Members of the Wilmington Rotary Club recently returned from a trip to Pakistan as part of the group’s ongoing effort to educate and establish relationships with their counterparts on the other side of the world.
A desire to build bridges between Wilmington, Delaware and Lahore, Pakistan led twelve members of the Wilmington Rotary Club to visit Pakistan last month. Chairman of the Pakistan Project Kathleen Meyer led the Rotary group’s 11-day trip. She says, “It was a wonderful, joyous mission.” The club members met with high level government officials, visited historic sites and got to take part in some Pakistani culture.
The group carried a letter to the people of Pakistan from Vice President Joe Biden, a letter Meyer says was very well recieved when it was read aloud for various groups in Pakistan. In the letter, Biden acknowledges the importance of initiatives like the Rotary Club’s Pakistan Project. “In partnership over great distances, Americans and Pakistanis are engaged in the person-to-person exchanges of aid and culture that strengthen the relationship between our two countries,” Biden wrote. “Each act of collaboration is another step toward the day when understanding and tolerance will defeat ignorance and extremism.”
For Meyer, one of the biggest takeaways from visiting Lahore was the quality of the people who they got to know on a very personal level, considering the group stayed in Pakistani homes, instead of hotels. “We felt so comfortable in Lahore,” she says. “There are so many misconceptions about Pakistan. I think that part of our mission continues right here in Delaware to spread the word on what it was like, who we met, and that there is a path forward.”
Part of that continuing mission is raising funds to provide scholarships for girls to attend the Lahore Mozang Rotary’s Unity School. Meyer says, “150 U.S. dollars pays for tuition for a year, uniform, shoes, books, school supplies and special activities.” The Wilmington club has raised about $23,000 from members for the school.
But it’s not just education of students in Pakistan that the club is focused on. They’ve hosted a series of forums for hundreds of Delaware high school students designed to provide kids with an accurate picture of Pakistan. Last year, students heard from Muqtedar Khan, professor at the University of Delaware and founder of the school’s Islamic Studies Program. Later this school year, students will attend a special presentation of Pakistani music, featuring Jeffrey Iqbal, a Pakistani-American from Newark who performed at the cultural palace in Lahore in December.