Featured Bonner: Irem Khan
Irem Khan, Class of 2014
International Studies and History Bridge Major
What type of service are you engaged with? Why are you interested in this type of service?
I primarily serve with Interfaith and Diversity programs. Interfaith can mean dialogue between groups of different faiths or even better, and taking action with groups of different faiths. Being engaged with interfaith and diversity allows me to help break down barriers and existing stereotypes between peoples of different religions, ethnicities, and cultures and allows me to help eliminate ignorance and intolerance and allows me to build bridges of acceptance and unity in our community.
What has been the most meaningful service experience for you?
The most meaningful interfaith experience I have had so far was organizing a Thanksgiving feast for the local Somali refugee population, in which we made and served the local refugees dinner and gave toys to the children. The smiles on the faces of the children, while we, Muslim, Christian, and Jew, gave out action figures and coloring books and playdough to them touched my heart in a way that made me realize the importance of interfaith action and diversity. I realized that separately we may be doing similar things but united we accomplish the same goal in a way that not only breaks down barriers of ignorance but also allows us to spread interfaith cooperation and diversity in a way that is still novel to many.
Favorite experience that the Bonner Program has given you?
The best experience the Bonner Program has given me so far has been to allow me to do a summer of service in my home country of Pakistan. In Pakistan, I worked at a charity hospital, called Hijaz Hospital, which is solely run on donations. Patients of all classes, rich or poor, come to Hijaz Hospital. Sometimes if a patient could not afford to even pay $2, the hospital would give them free treatment. Working with the patients of Hijaz Hospital allowed me to meet with those for who even earning $1 a day was a big deal. It allowed me to connect with young women my own age who were mothers of three or four and were running the entire household. It allowed me to meet with those for who education was a luxury. The Bonner Program allowed me to hear the stories of those that were the backbones of Pakistani society. Just so you will get an idea, here ‘s the story of a co-worker—one of the ladies I worked with, an attendant, was the only one that would provide for her family. Her husband’s kidneys were failing (he would come in for dialysis about three times a week), so she was the only source of income for the family. She had three kids, who were all in school. She worked two jobs—one at the hospital (she would get a one hour break after it until the next job) and one in a textile factory. At the hospital her salary per month was 8,000 Rs.— $94 per month and $1,129 per year. This is the average salary of the average person in Pakistan per year.
Overall, my experience in Pakistan allowed me to gain a better understanding of a third world country. It allowed me to learn how poor people live and what factors cause poverty and what the results of poverty are. It allowed me to learn that even though impoverished people of Pakistan suffer every day, they still keep a smile on their face. It also allowed me to appreciate what God has given me. In all, Bonner allowed me to have one of the best experiences of my life.
How does your service relate to your major/future career plans?
In the future I hope to work in international development. Working with people of different backgrounds, including religions and ethnicities, and having lived and worked in a developing country will hopefully help guide me in the future.