My Mosaic experience has sent me to a prison, I have met royalty and I have been given the opportunity to visit my dream destination of Petra! Not only that, but I have been introduced to the most amazing friends and Mosaic has helped me on my path of self-discovery.
I was hesitant in applying to the International Leadership Programme (ILP), I had been told about it by a friend about who had attended the programme in Qatar 2011. I was unenthusiastic at the prospect of attending yet another international programme that I thought would have little to offer other than a larger list of friends on Facebook with little that reflected a tangible change within me. However, I applied. The same time our visas had been processed and flights booked my contract in an Environment project of the USAID had ended; leaving me at a crossroads in my life debating on what my next step should be. I decided that I wanted this experience to challenge me. I wanted to make sure that I would learn new lifelong skills. By the time we reached our accommodation at the University of Greenwich amidst a warm welcome by the Mosaic team, I had developed a friendship with my companions from Bangladesh that I did not realize would be one of the sweetest things I brought back with me.
I loved the diversity of the participants, especially the Arab delegation. It made me nostalgic, as I had grown up in Benghazi with people from all over Africa and the Middle East. On the other hand, my Pakistani mother’s lineage allowed me to speak at least one other language. Once I had met my dynamic group members with who were led by our vivacious team leader, I was ready to start my personal challenge. Initially the programme resembled a long list of lectures, which I thought could have been fairly repetitive however the range of inspirational speakers such as Deema Bibi, who made me very emotional and the whole audience was so captivated. We were then lucky enough to meet HRH Prince Charles and it was after this meeting that the whole programme seemed to make more sense to me. HRH met us with such heartfelt enthusiasm and took a genuine interest in our ideas for our projects. Up until then I had a vague idea of what my action plan could be. Over the course of the following two weeks of role playing in the Pearn Kandola sessions, the constant interactions with my fellow delegates, who hailed from 16 countries and through our group sessions, things slowly started to take shape.
We met eminent personalities from the Muslim community in the UK who had achieved a lot through their sheer hard work and persistence like Bushra Nasir CBE, the first Muslim head teacher of a British State school and Aqil Ahmed, Head of Religion & Ethics from BBC. We took part in group activities where we individually painted pieces that eventually lead to the compilation of a large Mosaic painting. But, best of all, I had the privilege of visiting a prison in the UK. Two teams were chosen to be the select few that visited the Brixton jail where we met inmates who ran the Gordon Ramsey operated Bad Boys’ Bakery, selling their end products at different outlets. It was by far one of the most surreal experiences of my life, the atmosphere of the jail quarters was far more vivid than any Hollywood movie scene I have seen!
Staying at Greenwich and Cambridge University campuses opened my eyes to many different experiences! I got to taste what I thought to be bland English food, I went on cold walks in the rain and I made friends with people who had what I would describe as quaint accents. I met people from varying different cultures. Yet despite all of the differences I felt so familiar and at ease. My experience was cemented when I met my mentor, Atiya Sheikh.
It was the last day at Cambridge and everyone was assigned a mentor. As I sat apprehensively wondering who I would end up with, Atiya’s warmth and genuine interest in my ideas instantly put me at ease. In those two hours, Atiya changed the course of my life. Or rather, helped me re-define my true passion. I have a home based catering unit of healthy soups and salads and a passion to raise awareness for the conservation of archaeological heritage. I write well, so between opening a café and writing to raise awareness, I chose the latter. Over the next year I regularly spoke with Atiya who provided constant support and guidance. She was always encouraging me, she gave the direction to apply for grants and funds for my project because she told me the more I put myself out there, the more I would learn.
I did not work for over year, I was determined to make my project happen! I wanted to have an organization that had a range of initiatives to raise awareness of the importance of the conservation of archaeological heritage. I was so excited even though I had not yet established my initiative, I eventually ended up with two weekly columns in local newspapers, it also was featured in some international magazines! I was gradually building a reputation of being known as “the heritage lady who also sells soups and salads”. I finally landed a job in eco-tourism which allowed me to explore further my passion as a heritage conservationist. Over the past year I have been very fortunate and have been given the opportunity to speak at different universities over the country about conservation issues. I am dedicated to starting a project but I believe that this is slow process but I am committed and determined to do so!
My first experience with Mosaic was amazing! My Mosaic experience helped me on my journey of self-discovery, it has allowed me to be someone who is ready to go beyond her comfort zone. A person who realizes her strengths and weaknesses; a person, I have always aspired to be.
I went back to my second ILP experience this year as a team leader and also registered as a mentor. This time, we met personality I deeply admire, HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal. The ILP was held in Jordan and Pearn Kandola featured again in their unmistakably affable sessions, while Jordan’s famous mountain climber, Mustafa Salameh and the ever inspiring global environmental campaigner Rob Swan left us awed, as did John May from the Duke of Edinburgh Awards team. As group leaders, we had a separate session with the public speaking expert Carole Spiers who helped us improve our presentation skills which was a source of huge entertainment as we all laughed at our own mistakes! I met 10 amazingly talented individuals as my group, where each person had a unique project idea and I was blown away by how well thought out the participants were this year. Compared to us in 2013, they were quite sure of what they wanted to achieve upon their return and there was much to learn from them! This time there were 18 countries and the 80 delegates interacted against the backdrop of a country seeped in culture and history. Groups were formed according to common action plans, while group sessions lead to members helping each other chalk out a more effective approach to their plan. I am in touch with each group member and I am proud to say that some of them have already achieved all that they had planned so far. My mentee on the other hand has reinstated my self-confidence as I truly felt that despite my apprehensions, I could actually help someone think through their action plans and offer valuable input.
My Mosaic experience has lead me to discover myself and find a person who is ready to go beyond her comfort zone; a person who realizes her strengths and weaknesses; a person, I have always aspired to be. 🙂
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