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It’s good to be back!

Posted in 2010 Summer Public Service Program, Hafsa by kashmircorps on June 21, 2010

It’s good to be back.

Despite the $300 extra baggage fee on my flight from Amman to Delhi and a 10-hour layover at the Delhi airport, it’s all worth it when I step off the plane in Srinagar. My favorite transitional moment is hearing Kashmiri being spoken, as I’m not around it all that much back in the States. It’s one of those languages that is filled with such proverbial nuances that learning it as a second language would be quite the challenge.

The Dal Lake is one of the first sights visitors experience

In addition to improving my Kashmiri, I’m looking forward to my second summer as the director of the Summer Program. This summer holds great potential—our volunteers are working with three

new organizations—including the Kashmir Education Initiative, INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) and MercyCorps, in addition to continuing with our past partner, HELP Foundation. Some of the volunteers have already arrived, and a few are trickling in over the next few days.

I was able to visit the MercyCorps office a few days ago, and am incredibly impressed by all the work they’re doing in the fields of economic development and youth empowerment. They gave me an informative presentation on the main challenges to doing development/socially conscious work in Kashmir. What was interesting for me to hear was that one of the primary reasons for these challenges is based on perception—and relates to the psychological state of the people living in Kashmir during all these years of turmoil. There is a general culture of distrust, suspicion, and to a great extent, a lack of willpower to really make a change as people simply do not feel that any steps will make a positive impact.

Despite these challenges, I have hope that the younger generation in Kashmir is ready and poised to shake things up. From environmental issues to preserving local tradition, I think the youth (which makes up around 60-70% of Kashmir’s population) have and will continue to be engaged and involved. One of my personal goals this summer is to develop a broader network of local young changemakers.

Looking forward to keeping you all posted about our adventures this summer!