Humphrey Fellowship - Asia Ashraf
The Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program brings every year, young and mid-career professionals, from designated countries to the United States for a year-long non-degree graduate-level study program, leadership and professional development, and collaboration with the US counterparts in different fields. Since my completion of Master’s in Applied Psychology, I dedicated myself to treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of substance use in Pakistan, which is facing a major drug challenge with 6.7 million illicit drug users. I had put in 13 years of serving at the Sunny Trust, Addiction Treatment & Rehabilitation Center in Islamabad Pakistan and currently holding dual positions - Director Rehabilitation & Head of Psychology Department.
It all started two years back when I got into the long and tedious process of applying for the Hubert Humphrey fellowship in Islamabad. Never in my life had I gone through such extensive and intensive documentation to clear different stages leading to the final selection. This was a difficult and instructive process especially me having no previous exposure to the US system. By the time I boarded to the US in June 2015 (my first ever visit across the Atlantic), I knew it was going to be real tough. I reached Virginia Commonwealth University at Richmond in August 2015 after attending two months pre-academic program in Kansas. But on reaching there, I felt it wasn’t just hectic, but a kind of hurricane---the pace of life, pressure of work, timelines, deadlines, etc. For a while, it looked impossible. But coordinators, professors and colleagues, helped me build the strength and courage to take on this life-turning challenge with determination.
Richmond now has become my second home forever with fond memories of the loving and caring Humphrey family members and James River Hikers (where I learnt to make famous international Dennis’s cookies). At VCU, my academic growth, professional development, cultural sharing and personal grooming progressed side by side.
My year long stay in the US during this fellowship helped me in availing some extraordinary opportunities including participation in the Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation preparatory to the UN General Assembly Special Session on World Drug Problem in the UN Headquarters, New York in February and then the UN General Assembly Special Session held in New York in April 2016. I could never believe that my draft presentation for the Stakeholder Consultation would be selected by the UN for the key note address in the opening segment along with presentations by the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Chair of the Board, Commission on narcotic Drugs and Executive Director, UNODC. It was a great honor for me, my program advisors and colleagues at VCU, most importantly my country and my organization Sunny Trust. I highlighted the challenges of drugs and women faced by my country, the world and it helped setting the tone for the UN Special Session 2016 on World Drug Problem.
When I look back at the past 11 months, I cannot believe that I have done all the presentations, attended seminars and workshops, addressed diverse audiences, learnt so much, and did so much. It was also an opportunity to see the better side of America, its culture and people and share with them the values and culture of my home country Pakistan. It was heartening to experience the shared human values across cultures and regions that bind people of the world together. This bond is surely going to last for years to come and hopefully strengthen into mutual cooperation for the good of human beings and promoting a drug-free world.
To conclude, this past whole year had been most eventful, educative and consequential in positively shaping my personal and professional life. I am highly motivated and skilled to start developing “Sakoongah” (A house of peace and tranquility)-female friendly substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation centre and community-based approach to address the colossal issue of drug abuse confronting my country Pakistan.
I encourage you all to apply and the application is open now.
Don’t miss this life changing opportunity.