JUN 29, 2018 (BEE2C2): Three young Pakistanis received the prestigious Queen’s Young Leaders Awards at Buckingham Palace in London on Tuesday.
Mahnoor Syed, Haroon Yasin and Hassan Mujtaba Zaidi were presented with medals by Queen Elizabeth II for their outstanding contributions to their community with their high impact cost-effective initiatives in learning, literacy growth and social development.
The Queen’s Young Leaders Award celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth for “making lasting change in their community and beyond.”
The three Pakistani winners leading innovative projects in the education sector of the country have become trailblazers — setting examples how private initiatives can fill in or supplement ongoing governmental efforts to fight illiteracy and spread education — Pakistan has a huge youth bulge that experts call a massive “demographic dividend” if harnessed, and a “bomb” if opportunities are let go.
Mahnoor Syed works to support underprivileged people in her community. Her start-up called Spread the Word began by partnering with seven schools to provide extra-curricular workshops to students on issues such as bullying, child abuse, mental and physical health. The start-up currently has 300 volunteers from all over Pakistan.
Syed has also collected money and books to secure the creation of two libraries in Lahore, and has raised funds to sponsor the education of 24 children from disadvantaged backgrounds who attend one of her partner schools. In addition, she has partnered with an organization called Khwajasira Support to raise funds for vocational training of 50 transgender people. She has also worked with the Barkat Foundation to arrange health camps in 15 remote areas.
Haroon Yasin is the founder of Orenda, a startup that uses an innovative digital model to make learning enjoyable. It’s mission is to build a dynamic education model to help young children develop critical faculties. Originally set up as a safe place for children living in slums, Orenda has since expanded to various regions across the country. Yasin and his team are now teaching around 1,300 children primarily in rural areas, through a specially developed cartoon series called Taleemabad, which is available on mobile phones and low-cost computers.
Yasin is also encouraging communities and local governments to make improvements to children’s education in their areas. In recognition of the impact of Orenda’s work so far, a district government has invited the organization to replicate and scale-up its educational model in its jurisdiction.
Hassan Mujtaba Zaidi uses art to help educate young people from marginalized communities in Pakistan. He is the founder of Discovering New Artists (DNA), which provides free art education, and primary and secondary education, to students unable to afford school fees. DNA raises money to fund school projects through its initiative, Art for Change, a national child art competition which aims to forge links between young people in privileged and underprivileged communities. To date, 11,500 students have participated in the competition and over 5,000 students have benefited from donations of art materials. Through DNA, Hassan also supports the construction of libraries in under-resourced schools, and funds various college and university student internship and volunteer programs.
Winners of the prestigious award will receive training, mentoring and networking opportunities, including a one-week residential program in the UK. With this support, winners are expected to continue and develop the work they are already doing in their communities.