Pakistani Youth Organization Tackles Small Issues with Big Impact
“There is wide gap between communities and NGOs. I feel Serve 4 Change can fill this gap and act as a bridge between communities and organizations, which will later empower people,” says Salamat, whose youth-led organization, Serve 4 Change, is directly enhancing local capacity and giving voice to the true needs of communities in rural Gilgit-Baltistan. “I believe our issues are not big, but they are significant.”
Under the banner of Serve 4 Change, three unlikely groups recently gathered in a rural mountain village in Pakistan: the young boys of the Ismaili Boy Scouts club, the women’s volunteer group from the village, and the local elderly. They came together to celebrate traditional culture of the Hunza Valley at a one-day event organized by Salamat.
“We organized the event to revitalize Hunza traditional food, encourage people to grow more indigenous crops and fruits, and reduce our dependence on food from outside,” said Salamat. The event, which included a one-day antique art exhibit of pieces gathered from local homes, a feast based on indigenous foods, and a visit to a local historical fort, was a huge success with more than 35 elders, including 10 women, participating.
Salamat founded Serve 4 Change to tackle small issues which, when solved, have a big impact on life in the local communities of Gilgit-Baltisan. The major components of Salamat’s approach are local empowerment and grassroots change. In his words, “I think one of the best ways to bring social harmony in a society is to engage its youth in social development. Serve 4 Change strives to mobilize youth in their society, make youth realize their own issues, and let them solve those issues themselves.”
Serve 4 Change was founded in May 2010, and Salamat was selected soon after to participate in the Global UGRAD-Pakistan program. According to him, “the Global UGRAD-Pakistan experience worked as a catalyst in me, which helped me to learn new ideas.”
The members of the small, youth-led group have devoted their own time and money to several important activities. Working with the local Boy Scouts, Serve 4 Change has implemented a project to build and install rubbish bins in a rural village. Every Sunday, the Boy Scouts now gather to clean up the rubbish bins. The project was such a success that other nearby villages have started to copy the model and implement it in their own villages. Serve 4 Change has also impacted communities in Gilgit-Baltistan, through activities such as conserving the rare Marco Polo sheep; advocating for better medical care and facilities in local hospitals; providing care and company for the sick; and holding a month long course to promote inter-generational understanding.
This summer, while on vacation from his university, Salamat persuaded his community to back his plan to build a micro hydro power plant which would bring a regular supply of electricity to 150 homes in his village which currently have electricity for only about 2 hours per day. If they can find the funding, Salamat hopes that this project will be underway by next summer. In the future, Salamat hopes to see Serve 4 Change working on a broader level all over Pakistan to address community needs, mobilize local youth and create more innovative projects for social change.
The Serve 4 Change cultural event was supported by Project Smile. Project Smile, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (