Established in 2012, the Global Encounters programme draws dozens of Ismaili high school students from all around the world to participate in an intensive four-week residential programme in Pakistan, India, or Kenya. The programme is organised in collaboration with the Aga Khan Academies and the Aga Khan University. To date, approximately 725 participants from 31 different countries have participated in the programme.
Global Encounters focuses on three central pillars to provide students a transformative experience: service learning, leadership development, and global citizenship.
Service learning & leadership development
During Global Encounters, students carry out community service projects in partnership with schools and local communities. The programme aims to foster a sense of responsibility in Ismaili youth by providing them with experiential opportunities to understand the complexities of development and learn from best practice in the field. The hope is that students will take the skills and values they learn abroad and apply them in their home countries.
Alykhan Hashim, who participated in the programme in 2017, recalls: “There are just so many skills that I learned through our volunteer work. Sometimes, we are so busy living in our bubble that we become ignorant of the problems around us. Global Encounters really enabled me to perform service — not only when I am abroad — but at home, in the US, too.”
Also, as a part of the programme, students are encouraged to propose projects that will make a lasting impact on the communities that they are serving, helping them to refine their leadership abilities. By collaborating together, students work across socio-economic and cultural lines with both their peer Global Encounters participants and members of the host institution.
Rahim Malik, a 19-year-old student from Texas, participated in the Global Encounters programme in Kenya in 2016. He recalls that the group was tasked with coming up with a project, in collaboration with local school leadership, that would boost the confidence of students.
“At first, we really didn’t know what to do. After days of brainstorming, planning, and proposing the idea, we decided to build an elevated stage for the students to be able to perform and express their artistic abilities. The project had a very practical purpose but also a symbolic purpose. We wanted to elevate the people of the community literally and figuratively. I think we achieved that.”
Rahim explained that since then, the stage, which was built in collaboration with local school teachers and students, has been used to put on theatre performances, served as a speaking forum, and more generally, acts as a central gathering place for the students in the school.
“It was so amazing to see how something we proposed came into action. I really believe that the leadership skills I learned at Global Encounters helped me in my everyday life as a college student now. We are the future and Global Encounters encouraged me to take responsibility and be present every day — to see where I can make an impact in my own country.”
In addition to its emphasis on service and leadership, the programme gives students an opportunity to become global citizens and exercise a very central value for Ismaili Muslims — the notion of pluralism.
Students foster meaningful relationships with Ismaili youth around the world and overall, broaden their perspectives through thought-provoking activities, all the while gaining cultural awareness.
Aly Jafferali, who was a facilitator from Pakistan at the 2016 and 2017 camps said, “I am so proud to be a part of a faith that puts such a heavy emphasis on working across different communities. As a facilitator, I saw first-hand the diversity of experience, language, and world views that the youth from around the world have. Still, they were connected by a common bond — a deep desire to give back to the community. The Global Encounters programme really lives and practices the ethic of pluralism. It makes me proud to know that there are Ismaili youth in so many countries on the frontiers of being world citizens.”
Altogether, five years since the inauguration of the Global Encounters program, hundreds of Ismaili youth from all around the world are learning skills through experiential service learning with lessons they carry throughout the rest of their lives.
Applications are currently open for Global Encounters’ three programmes in Kenya, India, and Pakistan. Each programme is looking for applicants who are intellectually curious and civic-minded, and who demonstrate leadership, strive for excellence, and have a commitment to serve their communities.
Applicants must be Ismaili youth, aged 15 – 17 on 1 June 2018, who have completed at least one year of secondary school and who will still be enrolled in secondary school during the 2018-2019 academic year. The deadline to apply is 14 January 2018. For more information and to complete an application, visit https://the.ismaili/globalencounters.