On February 14 and 15, over 50 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship alumni gathered at Serena Hotel in Islamabad for the 3rd Annual Humphrey Alumni Conference. The conference is a yearly get-together, where Humphrey alumni, leaders in their respective field, come together to share their experience of the fellowship program, and discuss ways to address challenges faced by Pakistan. This year’s conference marked 40 years of the Humphrey Fellowship program in Pakistan and was based on the theme “Building Leaders and Supporting Public Service: 40 Years of the Humphrey Program in Pakistan”.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program brings accomplished mid-career professionals with demonstrated leadership potential to the United States for a year of graduate-level, non-degree academic coursework and professional development activities. The ten-month program consists of academic coursework and internship in a relevant professional organization. By providing future leaders and policy makers with experience in U.S society, culture, and professional fields, the program provides a basis for lasting, productive ties between Americans and their professional counter parts overseas.
The conference kicked off with a dinner that was followed by an open mic talent show. The next day, alumni from various professional backgrounds attended the all-day conference. These alumni belonged to the public and private sector, NGOs as well as media.
The event started with opening remarks delivered by USEFP Executive Director, Ms. Rita Akhtar, who praised the contributions of Humphrey alumni saying, “When we consider the impact of the Humphrey Program in Pakistan, we couldn’t be prouder. You each have achieved a milestone in your field and are making a difference by bringing the skills in practice. We are proud of the diversity this program represents as we see people from each district present here.” Ms. Riffat Inam Butt also addressed the conference on behalf of the President, Humphrey Alumni Association of Pakistan, Dr. Aamer Irshad.
Guest of honor, Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, Ms. Lisa Heller, emphasized the advantages of the program, saying, “Forty years ago, Former Vice President Humphrey realized that we need to be visionary and create new ways to solve problems of the world. By bringing together the experiences and connections you made in the United States to address the challenges of Pakistan, is one of the benefits of this program. It is wonderful to see that you all are able to use those skills to play an important part for the development of Pakistan.”
The conference also included various talks chaired by Dr. Syed Iqbal Raza and Mr. Attaullah Malik, in which Humphrey fellows discussed their roles in public service, economic development, climate change, health, and education.
The keynote address at the conference was delivered by senior Humphrey alumnus and founder and chairperson of Akhuwat Foundation, Dr. Amjad Saqib. Dr. Saqib shared the highlights of his Humphrey journey in the 90s with the participants and discussed how the vision of former Presidents and civil rights movements impacted his career trajectory. Today, he is transforming thousands of lives in Pakistan by providing interest-free microfinance services and free education to students from underserved areas through four colleges across the country.