#GVMeetup Karachi: Finding Family in an Unexpected Place

GV Pakistan author Sana Saleem and Awab Alvi with GV Urdu editor Faisal Kapadia with some participants  Photo from #GVMeetup in Karachi, November 1, 2013 album on the Bolo Bhi Facebook page

Ismail Vohra (standing in white traditional shalwar kameez at the left) with Global Voices Pakistan team members Sana Saleem, Awab Alvi and Faisal Kapadia and other participants. Photo from #GVMeetup album on the Bolo Bhi Facebook page. November 1, 2013.

The next 6 weeks we are organizing six global in-person ‘meetups’ led and facilitated by Global Voices members, who live and know their local communities. This is a testimonial written by Ismail Vohra who attended the first official meetup in Karachi, Pakistan.

It was a typical sunny Friday in Karachi. I was invited to a Global Voices meetup, and I expected it to be another typical boring presentation, the kind that most organisations do. 

I signed up for the meetup because my friends did. I thought, “this would be a great opportunity to see them after school!”

Following standard Pakistani time, I reached the venue half an hour late. To my surprise, the meetup had already begun. I quietly entered the room, while a TED talk was being played on a big screen. A guy named ‘Ethan’ was talking about some weird English term that I can't remember, but I do remember that he was talking about how we can use the Internet to bridge the world.

As you might know, TED talks are pretty interesting, and so was this one. Starting a presentation with such a inspirational video rather than a PowerPoint not only inspired me with Ethan's ideas but also got me excited about what the Global Voices people would do next. After the video ended, one of the presenters asked if someone from the audience could explain to those who joined late (I was one of those late comers) what happened in the first half hour.

Global Voices Urdu Editor Faisal Kapadia getting ready for the meet-up. Photo of the #GVMeetup in Karachi on November 1, 2013 from the Bolo Bhi Facebook page

Global Voices Urdu Editor Faisal Kapadia getting ready for the meet-up. Photo from Bolo Bhi Facebook page.

An audience member gave a nice summary about the use of the Internet for activism. Then came the part that impressed me the most. A presenter asked, “Did you know that there was a 700 kilometer march yesterday, for the missing people in Balochistan [province]?” I thought, “Dude! Woah. Why didn't I read that on the BBC's website or see it on [Pakistan's leading channel] Geo News?”

He continued: “And that's what Global Voices is all about. We try to raise the voices that are not covered in mainstream media.”

And I could only agree. I'm sure you all are wondering what was so special about this meetup? I have no idea. All I know is I've never felt so loved and special at such a meetup before. I felt I was a part of this family. I felt like I was solely created for them. They were so humble, polite and sweet. I don't know if the presenters ate a lot of sugar or marshmallows that day. But whatever it was, there was affection and warmth in the air. People with such humble behaviour convinced me, in fact, made me come to the realisation that I wanted to be a part of this global family immediately.

Young students watching a presentation during the meet up.

Young students watching a presentation during the meet up. Photo from the Bolo Bhi Facebook page.

Global Voices may raise hidden voices from all across the globe, but it is a voice within itself. A family you can trust. It taught me that you don't have to be hyper or loud to win an audience, instead create love and affection that people can feel and understand. It opened me up to the desire for a better world. It encouraged me to work for the love of this nation and to give back.

Well, sometimes one cannot really explain their feelings in words. I'm not here to promote Global Voices, but yes, it was something that inspired me greatly and am looking forward to the day when they'll be successful in their mission and I'll proudly say I am so glad that I was a part of their very first “official” meetup.

17-year-old Ismail Vohra often turns to the web in search of neutral narratives. He is actively involved in community service in Karachi, where he is completeing his O levels at City School, PAF branch. Ismail is the school's headboy. He is an avid reader of Urdu poetry and an active Urdu debater. Ismail was a Kennedy-Lugar 2012-2013 exchange student in the US. Follow him on Twitter @ismail_vohra

A big thank you to the rights and policy organisation Bolo Bhi for providing a venue for the event, and GV Urdu editor Faisal Kapadia and GV Pakistan author Sana Saleem, for organising the meet-up, along with Eddie Avila and the Rising Voices team. Our next meet-up is in Cairo on November 16. 


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