Thursday, April 29, 2010

Visitors From Egypt, Pakistan Discuss Volunteerism With Pittsburgh Teens

Three students from Pittsburgh Creative And Performing Arts 6-12 (CAPA) met recently with visitors from Egypt and Pakistan to exchange experiences and observations on youth volunteerism.

As part of the Pittsburgh leg of their International Visitor Leadership Program trip, Amr Hassan Abdelmonem Osman of Egypt and Asim Mehmood Malik of Pakistan met on Friday, April 23 with the Pittsburgh high school students to discuss volunteerism in U.S. communities and how young people "help foster a culture of service and civic responsibility."

Osman works for the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, focusing particularly on volunteerism, drug abuse prevention, and social and financial empowerment for youth, as well as working to empower community leaders in underdeveloped areas. Malik is the National Coordinator for the Aurat Foundation, whose goal is to promote women’s empowerment and citizen participation in governance.

Present at the meeting at the GlobalPittsburgh offices were Julianna Peebles, a harpist in CAPA’s instrumental department, and Rachel Rothenberg, a member of the literary arts department. Also in attendance was Ben Kline, another CAPA senior who is interning at GlobalPittsburgh through a literary arts service learning opportunity. The three students spoke of the various volunteer and service projects in which they have participated and discussed which recruitment and development strategies they found most effective.

Peebles shared her experiences doing volunteer work with patients at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, a job which she said helps alleviate the burden placed on parents of sick children and which has also inspired her to pursue a career as a pediatrician. Rothenberg, who is currently interning at the office of Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus, discussed the service projects she has done with her youth group among the underprivileged of rural Appalachia, working on improving infrastructure and health care for the region.

Asked what inspires American youth to volunteer, the students offered a variety of explanations, ranging from school requirements to developing a competitive résumé for college applications to a mere desire to give back to the community. Additionally, the guests brought up the issue of the role of women in service.

The students also mentioned President Obama’s tentative plan for a national service requirement for youth, about which Osman had heard the president speak in Cairo. Whatever the motivation, the attendees stressed the importance of the mutual benefits of volunteerism, or the concept that the volunteer has as much to gain from the experience as those whom he or she is serving.

The visitors expressed satisfaction with the meeting, saying that they would return to their respective countries with improved insight on the organization of volunteer projects, as little infrastructure exists as of yet in Egypt and Pakistan to recruit and match volunteers with projects suiting their particular interests or skills.

- Ben Kline

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