Bible said, ‘Love your neighbors as yourself.’ Everybody heard about this at least once and realized it’s easy to say but hard to act. One of the most surprising things in DC is that we can meet lots of homeless people very frequently everywhere on the street. Most of them are just sitting and doing nothing but some of them are asking for money or loudly murmuring. At this point, you might wonder if there are any homeless people in Seoul, South Korea. Of course. There are many. Seoul is one of the biggest cities in the world with population exceeding 10 million. But the difference between two cities is Korean homeless people are gathering at some specific areas like Seoul Train Station and hardly see them during day time. Thus, it’s rare for me to feel urge to find ways to help them in person. But here in DC, they inspired me to think how to help them but was struggling to find the answers due to lack of knowledge and experience. Therefore, I asked some advice to my Washingtonian acquaintances but they said that I should give food instead of money not to support their drugs, alcohols or cigarettes, etc. That was all.
Today I want to share with you the experience that we had on Valentine’s Day, when a group of six Atlas Corp fellows and one staff went to Dupont Circle in Washington DC to give free hugs. It was a cold Saturday afternoon. Surprisingly, while walking towards the event, we realized that there were people giving roses away. We said, we are not the only ones who thought about spreading some love today. Once we got there, those people approached us and seemed surprised for the idea of giving free hugs. Right away, they took two extra “Free hugs signs” and joined us in our cause. Later, a groom and bride party arrived to Dupont Circle to take pictures for the wedding, and when the bride realized we were giving free hugs away, immediately she wanted a picture with the free hugs givers and signs.
Being selected as an Emerging Global Leader under the Atlas Corps fellowship program to serve at a non-profit organization for a year in the United States was a noteworthy achievement of my professional career. While personally the most exciting aspect was the prospect of living my life long dream of working at the Wall Street and living in New York City.
The initial excitement was slightly checked by the U.S. immigration officials as they displayed extra care while ensuring I had no connections whatsoever to the cursed international or even local (Pakistani) miscreants before I entered the U.S. However passing through their litmus test made life seem much more adorable.
Feb. 19th was the lunar new year of 2015. I got a red envelope from my host organization. Instead of lucky money in the red envelope, I got five candies, my favorite when I was a kid, sweetened my day.
I also watched a parade in Chinatown with other fellows. Instead of Chinese people, most performers and participants were from Taiwan. It is not easy to see such big dragon and dances in China now, which was my big expectation for lunar New Year when I was young, and I never expected that I could see it out of China when China doesn’t have it any more.
This blog post is a spoken word piece I wrote years ago, about the pressure placed on women to fit into a certain mold, and the struggle for women to stay true to who they are. Enjoy!!
I am tired of saying sorry
Apologizing for who I am
A woman powerful
Enough to know her worth
Sick of dimming my light
Because yours have no fuel
Tired of slouching because
You are an inch less than six feet tall
I just want to be me with no apologies
When my supervisor announced that he would take some time off work for a holiday with his family, I felt a chill down my spine. This was even made worse by the fact that this holiday was not going to take place within the borders of the United States, but way off in East Asia, which meant there was no way l could communicate with him in the case of a crisis. Let me hasten to say that our department, Finance and Administration, has two people in it – my supervisor and I. And of course no one else in the organization pretty much understands finance issues.
Having been at my host organization for the past ten months, it has been a process of great learning and understanding how systems work – of which l am eternally grateful. However, I did not expect to have to put all this in practice while still within the USA. Before he left he clearly expressed that he did not want the organization to feel his absence and hence handed over the reins to me. I broke into a sweat, not because I could not do the work, but because I had never worked without supervision.
Well, I got into the hot seat and the wheels had to keep moving with no hitches. The organization director came to my office and said, “Are you ready to be in charge of the world? All things will come to you and we will listen to you as you run the show and you are in charge.” And true to her word I was in charge and had to tackle issues on an hourly basis. Crises even arose and I was called to fix them. I became involved in high level meetings where my opinions were sought and what I said mattered and carried weight. The nervous streak wore off sooner than I expected as I was equal to the task and did my best at every job, of course being meticulous in all my dealings as required of anyone working in Finance and money issues.
I remembered the words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.” I must say my fellowship has been a combination of these three aspects, and being in charge was a tip on iceberg that bolstered and boosted my confidence in my abilities and belief in myself. With enhanced skills and being able to apply them practically, I am certain that my time here has been of immense benefit and I certainly do not have to go back to Zimbabwe to prove this fact – I have done so right here and now.
A round of applause at the last staff meeting warmed my heart as everything was said to be in order and my stepping up to the task being appreciated and commended by everyone around me. I felt proud, still do, and will do for a long time to come. Of course I am glad my supervisor is back from a well-deserved rest, and has left a large chunk of responsibilities in my hands as he ties up loose ends that need his attention.
It is probably our light not our darkness that frightens us, as we ask ourselves “Who am I not to be brilliant.” So I guess I can say keep your head up high and never be afraid to tackle what seems impossible, because it is only impossible until it is done.
Throughout history, people have continually sought positive social and economic change, and found creative ways to make it happen. This change has been driven by a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo, exemplary in the case of the civil rights movement in the US to the anti-Apartheid efforts in South Africa. But the list is endless.
I knew coming into the Atlas Corps Fellowship that it’s not going to be just about professional but also personal development. I also knew my first challenge would be to find housing in DC, which in hindsight seems to be a pretty fun competitive process.
My housing search began in December, with a series of mails sent out to ads posted on Craigslist (which is the best source for finding housing here). Since it was the first time I was ever going to live on my own, I was very excited browsing through the ads, drafting emails, viewing house pictures, thinking about life in the US and then sneakily shutting the browser window when I saw the rent.
I have never heard about any country except Bangladesh, fought for its own language. If we had not this movement in 1952, then Urdu (language of Pakistan) might be my language. I am very fortunate that I can speak in my own language, the most sweet language `Bangla’. Today is 21 February, the National Mourning Day and the 15th anniversary of International Mother Language Day. The main purpose of celebrating this day is to promote the awareness of language and cultural diversity all across the world. It was first announced by UNESCO on November 17, 1999. Since then it is being celebrated every year.