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BEYOND PAPER: A RAY OF LIGHT

BEYOND PAPER: A RAY OF LIGHT

An Interview with Maheen Shahid Conducted by Mahnoor Abdullah for PaperCrush

Mahnoor:
So Maheen, why don’t you tell our readers who exactly Maheen Shahid from SAAHA is? 

Maheen: 
Hey everyone! I am Maheen, Maheen Shahid Khan. I have been bullied a LOT on taking my name twice, but I am so used to it now that it just comes out of my mouth naturally. I am currently a sophomore at NUST Business School doing accounting and finance. I am also running this small non-profit organization by the name of SAAHA, serving as a Spark Ambassador for Unilever, and I’m currently a member of a few societies and organizations. That’s it for now. I believe I’m a bit of everything, like I want to be a part of everything to experience it and broaden my horizons. Other than that, people also say that I am very bold, loud, and confident.

Mahnoor:
Okay, you’ve told me a lot about yourself! Tell me how your time at NUST has been, however brief it was.

Maheen:
Not going to lie, my time spent at NUST was not the best. I’ve had some really sad days. I was told that “NBS mein party scene hai”, which was a LIE, a BIG FAT LIE I REPEAT. I had higher expectations, and every single time an expectation of mine would break, my heart would just shatter, and I’d go and cry. No one told me that we would be drowning in this plethora of assignments, quizzes, presentations and what not, and I was not prepared at all for that. So, it was kind of a mess, but when I finally adjusted, “corona homie” came and ruined everything. I still miss those days that included taking pictures in NBS, roaming around and eating S3H ka roll paratha and Kybo kay jalapeno fries. And our welcome and a few other events were the highlights of my days at NUST.

Mahnoor:
So, what is your favorite thing to do on campus?

Maheen:
I just want to take pictures/boomerangs at every corner of NUST, because taking pictures on campus is one of my most favorite things to do! (I mean every single place is so pretty!) Other than that, there are things to do like going to the helipad ground and seeing the ‘magic’ and screaming on panaflex launches. I just love that!

Mahnoor:
And yet with all this, you managed to create a non-profit organization with who I am assuming are your friends. How did that come to be?

Maheen:
Yeah, first semester was the time when the idea was born. As I said before, it was hard for me to manage stuff and everything, and I really had no idea about which world I have been tossed into. To be honest, accounting and finance bhi is liye ki kyunke naam cool lag raha tha. For instance, I didn’t even know that plagiarism was even a thing.

Okay, I should stop embarrassing myself now. Anyway, that was the time I realized that other people needed guidance and assistance, so they didn’t have to go through what I did. So, I made this organization which aims to mentor, guide, assist and help people in deciding what they should do, inform them about university life, and to tell them how everything works, and not just say that “FSC/A levels karlo agay tou easy scene hai”. I want them to be aware of which world they are coming into and let them know that in every stage of life we need help, and that SAAHA will be providing you with all that.

Mahnoor:
NUST is lovely and I think home is lovely to everyone. So, you mentioned that you have had bad days on campus just like anyone else, but you chose to channel that energy towards doing something for other students. Was there any incident that motivated you to do so?

Maheen:
Yeah, I think those bad days were the best thing that happened to me, because I believe they really made me become a better version of myself. I think my seniors are very inspiring and most of my motivation came from them. They would never say no to me and would help me with everything. I’d be discussing my assignments with them before even attempting them, and they even ‘fixed’ me in their squads. So, this inspired me to the fact that I should do the same with my juniors. Other than this, the satisfaction and contentment you get from bringing a smile on people’s faces either by making them laugh or helping them is truly next level, and I honestly live for that. Lastly, I think ‘corona’ also played its part in a way. These stressful and depressing times made me realize the importance of people, and it made me realize that you need a person for everything. You need someone to suggest you a movie, and you need someone to tell you about which book you should read. Even though we have Google and everything, but you need to rant out to someone, and anyone can help anyone by connecting with them. So, with all this combined, a passion project by the name of SAAHA came into existence.

Mahnoor:
So SAAHA believes that a person is a person through other people. Can you explain it a bit for our audience for better understanding of what SAAHA aims for? Basically, how do you operate with this belief of yours?

Maheen:
SAAHA, as it is, stands for ‘Society’s Assistance, Aid and Harmony Association’, and it aims to serve society as a whole. It’s an initiative to guide, assist, help, monitor, and advise people. We want to facilitate people in every aspect of their lives by providing them a helping hand, because what is better than society helping society? Eradicating the differences among us and becoming one is the end-goal. I always wanted to bring a change in society and I believe that you need to start from something, and that something could be anything. In other words, SAAHA is a passion product for helping and connecting our community. 

Maheen Shahid, Founder of SAAHA.

Mahnoor:
Does SAAHA facilitate non-NUSTians?

Maheen:
Yes, it’s not limited to NUSTians. We have people from almost all universities. For instance, if someone has some queries from LUMS, we’ll connect them to a mentor from LUMS and they will help them. That’s how it works.

Mahnoor
Right! So, you have a network of people in many universities? Was it a hard job bringing so many like-minded people together?

Maheen:
It was a matter of teamwork. All my friends from school and the NUST side helped me a lot in doing marketing, and I loved how they just owned this organization. It feels so good when they say “hamari organization”. Rida and Saad (the other two core team members and my good friends) managed everything so well and made my life easier, so a huge thanks to them and rest of the team for finding other people and bringing them to this platform!

Mahnoor:
How does SAAHA provide comfort and consolation to those being bitterly crushed within the tough frame of educational systems?

Maheen:
We do so in many ways. Our mentors counsel/advise freshmen in universities, and we provide young high school students with advice regarding future career choices. Our mentors who are graduated will give advice to people at the sophomore and freshmen level on how to make their portfolios and CVs for higher education. Students who have lost their skills and talents because of our bitter and harsh education system can attend motivational sessions with SAAHA, helping them to find their hidden or lost talents through webinars and many other mediums.

Mahnoor:
So, you seem to be providing a platform with SAAHA for all these people to come together and talk about the problems they are facing?

Maheen:
Yes, it’s a communication plus helping platform.

Mahnoor: 
Right, so how do you manage the work of the organization with your academics and family, considering you are also an active part of societies on campus?

Maheen: 
If you have a passion for anything, you can do it easily. Honestly, I love it because it’s a relief from academics. I always balanced my studies with other co-curriculars throughout my life, so it isn’t really hard for me but sometimes it does gets too stressful. Then, a quick good cry works and then I go back to work!

Mahnoor: 
I have seen AISEC on SAAHA’s stories. Please tell us about this collaboration!

Maheen: 
SAAHA and AISEC in NUST collaborated for a social media project related to spreading awareness about educational issues for the transgender community.

Mahnoor:
That sounds like a good initiative. Tell me about the progress SAAHA is making on and off campus. When you found courage and had a plan to give voice to your idea, how did it map out?

Maheen:
The response I got was exceptional! I was not expecting it to get recognition so soon. It all started when I uploaded a story on my close friends list, and I got so many replies within seconds! Everyone was telling me how I should I do this and how I have their support, and it gave so much courage to finally initiate it! Uskay baad the rest of the credits go to Rida and Saad because they made everything possible! So, it’s doing good, we’ve arranged some webinars and the feedback we got was amazing!

(Parts of this interview have been edited for the sake of conciseness and clarity.)

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