By Momal Mushtaq
NUST Business School
NUST H-12 Campus Islamabad
It all started one fine day. I was routinely surfing through the internet when suddenly came across the website of Young Leaders Conference 2011 (YLC’11). I’d heard a lot about the conference through my friends who’d previously applied for it. Having little idea of what lay in front of me, I decided to apply for it.
For those who don’t know, YLC is a six day conference which receives participation of youth (aged 18-24) from all over the world. The subsidized conference tuition fee is Rs. 39,900 per participant, exclusive of air and land to and from the venue. The fee is too big an amount for a student to arrange on his own, therefore, the maximum participation by YLC is received through sponsorships.
Without giving a serious thought to how I’d be able to arrange the sponsors, I filled the application form for YLC’11. It was only when two weeks later I received the confirmation call for YLC’11 that I decided to take the conference seriously. I was offered 60% sponsorship by YLC itself. Thinking that it was something offered to almost every other applicant, I generously refused the offer, my exact words being: “Aap na karain mujhe sponsor, main khud he sponsor dhoondh loon ge.” (Translation: You don’t sponsor me; I’ll find one myself.) Now when I think of it, I can’t help laughing. 😀
When I sat down to search for sponsorships, the road seemed quite bumpy. I was told that since I don’t have my “chachas mamas” working in big corporations, I shouldn’t have any high expectations. Nevertheless, I followed the guidelines given on YLC website and composed a sponsorship request letter. After sending the letter to literally whomever I could think of, I expected no response, whatsoever.
To my surprise, those at the receiving side actually replied. In fact, most of them did. It was the outcome of one of those sponsorship requests that I received an interview call from Dawn and two days later, YLC confirmed my 60% sponsorship from Dawn in Education. It was one of those rare moments when I felt that a change could be brought in Pakistan and there actually are organizations out there which don’t operate on the basis of contacts, but only on merit.
The remaining 10% and 30% were arranged by my parents and through an NGO respectively. The latter was a silent gesture of pure kindness which left a deep mark on me and it all happened so quickly that I couldn’t ponder over my travel expenses and how I’d be able to arrange them.
Then two weeks before the conference, I started contacting the airlines currently operating in Pakistan, i.e. if excluded Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). I feared contacting PIA thinking that the management would be quite rude and that I won’t be talked to nicely. I also held the general stereotype that since PIA is a government organization and since most government organizations are generally known as corrupt, the management won’t be much interested in such activities related to corporate social responsibility.
The response from managers at other airlines, especially those at airblue, was quite polite and respectful; however, none seemed interested in sponsoring me. In my quest, I even contacted the Daewoo management. Here, my sponsorship request was approved but my father couldn’t bear my hardship of travelling 24 hours by road. Therefore, despite my persuasion, he didn’t allow me.
Finally, out of hopelessness, three days before the conference, I decided to let go of my fears and come face to face with PIA. 😛 After a number of calls to the PIA Head Office, I got in touch with its Marketing Manager. I don’t even know the exact designation of that generous, kind and respectful human being I talked to. He took time out from his busy schedule to make my participation in YLC possible and that, too, on such short notice. I’ve no words to express my gratitude for him and PIA. In the end, it’s my own government – corrupt, maybe – who took ownership of me and it felt purely at home.
PIA – Great People to Fly with… Truly.
To sum it up, YLC has been life-changing for me and I’m forever indebted to the above-mentioned organizations and my parents for helping me be a part of this great learning experience.