Tooba

Pakistani Delegation, 2006
Seeds of Peace Fellow, 2015

IMPACT: SOCIAL

Teaching empathy and critical thinking to children in Pakistan.

How has Seeds of Peace had an impact on you?

My current work is inspired deeply by my experiences with Seeds of Peace. I benefited from a network of peers and professionals who come from different faiths and countries, who enriched my world view with their skills and ideas. From the feeling of empowerment and the capacity of leadership developed through dialogue and activities. But I gained most from the friendships I made by learning to listen and realize that the world is layered and complex. Working to realize the dream I saw has made me a better person, and hopefully, will make the world a better place.

Bordered by the beauty of lush mountains, John Wallach left behind a dream that I was privileged to behold with my own eyes: the idea that, with effort and understanding, different people can strive for a world at peace by listening to each other’s perspectives. It really is the seed of this dream that we are trying to sow in our own homes.

How are you impacting your community?

I currently serve as the Director of Academics and Assessment for a local organization in Pakistan called Rabtt, where I am responsible for developing curriculum and designing assessments for the organization’s programs. Rabtt is a social enterprise working to foster empathy, critical thinking, creativity, and self-confidence in individuals through education and training programs. The word ‘Rabtt’ derives from the Urdu word ‘Raabta’, literally meaning ‘connection.’ We believe that deep-seated, long-lasting change is only possible through connecting meaningfully with individuals and with information.

Our goal is to establish an independent Research and Development wing to assess the effectiveness of its programs. This department will undertake a randomized control trial in order to assess the effectiveness of Rabtt’s current work. Improvement will be assessed in four core metrics: empathy, critical thinking, creativity, and confidence. Measures will also be enforced to test the usefulness of Rabtt’s training programs for its volunteers, as well as to determine how school teachers and administrators respond to the programs. Data from the findings will be used to identify both strengths and weaknesses, and make improvements to Rabtt’s curriculum.

I have been involved with curriculum development for diverse modules such as world history, public speaking, empathy and non-violence, identity, sociological imagination, active citizenship, and more. In addition, I have also designed and conducted training programs for our fellows and interns to help them espouse as well as convey out core competencies. We are trying to create learning environments that are enriched by multiple perspectives and not threatened by them; where thoughtful questions outweigh rote-learning ‘correct’ answers; where learning is challenging and enjoyable.

Since the very beginning of our venture, accountability has been an important concern of mine. I strongly believe that we are accountable for creating the change we promise to our students, volunteers, partners and supporters, and to ourselves. I am concerned by the lack of accountability and evaluation in the development sector.

This is why I am laying the foundations for a Research & Development wing at Rabtt—an independent department dedicated to conducting a rigorous yearly impact evaluation of core programs, engaging in research ventures that help generate indigenous knowledge and statistics, and extending our services to other organizations, especially in the development sector. The initial grant and support for this venture has been provided by my Seeds of Peace Fellowship.

In addition to my work with Rabtt, I partnered with Seeds of Peace in 2011 to organize an Interfaith Harmony Camp engaging youth from various faith groups in Pakistan in dialogue and tolerance building.

EDUCATION

• BA, Psychology and English Literature, Forman Christian College (Magna Cum Laude, High Honors)
• Fulbright Scholar, counselling psychology

IN THE PRESS

Students Sow Seeds of Peace (Hindustan Times)
Hunting for common ground (The News on Sunday)
Interfaith camp enables young minds to develop trust (The Nation)

“Creating change is not about leading someone by the hand, it is about equipping them with the essential skills, and then allowing them to make their own way. These are Seeds of Peace lessons that I apply every day.”