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India-Pak student exchange program gets UN innovation award
Sunday May 22, 2016 10:22 AM, PTI

New Delhi:
For some years now, school students from India and Pakistan have been connecting with each other through handwritten letters besides a few audio and visual recordings that are reflective of a shared history of the two neighbours before Partition.

The 'Student Exchange Program', a year-long dialogue comprising a sustained exchange of written, visual and oral histories connecting school children aged between 10-14 years across the cities of India and Pakistan was initiated by city-based NGO 'Routes 2 Roots'.

The NGO has recently been awarded the "The Inter-cultural Innovation Award 2016' from United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in Baku, Azerbaijan for this programme.

In its first year in 2010 the program attracted between 2400 children from 10 schools across four cities of India and Pakistan.

Students hailing from diverse socio-economic backgrounds from selected schools participate in the five-phased program that is aimed at improving ties between the two countries and the exchange of letters, postcards, pictures, artwork and videos encourage children to form their own opinions and have a clearer understanding of history, culture and lifestyle through cross cultural communications.

"The endeavour enables students to familiarise with each other with the history, culture and lifestyle of their neighbouring country," says Rakesh Gupta, founder, Routes2Roots.

The first phase 'Letters Writing' engage students in writing letters, where they share their thoughts, values, hobbies and interests.

In the next 'Postcard Series,' students click pictures of their favourite monument, family, pet etc and write about the picture and subsequently the postcards are then sent to schools across the border and shared among the children.

In the third phase, students are given four themes namely school life, food, festivals and marriages and historical monuments under the "Collage Series".

Students can make decorative collages on any of the given themes which are shared with schools across the borders thus creating a bond between the two countries.

The 4th phase is the 'Oral History' series which adds an audio-based dimension to the project. Students interviewed their grandparents, collecting historical narratives about various cities across Pakistan and India as well as their recollections of the early years.

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