This summer, an Aga Khan Education Board collaboration unveiled Bridges, a six-week programme focused on learning and improving communication skills, while connecting students between the ages of 13-17, from across the globe.

On 21 July, more than 100 participants from France, Portugal, the UK, the USA and Canada grabbed their virtual boarding passes and began their journey with the Bridges programme.

Through the power of Zoom, 26 trained facilitators helped participants not only hone their communication skills in an inclusive environment, they were also able to broaden their horizons by learning about the different cultures and traditions that make each of us unique.

As a group, they listened and shared — from their family histories to future aspirations — with their identity at the forefront, as they underwent the process of discovering who they are as people.

The aim of Bridges was to make learning enjoyable and collaborative, especially for the participants who were not previously immersed in English language settings.

Prominent young members of the Ismaili community like sportscaster Raheel Ramzanali, athlete Farid Walizadeh, kids’ baking champion Natasha Jiwani, UK fashion designer Zaeem Jamal, and classical Indian singer Sara Saleem Daredia from Switzerland also joined the conversation. They participated in question and answer sessions with the participants, offering a glimpse into their journey, their triumphs and their adversity, while inspiring the group to aim high with their own hopes and dreams for the future.

The final weeks of the programme were dedicated to creating projects in small teams, which were presented during the finale on 25 August. Together, participants did everything from building a time capsule for the Jamat to look at 100 years from now, to inventing new holidays like a World AKDN Day!

The guest speakers featured throughout the programme returned to provide feedback on their projects that students could use in their upcoming academic endeavours.

For Bridges facilitator Aahil D, the virtual programme was a welcome change from the lockdown.

“It is so heartwarming to see an international virtual programme being organised for young members of our Jamat to attend and feel connected to one another,” Aahil said. “Last night’s projects showcased the huge diversity we have in our Jamat and how pluralism can be a strength.”

The Bridges Programme came together thanks to a team of volunteers coordinating efforts across the globe. The facilitators and mentors, the technical and creative teams, the translators and evaluators, and the administrative staff were the glue that kept everything together.

One of the participants acknowledged the volunteers’ hard work, saying: “I see how much effort and time you put into this programme to encourage us and support us and have a great time together… I’m really grateful for getting the opportunity to see all these talented and incredible young leaders in our Jamat.”

One parent from Florida, USA made this observation: “It’s great to see our future leaders on this forum… sharing their time and knowledge for the betterment of the Jamat and our youth in particular.”

The mission of this programme was summed up nicely by facilitator Jazir L.

“The Bridges camp is proof that we may be in different geographic locations, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t connect with each other.”


The video below was filmed, produced, and edited by participants of the Bridges programme.