Its very easy to get despondent in Pakistan. The day to day life in this nation is a mixture of acute stress, dashed hopes and little streaks of brilliance which only a country so raped by strife and conflict can come up with. Add to that the fact that doing social work here or anything that remotely has hope of effecting any change is met with as many hurdles as climbing K2 and you have a puritan recipe for mental anguish. So here I was getting a little jaded and more than a little frustrated with my life in Pakistan. Perhaps I had seen too many dying in the field in relief work, perhaps I was carrying the guilt of not having been able to do enough for my country, perhaps I was just a little too tired and fed up to continue caring as I did once.
Yet here I am, completely inspired again and believe it or not its all because of 40 17-18 year old’s who I was tasked to conduct two workshops with at the I Earn youth tech conference in Islamabad. The I earn program is an exchange based one sponsored by the US department of State, in which these kids are chosen from all over Pakistan and when I mean all over its areas like Abbotabad, Mardan, Hyderabad & Quetta that I speak off. The batches are then adopted by families in the U.S for over a year where they live, go to school and gain international exposure from before coming back to their respective lives here. They are then YES alumni and invited to different tech camps to help sharpen their skills.
When I walked into the tech camp in the margalla hotel in Isloo, it was after a harrowing delay of 5 hours before boarding at Karachi airport and that too at the behest of people who would not tell us what was going on (PIA), but that is a tale for another day. The point is, I was pissed off to begin with and then had not been able to sleep that much before we all got together at 8am and the youth camp began. In short I was not a very happy camper when I sat down to begin my session with these 40 young people.
Youth you see may appear a bit naive but radiate energy which only fresh minds can bring. As I sat their telling them what social media can do and what limits they should never set on their expression it dawned on me that these were the people who could do what my generation has failed at. Why did we fail? Well we haven’t failed entirely as long as these kids and others like them are still out there willing to learn have we? However we failed in our own eyes because we saw injustice and we didn’t do much to stop it but condemned it later. We failed because we did not have people telling us and showing us the tools we could use. We also failed because we were told to fight against a system which didn’t let us be part of its own self and so we fought and are still fighting as outsiders.
These kids however comprise more than 65% of our Pakistan today. They learned how to use I would say about 4 technologies during the course of three days in this tech camp and came up with three brilliant end products to take the learning forward. They will get further equipped with more and more training and the stability that years in this life brings you. They “will” be the future because they are most geared to deal with it at such a young age. They also have great mentors in Farah kamal and Saleem sahab to look up to as they go forward. Whats most important though is that they have the actual zeal and the power to make real tangible change happen in this country and currently the numbers as well!
We always looked at this nation and compared it to what it could have been. These kids however look at it and see opportunity to make it what it could be. I have high hopes for my nation today after just three days with them. We aren’t done yet, not while these people are still here and striving to learn, to educate themselves and to be ready for the fight that is to come, because the future of this nation rests on educating those who will will bring it into being. Not in relying on those who could not see beyond their own toenails or in other words agendas.
The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.
To all the friends I made at this tech camp and to the willing learners which participated in it, my heart soars at thoughts of what you will achieve. I am just glad i will be able to tell my kids when they grow up that I was there when the evolution not the revolution in this nation started.