambition to be a journalist and asked the presenter who coincidentally also happened to be a journalist for advice and direction to pursue a career in journalism.

The presenters also discussed the dynamics of future professions all the while highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of jobs in the future.

The event concluded with a tea session followed by an interactive Q&A session where students posed questions at the organizers and discussed their concerns and queries regarding higher education and ways to avail employment opportunities.

However, not all the students were keen on participating in the Q&A session as they appeared timid and reluctant to speak. One way to address this could be to plan activities and workshops centered on confidence building and public speaking.

Despite this, the event ended on a positive note with the concluding remark followed by students directly approaching the advisors and discussing their problems and sharing their aspirations for the future.

AHKRC has always strived to embrace a research based theory of experiential learning or learning through experience. Keeping this theory in mind the organizers vowed to design future sessions based on the learnings garnered from this workshop. The AHKRC & USEFP representatives vowed to conduct more sessions that are interactive and engaging in nature to enable effective learning. It was also decided that future workshops will be focused on improving public speaking and communication skills.

If you’d like to donate or get involved for supporting education of underprivileged children in Dhok Hassu, reach out at library@ahkrc.org.

Contributed by Sehrish Qamar

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