This week, VOA's Urdu Service hosted twelve boys from the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, who had survived a Taliban attack on their school in December 2014. Their visit to VOA was the last stop of a two-and-a-half week trip to the United States sponsored by the non-profit Meridian International Center.
At a reception in their honor Governor Matt Armstrong, of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, said “I have been following some of your activities in the U.S….Again, it’s a great honor; you have been through quite a bit. All of you are young men that are growing and learning….Thanks for allowing VOA to be a participant in this and we hope to see great things from you.”
As a room full of staff from VOA’s South and Central Asia Division watched, Acting VOA Director Kelu Chao and VOA Urdu Service Chief Faiz Rehman presented each of the sixteen students with a plaque to commemorate their visit. BBG Interim CEO and Director André Mendes also presented them with gifts to remember their visit.
Meridian International Center sponsored the custom-designed Global Leadership / Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Program for the 12 Pakistani students. Throughout the trip, they were paired with four American students with similar interests. All sixteen boys—Pakistani and American—had an opportunity to share views throughout the program. In her remarks, Bonnie Glick, Senior Vice President, Global Connect Division, Meridian International Center, said the boys are interested in “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics which is really the future of the world, and one of the things that we have stressed from the start of this program is the future.”
VOA Urdu covered their trip as they made stops in Albany, New York; New York City; and Washington, D.C. During a stop at the U.S. Capitol, one of the American students told VOA “It was really cool to experience the Capitol, with people who are not from this country….I thought it was very interesting to see their reactions to some of the things I’ve grown up seeing, so I just want them to bring back the message that this country is welcoming to them and that we are happy that they are here and we would be happy if they came again.”
During their trip, they met Secretary of State John Kerry, visited the Pentagon and Ground Zero in New York City, and were hosted by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. One of the highlights of their visit was a cricket match with Pakistani high school students, which was arranged by the NYPD. They also met with NYPD commissioner, William J Bratton, and Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UNGA, Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi. Their visit also included classes at the Colleges of Nano Scale Science and Engineering in Albany where they made their own robotic models.
Ambassador Stuart W. Holiday, president and CEO of Meridian International Center told VOA “What we are doing is simply what we do with thousands of young people around the world, which is to give them an opportunity to understand American society and culture, but also some of the skills, that they are going to need to be successful back home in Pakistan.”