The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP), in collaboration with Routes2Roots (R2R), an Indian non-profit organization working for peace and dialogue between Pakistan and India, have successfully completed a fourteen month project ‘Exchange for Change: Pakistan India 2012 – 2013’. 3,500 students from across Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Mumbai, Delhi and Chandigarh believe that their stories across the two nations are the same and are worth sharing with the general public to dispel misconceptions that prevail on both sides of the border.
To this end, CAP organized two exhibitions in Lahore and Rawalpindi. The third and final exhibition was held today, 1st October 2013 at Sadequain Gallery, Frere Hall in Karachi where participating students of the Exchange for Change project shared their experiences from the 14-month initiative.
The Karachi exhibition was well attended and featured members of the Pakistan delegation of students and teachers that visited India during the project, Executive Director CAP Swaleha Alam Shahzada, CAP Board Members Adnan Malik, Ali Reza Mumtaz, Fahad Asadullah, esteemed members of the press and other invited guests.
Visitors interacted with the numerous audio-visual installations at the venue and listened to the actual oral histories of students who participated in the programme. Guests at the exhibition also observed actual letters, postcards and posters which Pakistani and Indian students had created and shared with each other during the 14 month program.
Exchange for Change was first launched in September 2010 between 2,400 school children from 10 schools in Karachi, Lahore, Delhi and Mumbai. After its spectacular success the project was expanded in 2012 to 3,500 school children from 17 schools in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Delhi, Chandigarh and Mumbai.
During the fourteen-month life of the project, a sustained exchange of written, visual and oral histories linked school children aged 10-14 years across the six cities. The selected schools from across six major cities ensured a holistic dialogue between students belonging to diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
Exchange for Change aims at improving relationships between school students in different countries. The program seeks to help students across borders realize that dialogue is possible and sustainable. Through cross-culture communication students have become increasingly aware of their history, culture and their lifestyles.
According to the students who have participated in the project, they believe that they have a lot in common with their neighbors and that peace can be achieved by having a clearer understanding of both cultures. CAP believes that such interaction will in turn lead to a positive change and eliminate cultural misconceptions and inter-generational conflict.
The ‘Letters to the Past,’ series kicked off the project in September 2012 during which students engaged in letter writing activities, sharing their thoughts, values, hobbies and interests with each other. A special emphasis was laid upon discussing historical and cultural facts so that students were not only able to make friends across the border but also participate in information exchange.
Between December 2012 and February 2013, the ‘Photography Series,’ involved students in making postcards, greeting cards and collages based on 4 themes: school life, food, festivals and marriages and historical monuments. This endeavor enabled students to familiarize each other with the history, culture and lifestyle. The ‘Oral History’ series was conducted between February to April 2013, adding an audio-based dimension to the project.
Students interviewed their grandparents, collecting historical narratives about various cities across Pakistan and India as well as their recollections of the early years. In September 2013 the first Exchange for Change Exhibition was held at the Zahoor-ul-Iklaq Gallery at the National College of Arts in Lahore. This event was inaugurated by the visiting 33 member Indian delegation, students and teachers from participating schools, who crossed over the historical Wagah-Attari border by foot.
While the second Exchange for Change exhibition was held at the National College of Arts, Rawalpindi. On the 10th September 2013, a thirty six member Pakistani delegation traveled to Delhi and Agra, through the Wagah-Attari border by foot. During their 1 week stay, students and teachers from the participating schools visited partnering schools, engaged with their counterparts and visited historical sites across the two cities.
Speaking about this initiative, Swaleha Alam Shahzada, Executive Director and Governing Board Member of CAP said: “The 5,600 participants of Exchange for Change to date have convinced us that we can no longer ignore our similarities and there is no reason why we cannot accept our differences.
Whether visiting Agra or a trip to the Badshahi Mosque, or playing the first cricket match ever in the no man’s land ‘between’ Pakistan and India – each Pakistani and Indian Exchange for Change student believes that it is time to move on and build bridges with our neighbors because our stories are the same!”
Tina Vachani, Founder of Routes2Roots said: Tina Vachani, Founder of Routes2Roots said: “It was a very touching moment for me and our team to see the culmination of Exchange For Change 2012-2013, with the physical exchange between the children and the teachers of the participating schools from both the countries.
The unanimous sentiment of the delegates from both the countries was that they would want to stay longer beyond seven days, which fortifies the belief of togetherness and friendship. The perceptions and views of the teachers and children saw a dramatic change which resulted in correction of fixed ideas and biases they had before visiting each others country.”
Schools from Pakistan who participated in the project included Mama Parsi School, BVS Parsi High School, AMI School, School of Technical Sciences, The Trust School, The Citizens Foundation, Quality Schools Foundation, Quaid-e-Azam International School, White House School and Gulshan-e-Iqbal Public School. Indian participating schools are Gem Public School, Saupins School, The British School, Adarsh Vidalaya, Shree Amulakh Amichand Bhimji Vividlakshi Vidyalaya, Guru Harikrishnan School and Tagore International School.
The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to cultural and historic preservation, operating in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. We seek to educate the community, foster an awareness of our nations’ history and instil pride in Pakistani citizens about their heritage.
Our organization has three main goals; to preserve and provide access to the archive, to build and support educational programs and to develop educational products based on the testimonies collected. Our vision is to develop CAP as the foremost museum and heritage center of Pakistani history, photography, culture, literature and historical documentation demonstrating the strength and spirit of Pakistan from the perspective of a citizen.
Routes2Roots is a registered non-profit charitable organization, which endeavors to bring together people, cultures and values across the SAARC countries, in particular India and Pakistan. Routes2Roots has organized numerous programs across the country from artists from Pakistan and other SAARC countries and have sent Indian Artists to these countries in a move to enhance people to people understanding and make this region a peaceful place.
Routes2Roots has been actively engaged with ICCR, Delhi Tourism, Rajasthan Tourism, J&K Tourism and other government and non-government organizations. Routes2Roots are also a member of World Association of NGO’s New York USA.