From London to Kaarvan

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Four weeks back I joined Kaarvan Crafts Foundation (KFC) as a volunteer, coming all the way from London. I will give a brief introduction about how I got in contact with KCF, my work experience and what I love the most about KCF.
I recently completed my B.Sc. in Psychology, Clinical and Cognitive neuroscience at Royal Holloway, University of London.Born and brought up in Italy (with parents of Pakistani origins), I was blessed with a safe and rational environment, with every need of mine fulfilled at its best.
I used to travel to Pakistan for my summer holidays every 4-5 years and everything was good because I was not supposed to live there! However, the difference between Italy and Pakistan, was always felt strongly by me. By difference I mean seeing unfed children on the roads, witnessing child labour, feeling that women and men are not considered equal in Pakistan, seeing that a woman needs validation from a man in some ways or others was unusual and disturbing to me.
Why aren’t women equal to men in Pakistan? Why do they walk on the streets afraid of others around them? Why are they not confident and strong just like women in Europe? Pakistani women are just like Italian women, with their own wills and desires, with their own thoughts and wishes… aren’t they? So why cannot they be treated just like their male fellows?
My questions and my concerns, developed in me a sense of responsibility as I was growing older… So I decided, I will play my part and make Pakistan a better, safer and empowering place for women.
I applied for a volunteering project with AIESEC, which is an international organisation that offers volunteering opportunities and internships in many countries around the globe. I picked up Pakistan as the country where I wanted to volunteer and I was matched with KCF.

KCF is a non-profit organisation that works for women empowerment by teaching them vocational skills. As women become financially independent, they become a stronger citizen of the society and they are more valued at the family level too. So my life changing journey began. After 12 hours of travelling I reached Lahore on May 19th and I joined Kaarvan on May 22nd (2017).
I was warmly welcomed on day one and all the following weeks came with new experiences and challenges. I was involved in office work and my tasks included research, questionnaire design, project design and data collection. This was a different experience for me as my previous jobs were mostly in retail and in the fashion industry. Despite the novelty of the kind of work I was involved in, I never found any task too challenging because I had the most kind, supportive and helpful colleagues ever! Here I want to say a special thanks to Maidah, Shahzeb, Bilal and Akef for being amazing co-workers. I never felt like I was new to the place or like I was a junior. They valued and appreciated my opinions and suggestions on various projects just like their own.
By working at the head office and been primarily involved with statistics and research, I got a flavour of how different the realities are of the women that are supported and trained by KCF. I had a chance to listen to some interviews that were conducted by other staff members at KCF’s training centres and I also read about more than 60 case studies, of women that were trained by KCF and how dramatically and positively their lives changed as they got empowered.
However, I only got the real sense of how crude realities are when I visited one of KCS’s training centres in Gujranwala. I visited the training centre with other colleagues and we were there for data collection. I had the chance to meet and talk to so many amazing women, all with different life stories and different challenges… but they were all same on one dimension. That dimension is effort. These women made the effort of moving out of there comfort zone, stepping up for themselves by breaking social and cultural barriers that no ordinary person can do. They were strong, they were determined, they were unstoppable. These women had the courage to go against their very own families and society to make their own lives better but also to support their loved ones financially.
Only when I met the trainees and the trainers of KCF, I realized how great KCF is. I believe there is no other organisation in Pakistan that works with this level of determination and passion, to empower women by teaching them life and work skills. I believe that this is thanks to KCF’s CEO, Mr Danish Khan. I believe he is not an ordinary “CEO”. He is a leader who is passionate and determined about his mission. The way he interacts with the staff and the way he gets interested in finding out the problems of the women KCF trains is unmatchable. We can only learn from him.
I would like to wrap up by thanking KCF for giving me the opportunity to volunteer for them, the experience of the insights of KCF is priceless and unmatchable. This was truly a life changing experience!
PS: thank you to chachajee for taking care of me and making gorgeous tea. Thank you to Meher bhai for being a great listener and skilled driver. And thank you to everyone who made KCF home for the four weeks I spent there. I will always remember all of you!

Zara Arshad.

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