One of those incredibly obvious, easy-to-answer questions: what links the ex-mayor of Kirklees, the MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, and a 19th century sufi saint and poet? To save you the effort of going to Google: they were all born in Azad Kashmir in North East Pakistan. And the connection to Encompass Trust?
This summer, staff members Rori and Lucy travelled to Azad Kashmir to meet with young people from the Umeed Youth Project. It’s the only youth organisation in a 5,000 square mile region of some four million people. Thanks to determined work over many months, Encompass has now forged a formal link with the project. As a result, two young people from Umeed will join the Journey of Understanding this autumn.
For Encompass, this marks a significant milestone, as we add a sixth country to our international programme. For Nargis and Nadeem, the two young people who will be coming to the UK, it represents a major opportunity to learn how people view Pakistan and to dispel the misconceptions that they believe many hold about their country.
This is a region which is no stranger to conflict and controversy. If proof were needed, access to the area is so restricted that Rori and Lucy were unable to enter, and were only able to meet two large groups of young people from Umeed in a hotel 10kms from the Azad Kashmir border.
Young people isolated in a conflicted community, anxious to engage with their peers, keen to challenge entrenched ideas: a perfect match for the trust’s mission.