“UWC Mahindra College helped me change my fears into opportunities and struggles into passion,” says Ufra. “It motivated me to strive for a better, peaceful future; to dare and create an unconventional path that others could walk on too.”
A graduate of UWCMC (Class of 2005), Ufra lived no ordinary life before coming to the college. What is life like for an adolescent girl from Kashmir who faced brutal consequences of living in a violent society? When your daily life is about facing atrocities, it takes deep courage and determination to not only survive, but overcome what life throws at you as a given.
Ufra is one such fearless individual who rejected the given and moved forward to bring peace in the world. Recognising the need for the healing process from the ongoing conflict in Kashmir, she founded “Paigaam: A Message for Peace”. This first of its kind organisation started as an education based youth-health peace initiative designed to offer various peace building skills and training-workshops to Kashmiri youth and empower them emotionally, socially and psychologically. Now, Paigaam has grown into an international nonprofit organisation which is currently attempting to redefine the traditional education system in the Kashmir valley by incorporating eclectic peace-education programs in schools, along with their initiatives on arts, and women & youth empowerment.
Paigaam’s Celebration of International Peace Day, 2011 at Luther College (Photo Courtesy: Erin Saiof )
A peace-psychologist, social entrepreneur, peace activist, and a passionate positive change maker, Ufra is a graduate of Luther College (USA) and the University of Nottingham (UK) with her double degree in Psychology and Mental Health-Wellness. She also holds a Diploma in Leadership Development from the Swedish Institute where she was selected as one of the 30 global fellows in 2013. Originally from Kashmir, her experiences in and passion for positive peace building & human rights led her to formally redefine & pursue the field of peace-psychology. She is currently the youngest & first peace-psychologist in the world and South-Asia.
Born and raised in one of the most conflict-prone regions of the world (Kashmir, India), she always yearned for positive peace building, peaceful co-existence and respect for human rights especially for youth. It is essential but hard to make a positive difference in a place that is marred by extreme violence; innocent Kashmiri youth are constantly facing numerous atrocities and brutalities. But living in different multi-ethnic regions of the world including India, USA and UK strengthened her belief that understanding and acceptance of human rights and peace can create a wider space bringing people, especially youth, together to work for the common good.
When asked what UWC Mahindra College means to her, she fondly remarked, “Paigaam’s motto is to transform thinking thus transforming lives, and an essential part of it comes from my life-changing experience at UWCMC.” Remembering her time at the college, she described how she arrived with no prior expectation of how those 2 years were going to be like, but later realised that it prepared her for the worst things in life with a positive attitude, patience, tolerance and deep understanding of who we are as human beings. “I came out of UWCMC with beautiful values, valuable skills, wonderful memories, lifelong friends and a great beginning of an amazing journey of self-transformation,” she added. “UWC Mahindra College helped me realise my purpose in life.”
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Please note that Paigaam is run solely by volunteers and the organisation generates funds on its own through events and workshops. Any free-will donations, however, would be greatly appreciated!