Why Pakistan was good for me:

I have a goal in life. I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how miniscule. I want to leave a mark, my mark.

My name is Zainab Khawaja, and though I am Pakistani, I was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in the Unites States. I moved to Pakistan in June 2005, at the age of 13 – old enough to have started to understand the world, but still too young to understand the need for change, and to resist the subsequent transformation of my life. Moving across the world, entering a culture I had absolutely no connection with, and ingratiating myself with people who viewed me as a complete alien, seemed at first to be an unconquerable impasse. I felt as if I was being robbed of the happy life I had had up till then. In retrospect, however, it is easy to see how positively this change affected me.

It is my firm belief that moving to Pakistan has helped me become a better person. From the poverty and helplessness, I’ve learned the lesson of humility and appreciation. From the corruption and the lack of structure, I’ve learned the value of justice and organization. From the shortages of everything from utilities to basic food substances, I’ve learned to live with less and make the most out of what I have. Most of all, however, it is from the sincerity and hospitality of a few that I have learned to hope for better, that amongst all that darkness, the light of a single candle will always shine clear and true.