In a world characterized by rapid change and global interconnectedness, the role of young leaders in shaping the future cannot be overstated. The Young Ambassadors Programme (YAP), a collaborative effort between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the Ismaili Council for Pakistan, stands as a testament to the power of youth engagement and empowerment. With its mission to foster empathy, develop professional skills and promote community service, YAP is preparing a new generation of leaders poised to make a meaningful impact on society.

With a clear and inspiring vision to enhance the empathy of youth towards AKDN's institutional initiatives and simultaneously nurture their professional skills, the Young Ambassadors Programme uses a unique blend of hands-on experience, exposure to AKDN's work and mentorship. By engaging with AKDN agencies, interacting with beneficiaries and witnessing the network's transformative efforts in the rural areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral (GBC), participants in the programme gain invaluable insights and experiences that will serve them well in their future endeavours.

YAP debuted in 2022 with 18 participants, mostly young women, hailing from diverse regions across Pakistan. These participants embarked on a three-week assignment, collaborating with five key AKDN agencies in Gilgit. The programme's success was evident from the outset, garnering praise from the leadership of the participating AKDN agencies. Their feedback led to valuable recommendations aimed at enhancing the programme's impact.

Building on the achievements of its inaugural year, YAP 2023 ensued as a six-week intensive leadership programme. It featured a range of components designed to provide participants with a holistic learning experience, including field-based assignments, exposure visits, mentoring and professional development.

One of the most exciting aspects of YAP 2023 was the opportunity for participants to present their findings to AKDN CEOs and Senior Management Teams, showcasing their work and discussing career aspirations. These interactions successfully bridged the gap between theory and practice, inspiring participants to pursue careers that make a real difference.

To share the experiences of the YAP cohort and highlight the programme's impact, a comprehensive communication plan was developed whereby content was featured on AKDN and The Ismaili's social media and web platforms, showcasing the remarkable journey of these young ambassadors. The impression this programmeme was also indicated by its candidates’ testimonials. A participant expressed, “YAP provided me with the foundation to practice theories that are only explained in the classroom and never seen in real life.” Another candidate communicated, “YAP bridged the distance between AKDN agencies and the youth, giving us opportunities to learn from each other.” When asked if the candidates felt supported throughout the programmeme and if it met their expectations, one of the participants shared, “I was well-accommodated and supported in the host site. Mentors became our family and were present for all that we needed.”

Undoubtedly, the Young Ambassadors Programme 2023 represents a remarkable scheme that proved to be an opportunity for the youth of our Jamat to not only engage with AKDN's initiatives, but also develop crucial skills and make a tangible impact on the communities they serve. With its commitment to empathy, professional growth and community engagement, YAP is sowing the seeds for a brighter future, one young ambassador at a time. This programme exemplifies the power of collaboration and youth empowerment in driving positive change and progress.