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YES Student Makes Connections, Breaks Down Stereotypes

Ayusa YES international exchange student volunteers in her host community

Volunteering is a big part of many exchange students' program experience. They volunteer countless hours in order to give back to their host community as well as meet like-minded peers. This is certainly the case for Ayusa YES student Eman from Pakistan. She shared with us her volunteering experiences during her first few months in Nampa, Idaho.

“September 21, 2014 marks my completion of thirty hours of community service, which means that since my arrival in Nampa, Idaho, I have already completed more than a quarter of the hundred hour requirement for my exchange year. Yay! Who would have thought that I would be completing the hours so quickly?

Community service is the rent we pay to live on Earth

Every time I think of community service, my mind goes back to our pre-departure workshop in February 2014, when one of the mentors said, “Community service is the rent we pay to live on Earth,” and I am inspired to sign up to volunteer. Through volunteering, I have been able to meet new people and represent Pakistan, all while helping others; it is truly a win-win situation!

Volunteering has also taught me a lot. For instance, when I volunteered to serve food at a low income apartment complex, it opened my eyes to a different side of the U.S., one that, as a Pakistani, I never thought existed. It showed me that country boundaries are meaningless and that what truly matters is humanity - WHICH HAS NO BORDERS. I also met a lovely old couple who were delightful to talk to, and who turned out to be my host grandparents’ neighbors! Little coincidences like these make the world seem so much smaller.

It showed me that country boundaries are meaningless and that what truly matters is humanity - WHICH HAS NO BORDERS.

My American high school also provides great opportunities to volunteer through school fundraisers and activities. I helped out at the ‘Back to School Bash’ by face-painting for children, and writing the names of my friends and classmates in my language, Urdu, in henna and paint. They loved it! Another great fundraiser was for the School Cross Country Team (which I am proud to say that I am a part of, even though I am terrible at it). We arranged a series of races for K-8 school children and called the event, “The Patriot Dash.”

Service Day, a day that my American high school organizes each year to help students finish up their service hours, gave me the opportunity to work at a local wildlife refuge and conservation center called The Deer Flat Wildlife Park. Even though I was part of a group that was assigned to clear the nastiest weeds in the history of weeds from the beach, it was a great day because it gave me a chance to converse with my English teacher and other high schoolers. Clearing weeds was actually a pretty interesting experience itself, because it is something that I might never have gotten the opportunity to do back in Pakistan. However, the most interesting part of the day was meeting a man who worked for the state, who happened to know quite a bit about Pakistan - he even asked me if Musharraf was still the president! I had an interesting conversation with him and he gave me his card and invited me to volunteer for The Canyon County in the future and have lunch with them sometime.

Outside of school, I have also been volunteering at my host mom’s church. I help her with Sunday School classes, which is actually pretty fun because I like working with kids. Attending church also gives me time to bond with my host grandparents, who are awesome people! I have also found that going to church helps break stereotypes about Muslims and Pakistanis that some Americans have. Making connections, breaking stereotypes, and good ambassador-ing? Check!

I’d like to add a little shout-out to my host family, the Jenks, and my local coordinator, Louise, for helping me adjust to life in the States and find new and fun opportunities to make this year an amazing one."

 

 

Eman
KL YES 2014-2015
Student Ambassador for Pakistan