KARACHI: The United States Consul General (CG) William Martin organised an Iftar dinner for the participants of Youth Exchange Study (YES) programme at his residence, here on Thursday.
The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs are running the programme entitled the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Study Programme in collaboration with the International Education and Resource and Network (iEARN) programme to exchange students between the ages of 14 to 18 from countries particularly having majority of Muslim population.
In Pakistan the programme was being run since 2003 while this year 108 students will leave for the United States for one-year studies. It is pertinent to mention here that students of class 9th to 12th not only study there but also live with their host families.
About 65 students from across the province, including those who had experienced the programme and those who have been selected to go abroad this year, were present in the Iftar dinner.
Speaking on the occasion, Martin said that the core objective of the programme was to provide opportunities to the Pakistani students and American families to interact and understand each other.
He said that the programme was a great example of people to people contact. It gives an opportunity to people across the world to form an opinion about the US while to US people an opportunity to form opinion about the others.
Martin further said that the programme helps eliminate confusions about the societies. He said that this year 108 students from 28 cities of the country are participating in the programme out of which 40 students went to their destinations while rest would leave soon for the States. On the occasion the CG also interacted with the students and had dinner with them.
iEARN Executive Director Farah Kamal, while talking to Daily Times, said that the students are selected from across the country on a designed criteria which deals with the age, educational performance, language and other skills.
She said about 400 students have participated in the programme from Pakistan since it had been launched. She said that they try to select deserving students. To a question she said that schools are contacted in this regard, whereas a large number of individuals and parents contact them through mail, email and office visit. She said that these students play the role of cultural ambassador abroad.
iEARN Programme Manager Irfan Waleed told Daily Times that the programme is being supported by the US government, while families host students voluntarily. He further said that families want to host these children for one year to provide their own children with an exposure to the children from across the world.
There were some families who even had hosted about 30 children. He said that special children were also included in the programme. Last year a disabled child Aun Yousaf visited the US under the programme and this year two deaf and speech-impaired students would go abroad, he added.
Children who returned from the States after spending one year in educational activates and those who would go, seemed very excited and impressed by the US. Kainat Khoja an inhabitant of Thatta district said that she has been transformed completely after visiting the US under the programme. My skills were polished in the visit, she said. She further said that the only similarity at both sides was that there were humans at both ends, everything else is different, she added.
Another student of class 12th, Shahbaz said that he learnt the to respect the other culture instead of crticising. He said that he won a contest with the votes of his American fellows and now he wants to become a cultural ambassador.
Sonam Chawla, studying in grade 12th would go to the US this year under the programme. She said that she would learn the US culture. US Consulate Culture Affairs Officer Tony Jones said Pakistan is the country, from where the largest number of participants visits the US.Daily Times.