Written By Zahra Saleha Ahmad
Rabtt, an organisation I have sporadically volunteered at for the past 4 years, will go into ‘hibernation’ on March 15, 2017. This basically means that they will close offices for some time while each of them goes off to pursue their own professional and academic careers, and continue in spirit (for eternity), and in person occasionally. My association with Rabtt began through a chance run in with Imran Sarwar in front of a Starbucks in Boston, after having heard about him from mutual friends for ages!
Through Rabtt, he ended up becoming one of my most trusted friends as well as someone whose determination, self-belief, fearlessness, and ability infuse others with his enthusiasm I admire, and (sometimes) want to emulate. Through Rabtt, I was also able to meet students from public and low cost private schools as well as young college students from across Pakistan. I took sessions in gorgeous campuses that I’d never heard of as well as schools where often there wouldn’t be a proper chair to sit on. I met Christian students a few months after a terrorist attack at their local church, and saw how their Muslim peers rallied around them. I met passionate, driven teaching fellows from all walks of life who gave up their summers to teach. Four years later, many Rabtt employees have now become my close friends, some having begun their own social enterprises and reaching a far greater number than ever imagined.
Although I was considered an ‘advisor’ at Rabtt, I too learned a great deal from them. The one lesson that will stay with me forever is that we as a nation not only have immense potential but, also the ability to go out there and put in hard work. In Pakistani summers without electricity, sometimes even without water, with no tangible rewards, I have seen young college students and newly minted adults work day in and day out to give back to their community. They had no reason to do so. They could have stayed in their air conditioned homes and offices, but they went out year after year because they had faith. Many of the core team could have opted for well paying, highly impressive jobs and yet they stuck it out- changing offices, working from cafes, adapting to financial constraints, security issues and the ever-present red tape, selling their vision of a more tolerant Pakistan to an often unwelcoming target audience – making it work because they believed that connections, that ‘raabtai’ will create the tolerance and empathy needed change Pakistan. Maybe not today, maybe not now, but if they kept at it and spread their message, one day they would help build a more inclusive Pakistan.
How can one not have hope for a country when it’s youth can do all of this and much more?
Imran, Hammad, Salma, Anum, Tooba, Aneeq, Daniyal, Ahsan and so many more, well done! All of you have my admiration, and prayers for an even more successful future.
Check out the Rabtt Blue Book to learn not only about their journey but also if you yourself want to “reflect on a new idea you are contemplating, refine an existing idea you are implementing, or to replicate their model – in part or whole – in your own community.”
Zahra Saleha Ahmad (or Zahra Apa to those associated with Rabtt) volunteered as an educational consultant, guest lecturer and trainer at Rabtt (as well as doing anything and everything Imran, Salma and Hammad could emotionally blackmail her into doing!). She has more than 10 years of experience as a teacher, curriculum developer and teacher trainer in the private educational sector, and holds an Ed.M in Teaching and Learning from Harvard University.