Almost a decade after I first attended the Seeds of Peace Camp, its community and lessons have a lasting impact on my work and how I understand the world.
Like many others, I grew up believing that some people are inherently ‘bad’ because they carry a certain identity, and that our differences could never be reconciled. My journey as a Seed has not taught me that we are all the same. It has taught me that differences don’t have to result in animosity, that no group of people can be painted with the same brush, and that there are infinite layers of complexity in our identities. I learned that peace is a deliberate act—achieved through effort and willingness to unlearn.
Personally, Seeds of Peace made me a more empathic human being. I found friends where I had previously assumed only enemies existed, and I learned to challenge my own stereotypes about the world. I gained a global community of fellow empaths, activists, and change-makers. I found somebody who likes the same music but lives halfway across the world.
How have you impacted your community?
I work as a therapist based in Lahore, Pakistan. A lot of my work is with young adults navigating experiences of trauma, depression, anxiety, and relational issues. I use a feminist therapy lens, which finds intersections between individual mental health, community activism, and systems work.
I believe that I cannot fully help people heal without changing larger systems like gender, misogyny, poverty, and discrimination that (through violence and oppression) contribute to the development of mental illness. In addition to working with individuals, I conduct workshops and facilitate groups focusing on conflict resolution, relational issues, and mental health.
I have spent more than six years in the development sector, working with organizations that focus on building empathy and critical thinking in young adults. I was among the founding members of the local social enterprise Rabtt. 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. I worked in curriculum development, building activity-based integrative curriculum using subjects like literature, world history, art/dramatics, and public speaking.
For many of students, it was the first time that they had attended an art class, performed on stage, or read about the world wars. I later founded a Research Department, focusing on impact evaluation and behavioral change.
Most recently, I returned to the Seeds of Peace Summer Camp to facilitate dialogue among youth from India, Pakistan, US, and the UK that focused on identity, privilege, geo-politics, and conflict resolution.
As a GATHER Fellow, I am working on a series of conflict resolution workshops for young adults.
What is the need you are trying to meet through your work?
I am trying to create spaces of support and access to mental health care tools, especially for people who may not have access and affordability for individual therapy. There’s so many life-altering tools I have picked up through academic work, clinical training, and access to personal therapy. It’s amazing that you can learn how to have healthy conflict or how to set healthy boundaries—it’s all a matter of access.
Why do you do what you do?
I am a therapist by training, have studied psychology since A-Levels, and have wanted to see a therapist since 2014. I was finally able to see one in 2019, after I had completed graduate school and had enough financial, social, and personal independence to find and afford one. Individual therapy is a privilege-enabled form of self-care, dependent on access, money, awareness, and some luck with logistics.
Through my own education and training, I have gained knowledge and self-care tools that have radically improved my well-being and relationships. I hope that through my work, I will be able to widely disseminate knowledge and tools that might help others, particularly those who may not be able to access individual therapy.
Tell us about the community you come from. How did it help shape who you are?
I come from a community of activists. Whether it is friends from Seeds of Peace, in Pakistan or around the world, from school or from work. Whether they work as pro-bono lawyers, womxn’s rights activists, social entrepreneurs, financial educators, teachers, or mental health care workers. My community includes people who are moved by the distress they see in the world, and actively try to make the world a better place.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned from this community is collaboration—that the world will be made better by each of us doing our piece of the work on as small or as grand a scale that we can manage, and that our work can lift each other up.
How do you talk about your work to your family or friends?
Everyone has a mental health, just like everyone has a physical health—we can choose to or have the ability to care for them more or less. I find myself using a different language, or find people more or less receptive to the idea of mental health care or therapy, depending on their upbringing, exposure, and perspectives. Overall though, everyone has an innate idea of what mental health is. Everyone has experienced stress, felt depressive, or struggled with racing thoughts. And I write this in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is certainly feeling their mental health now!
• (M.A.) Counselling Psychology, Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Boston College, USA.
• B.Sc. Hons.) Psychology/English, Forman Christian College, Pakistan.
“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.”