Over 80 participants and staff from the Midwest converged in the Chicago Jamatkhana Social Hall for a Lock-In, on February 9, 2019, an all-night event that started after evening Jamatkhana ceremonies and ended in the morning. With a primary goal of community-building, the night comprised of interactive activities, competitions, discussion sessions and much more to keep all participants and staff engaged and energetic.

While many of these participants had been involved in similar events in the past, this Lock-In surpassed expectations by far.

The night began with dinner and an interactive bingo game for some, while others gathered to watch the Bulls basketball game. Within minutes, participants were making new friends, rekindling old friendships, and creating bonds with staff members. Sana Sharba – a 10th grade participant from Detroit Jamatkhana – mentioned she was most excited about the new friendships she made. She explained, “I was nervous coming from so far because it takes me a bit to open up, but it was much easier here. These new friendships allowed me to be myself.”

As the lock-in officially began, participants and staff first took part in an improv comedy workshop. They engaged in various improv exercises and even put on shows for each other! Participants and facilitators began stepping out of their comfort zones and the night was only getting started. Following this high-energy activity, the night took a turn to a more informative topic: Jamati institutions and services. Participants learned about the function of various Council roles and institutions through a scavenger hunt.

For Sahir Jewa – an 11th grade participant from Glenview Jamatkhana, this session offered a great sense of realization. He elaborated, “learning about the different roles, recognizing so many familiar faces and identifying specific branches and projects made me realize the in-depth work that happens within the Council.”

Participants and staff then put their culinary skills to the test during the “Chopped” Challenge. Groups were given the task of making four creative, edible and presentable dishes from random ingredients. Teamwork, intensity and competition filled the air as groups worked to create the best dish. Originality was key and one group took it to another level with their bread and avocado spread topped with tomatoes, creatively named the YSB – Yummy Savory Bread!

Later in the night, facilitators held small-group discussions focused on community connectivity and positive youth development. The discussions allowed participants to identify programs they enjoy and opportunities for growth in the institutions. It was these discussions that seemed to touch the hearts of participants most. Nafisa Ismail – an 11th-grade participant from Chicago Jamatkhana said: “I appreciated the unity between the Jamats [in these discussions]. I enjoyed learning about different institutions, but really appreciated the facilitators taking our feedback.” The all-night event ended with a high-energy bhangra lesson and Minute-To-Win-It Challenge.

Though it was clear participants had a great time, staff was also thrilled to be part of the experience. Sameer Samani, a facilitator, said “the event was a pleasant surprise. The interaction with all groups, age groups, and friends encouraged me to get more involved in the future.”

The event was organized by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board (AKYSB), and project managers Karim Hemani and Razeena Tharani, explained: “This experience was different. It allowed our team and staff to interact with the youth in an informal setting. We’re grateful for the staff that made this event meaningful, and for the participants for being so open with us."

The event was considered a resounding success by the participants and served as a learning experience for everyone. Asif Samani, Midwest AKYSB Chairperson, commented “the goal was for participants and staff to have a memorable experience. During the closing ceremonies, almost every single person said this event surpassed what they had expected and resonated as a fun, impactful event.”