Empowering Youth and Promoting Eco-Tourism

Since its conception Hashoo Foundation has kept youth empowerment at the forefront of its mandate to work for the socio-economic uplift of underprivileged communities across Pakistan. Through Hashoo Hunar its flagship skills development programs- Hospitality Management (HMTP) and Early Childhood Development (ECD), training has enabled thousands of youth with employability and social uplift, thereby contributing to  the Foundation’s vision  of an ethical, equitable and inclusive society in which people live with dignity and have power over their own lives.

In order to achieve its objectives, the Foundation has partnered with various likeminded national and international NGOs. In December 2019, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Hashoo Foundation teamed up for the ‘Youth Empowerment Program’ (YEP), for the delivery of professional trainings to 1500 youth of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, leading to their job placement in the tourism and hospitality industry.

The project areas of Chitral, Buner and Swat  have a pristine and rugged beauty that has sparked a tourism frenzy in recent years. Particularly in Eco-Tourism; a branch of tourism becoming more popular amongst millennials and youth around the world; with its promise to provide sustainable exposure to the outside world and giving a truly authentic experience to visitors. What this meant for trainees in the YEP Project was an opportunity to socialize, learn and grow with the outside world.

Pakistan was ranked the top travel destination of 2020 by Conde Nast (a mass media company), a claim which coincided with the PTDC estimation of approximately 2 million tourist visiting Pakistan in 2019. Our unassuming country has a lot to offer to its visitors, with diverse terrain, rich history and majestic northern areas. Although 2020 took an unexpected turn, the scope of Eco Tourism will inevitably grow, which is why the Hashoo Foundation as leaders in empowerment through development initiatives thought it best to focus trainings on traits which would promote entrepreneurial capabilities in a potential sector and enable the youth with life skills and income opportunities.

“I have never imagined I would be able to continue learning while working in my shop. I hope there are more trainings like this to come so I can keep on polishing my existing skills and learn new ones.” Asadullah, YEP Trainee

With the help of primary and secondary data collected, customized modules were created to incorporate valuable insight into business opportunity and employability for the youth of the region, end goal being to provide a means of livelihood by using the resources at hand.

In January 2020, training material was ready and mobilization of trainees was well underway, when the devastating pandemic brought all work to  a flustering halt March of 2020. . With its signature innovate and solution -oriented thinking, the leadership of  Hashoo Foundation, re-strategized the project, focusing on market-oriented trades, conducive to COVID-19, as well as expanding the picking pool of trainees from university students to youth from the whole community to meet the desired number of trainees who can accomplish goals set for YEP.A forward looking UNDP extended full support to the idea.

The new action plan included online training, as well as offline training, pertaining to agri-based livestock and homebased enterprise. As per HF recommendation, no stipend was offered since the training itself presented the promise of opportunity.  The trainees’ responded positively to this approach and showed willingness to succeed, despite the odds; this experience was a learning curve for everyone involved. Change being the only constant, project management principles  were constantly challenged and a barrage of issues had to be addressed while keeping in mind the genuine need of our trainees under the , given the circumstance. as the measure of  success we chose was the  ability of the trainees to better their lives both in the immediate future as well as in the longer term.

“I can see my dream turning in to a reality after going through this training program. I want to start my own business in cybersecurity after achieving an international scholarship from advanced industries like Lockheed Martin.” Wasim Khan, YEP Trainee

Regardless of all the obstacles, the two-week project completed training of  2128 total number of young men and women  (53% men and 47% women). As observed by all stakeholders  YEP saw ample use of digitalization, with a great deal of  work taking place online; devising innovative ways of communication for e-commerce to flourish, creating policies which particularly empowered women, giving them a sense of recognition and economic security. The significant take away of this Hashoo solution in the early days of the COVID pandemic uncertainty was that entrepreneurial mindset contributes to resilience and mobilizes the youth potential. , The KP youth demonstrated that with technical support,  proper training and development tools to continue their learning, they have the commitment and creativity  to become successful entrepreneurs becoming active members of their community.

“We extend our utmost gratitude to the entire Hashoo Foundation team for making this project a success in such complex circumstances. Rising to the challenge of COVID-19 in implementation of development activities is still something we are learning along the way, so we truly appreciate the flexibility, patience, and cooperation that Hashoo Foundation extended. “Laura Sheridan, UNDP

These are the results achieved through experienced training methods, and extensive, widely recognized programs with close partnerships in the development area including the Government sector, Academia and development agencies.  Hashoo Foundation has worked throughout Pakistan in favorable and challenging contexts achieving community growth and empowerment with a special focus on paving way for the youth to come forward and claim the future they will help build.