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Project Ambassadors in Islamabad Reflect on Their First Lessons in the Classroom

The Project Ambassadors from NUST in Islamabad, Pakistan reflect on their first lessons in the classroom during the Fall 2013 Semester. The Project Ambassadors visit Islamabad Model College for Boys weekly.

Written by Nauman Muhammad Khan, Maria Riaz, Waheed Ud Din Siddiqui, and Syed Maaz Imran

Having worked with OWYP as a project ambassador for over six months I have had tons of amazing experiences. Last month we started out giving facilitation lessons to seventh grade students at Islamabad Model College for Boys, G-10/4. As a PA, I was assigned to tell the students about OWYP and facilitate their learning by teaching them the OWYP curriculum. The first lesson was of course about getting to know each other.

But it wasn’t just the children that were new; it was a new experience for me too in the powerful role of being a facilitator and the effort to do justice with it. I found the children to be extremely excited about us. The best part I like about every lesson is the interactive part. Every OWYP lesson has some kind of interactive activity, a point where you have to let the children suggest you possible answers or start discussions or play games like for the introduction part we played the “game of names”.

Pair 1 Cultural Exchange Week 2 from OWYP Teams on Vimeo.

Only with these kinds of activities can one grasp the children with all their vigor and impatient tendencies. Pretty soon, I was over with my first ever hour spent as a teacher. The time spent was very productive in an amazing sort of way. OWYP curriculum is very meticulously drawn and has all the features to keep children involved, make them learn and keep it fun for us PAs. I like being at these lessons and working on them to get the children through the OWYP curriculum.

Trayvon Martin, Miley Cyrus, or Why Global Education Shouldn’t Make Us Forget Our Own Communities

Pop Culture as a Canary in the Coal Mine

When I started hearing about the Tryvon Martin murder case, I was interested as much as I usually am in things that the American media chooses to be temporarily important to us. I figured it would be an issue for a while until something else—some oil spill or corporate scandal—took our attention away. I read a few of the articles, watched some videos one afternoon and read some comments on facebook. My favorite piece by far was Obama’s extremely thoughtful 18 minute speech (I highly recommend watching the whole thing) during which he said,

“A lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given that there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent—using that as an excuse to see sons treated differently causes pain… folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel there is no context for it—or that that context is being denied.”

He’s saying don’t ignore American history. USE it to understand our present.

Just a month and a half after George Zimmerman’s acquittal, my facebook newsfeed exploded again with articles and blog posts spanning the insightful to the inciting about the implications about race and prejudice in a provocative dance performance performed by a 20 year old on MTV. Again, it seemed to me like the newest hot topic—one in a long line of provocative performances that have gotten press—both positive and negative—and have essentially just ended up promoting the allure of stardom and fame as well as the individual performers who happen to be taking their clothes off at the time. But then I started to realize what Tryvon Martin and Miley Cyrus had in common: they were symbols. They both represented a discontent with the denial of the history of race in America.

What I liked about what the President said last month was that he pointed out this denial. He specifically drew attention not just to the history of African Americans and how it has shaped current dynamics in black communities, but he drew attention to the fact that many people do not think that history is relevant anymore.

What don’t you understand about “Ouch”?

As a white man, I myself have often felt that the way to overcome racism is just for everyone to agree to stop being racist right now, and then to move forward as an egalitarian society. But what I fail to recognize is all of the unconscious things that I do and think that have been informed by prejudices and then passed down to me either purposefully or inadvertently by my ancestors and by my society. I’m not saying that there aren’t people that are explicitly and purposefully racist. Obviously those people exist—and I’ll leave the task of speaking to them to a better writer.

Earlier in my life, if I felt that I had gotten a bad deal on something that I bought, I would say that I had gotten “gypped”. A friend told me a couple of years ago, however, that the word “gypped” comes from “Gypsy”. The connotation is that Gypsies, or Roma, are untrustworthy and deceitful. If I was Roma and heard someone use a slur for my people as a way of explaining getting swindled, I would probably feel uncomfortable if not offended.

If I don’t admit that there might be things I do and in the way I live that make other people uncomfortable that I am not aware of, then I can’t stop doing them. And if I believe that other people can feel offended by the things that I do and say, then I should consider their arguments when they say “ouch”.

Tryvon Martin’s trial and Miley Cyrus’ performance are simply analogies for my friend overhearing my use of the word “gypped”. The popular reactions to the two events are manifestations of something bigger lying under the surface of our society. As my behavior and consciousness was corrected by my friend, so too can our collective attitude about race be corrected in America by people sharing their personal and authentic experiences with one another—not as accusations, but as revelations that reveal hidden prejudices.

This model of introspection and cross-fertilization is something we can all do at home, no matter where we go to do work or study abroad. It is also a mode of relating to our histories and societies that we can share with our friends and colleagues everywhere we go in the world. There isn’t a country without injustice in their past, or a citizen without a prejudice that couldn’t use some attention.

Day 4 of the 2013 Summer Training Conference

Eddie Percapio and Bridget Larson are this year’s Project Manager Fellows of their Washington D.C. Hub Team at Georgetown University. Georgetown University was the first university to launch a OWYP Hub on their campus, and Eddie and Bridget are proud to expand their Hub and deepen the program’s impact in Washington D.C.

Written by Eddie Percapio and Bridget Larson

There is a saying that you never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Well, at the OWYP summer training conference in Stony Point, you don’t truly know your fellow Project Manager Fellow until you 1) butcher their language in the attempt to converse with them, 2) discover their preferred alternate universe, and 3) engage in a pre-workshop pillow fight with tensions running high. In any case, all of this crucial information was discovered today, before most of us even had the chance to eat a full meal.

Today we started off with an exhilarating energizer, which was much needed since we got back from New York at around 2am and everyone was a bit discombobulated, especially myself, since the perceived 5 minutes lapse between my alarm and when I got up turned out to be a full hour. Today’s energizer was the “Tree-chopping activity” (for lack of a better name), in which players formed groups of three and simulated the act of chopping down a tree (the middle person raised their arms in an impression of a tree and the end two people acted out chopping down the tree, sound effects included).

After the icebreaker we began our first workshop, during which Myk, Cady, and Anjali led us through technical details of social media. For example, we explored various routes of using Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Vimeo, and some elements of Gmail. Following, we all engaged in a “scavenger hunt” using social media to demonstrate the skills we learned.

After lunch began the workshops run by PMFs ourselves. Equipped with new techniques building and sustaining connections among PAs and marketing tools to spread the word of OWYP and our work, pooling our personal experiences and innovative thinking allowed us to help each other create a tighter global network. Shortly thereafter, as per our usual meal schedule, a Stony Point van picked us up for dinner.

We enjoyed a dinner of authentic American barbeque complete with hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, macaroni salad, and extra sweet lemonade, on two outdoor picnic tables. The show to follow our dinner began with the call of “Ice cream!” from Ayesha’s mouth. As I raced my fellow PMFs to the kitchen, I realized we were late to the game. For a peaceful, interfaith conference center, these guests definitely know how to elbow their way to earn some chocolate and vanilla ice cream. After all, carrot cake and fruit can qualify as a satisfying dessert for so many days.

After quickly returning to our respective spots on the picnic bench, we quietly delved into one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I’ve heard that the best conversations happen over dinner, but I would argue you learn the most about people over dessert. For example, I learned that Ayesha, my new pocket-sized Pakistani friend, enjoys the shivers caused by a bowl of ice cream as big as her face. Program Manager Cady, on the other hand, will sit patiently stirring her ice cream until it melts into the just the right soupy consistency. Regardless of its shape and temperature, any friend of ice cream is a friend of mine.

Day 3 of the 2013 Summer Training Conference: NYC Excursion

Ayesha Safeer is serving as one of the OWYP-Pakistan Project Manager Fellows, along with her peer Aymen Zehra Naqvi who was unable to attend the conference. Ayesha and Aymen have demonstrated incredible creativity and entrepreneurship in building student and staff support for this program at the National University of Sciences and Technology, and have big goals to scale their Hub and their impact in Islamabad.

Written by Ayesha Safeer

So, who says having a child-like enthusiasm for Starbucks or Time Square is immature and ‘childish’? Whoever says it should have seen what happened at the Day 3 of the STC 2013! A team of extremely dynamic, incredibly professional and amazingly talented university student Fellows showed how they can rock when it comes to going on a trip to NYC.

Before coming to New York for the Summer Training Conference (STC), I knew how amazing it would be to finally meet all the OWYP staff and PMFs but never had imagined that we all are going to bond so greatly this soon that it feels like everyone is working with the best team they can ever work with. The experience of learning about different cultures, the inspiring stories behind why we are doing OWYP by its founder, the sharing of deep reflections and the best practices for running the program by the experienced PMFs just became one of the best experiences we all could have this summer. Aymen from Islamabad Hub was being missed.

The 3rd day of the STC started with a beautiful posing of mermaid by our UG PMF Jessica and hence marking her victory in the energizer, “Captain of the Ship”. With all the amazing learning and workshops going on since two days, the third day of the STC was planned as an excursion trip to New York City. Everyone was super excited and couldn’t wait for the workshop to end and get to the bus.

Some unexpected experiences were thrown our way, such as dining at this cool and happening place called ‘Diners’ and dancing our ‘waiting-for-the bus moves’. Once everyone was boarded on the bus, the two hours journey to the main city provided all the Fellows a chance to share their stories and bond stronger than ever.

The rest of the evening was like a dream for some of the first-timers. Arlinda Vula, our Fellow from the Kosovo hub had her heart racing as she stepped into Times Square and asked me to check if it was still beating. It was really kind of the Fellows from USA to guide the rest of the group about different places and always watching out for any support during that time and of course the crazy pictures just added more fun at every place.

A stroll exploring the Central Park, conquering the rocks, putting up the spontaneous dance party with amazing drummers, taking the subway to Brooklyn, and having dinner with the most beautiful view of the New York City and a view of Statue of Liberty; it was all good to be true and too much to take in. But it did not end there; the walk over the Brooklyn bridge back to Manhattan with the dazzling lights just seized the day with the amazing OWYP team walking the ‘New Yorker’s style’ to catch the subway and then the bus back to Stony Point. The memories of this day are going to last forever in our minds.

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