IEEE SIGHT Karachi – How mentoring relationships are empowering volunteers

Shujaan Akhwund experienced a revelation about rural life and its trials in Pakistan while visiting the poverty-ridden and underpowered district of Umerkot, Sindh. Shujaan is a graduate student and member of the IEEE Karachi Section (Pakistan, Region 10), and he was traveling with IEEE SIGHT Karachi volunteers. The experience convinced him not to take his opportunities in life for granted. He decided to participate in humanitarian work using technology to make a positive contribution to his fellow Pakistani citizens, many of whom may regard Shujaan’s young generation as their last hope for economic advancement.

To guide him in that work, Shujaan has taken on a mentor. Shujaan recently joined a four-and-a-half-year-old SIGHT in Karachi and is now organizing a “Community Engagement Workshop” in September. He is engaging stake holders from the community to create a shared-value project based agenda. And he has help and moral support from his mentor Sarang Shaikh.

Reflecting on his personal encounters, Sarang Shaikh, an IEEE member, who has been involved in founding SIGHT at Karachi in 2013, feels relaxed and as reenergized as his mentee. Exploring his personal journey, which also began as the organizer of a “Community Engagement Workshop” in early 2014, he is sure that Shujaan is going to undergo change on a personal level and deepen his volunteer service after such an activity.

This mentee-mentoring culture is shaping the progress and structure of volunteer work at SIGHT Karachi. In retrospect, everyone is grateful for having a pool of talented people to share, engage and inspire each other. To further elevate the concept, SIGHT Karachi is planning to announce a “Board of Mentors” consisting of all professionals and individuals that have contributed in the past. The board will steer and provide guidance to make projects have greater impact and serve as a case-study for anybody to follow in their future work.

In order to keep motions of this mentee-mentoring relationship flying, SIGHT Karachi will launch a three-month fellowship program starting in early November, 2017. The program will be aimed at undergraduate students interested in participating in humanitarian activities and particularly in SIGHT. This will create a chain in which mentors will train prospective students to become leaders, transforming into the mentors of tomorrow to further spread motivation among their peers and future mentees.

Profiles in Mentorship

SIGHT Karachi is fortunate to draw on a well of experience in humanitarian technology development. Hassan Idrees is also among the very few IEEE volunteers that have jumped into humanitarian pursuits after experiencing student and technical activities. Hassan recently is leading the “Lightening the Umerkot – Rural Electrification” project and contributes his time and wisdom with juniors and volunteers interested in SIGHT and other humanitarian activities.

Parkash Lohana, a Senior IEEE member and former IEEE Karachi Section Chair, is among the team in foundation of IEEE SIGHT Karachi. He is an expert academician with more than 30 years of experience, and he is also serving as R10 Humanitarian Activities Coordinator.

“As a community of diversified backgrounds and different professions, we need to participate as both mentee and mentor concerning how the situation and demand is. Our combined experience can create better future knowledge societies,” Parkash says.

Moreover, the people that have come across through interactions and engagements from organizing community engagement workshops also add value by providing useful insights through their extensive experience in different fields.

Abdul Rauf, founder of Pakistan Science Club and a leader in STEM studies, is also a mentor to IEEE SIGHT Karachi. His services and wisdom are considered highly whenever a STEM or pre-university education activity is planned.

Dr. Nazir Vaid is among the pioneers of telemedicine concepts in Pakistan and he has helped by providing useful contacts and experienced advice whenever field projects relating to mhealth and online medical technology related systems are studied and practiced.

IEEE SIGHT Karachi has certain plans to develop a mentee-mentoring culture with the hope that ultimately these connections will bring change. It has a strong start, but also a long way to go.