Sara-Maya Kaba is one of the nine 2023-2024 Pathy Fellowship recipients and a DEVS Alum (2021). Funded by the Pathy Fellowship Foundation, in partnership with the Coady Institute, Sara-Maya has founded Aawaaz (اواز urdu: sound/voice).
Aawaaz is an initiative that works with underserved youth in Pakistan to increase resilience and provide grassroots-level solutions to the structural problems associated with mental illness and stigma in the country. Aawaaz’s innovative approach blends mental health awareness with artistic expression, providing a safe space for young individuals to explore and articulate their emotions, thoughts, and struggles. Through various creative mediums like poetry, music, drama, and storytelling, Aawaaz facilitates healing and crisis management among these communities. A central tenant of the program is capacity-building at the community level, and thus Aawaaz has also trained local facilitators, teachers and professionals in mental health first aid strategies, and sessions with parents will take place in the upcoming weeks. By the end of November, approximately 65 students, 50 teachers, 20 parents and 2 psychologists all in low-income urban slums or rural settings will have participated in the Aawaaz training programs between Islamabad and Upper Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan. This has been in partnership with the Nasir Khisraw Model Academy, as well as the Pehli Kiran School System.
In a groundbreaking initiative, Aawaaz, under Sara-Maya Kaba’s leadership, is set to introduce ringette for the first time in Pakistan this winter. This introduction of ringette represents an innovative approach to engage youth in physical activity while fostering mental health education. Through ringette, the program aims to promote teamwork, resilience, and personal growth among the participants. The integration of this sport within Aawaaz framework aligns with the organization’s ethos of utilizing diverse mediums to address mental health challenges. Moreover, alongside the ringette introduction, the program will host kids’ camps that blend physical activities with mental health workshops, creating a holistic approach to supporting the well-being of young individuals in Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad. The collaborative efforts with local communities have helped tailor interventions to suit the cultural context, making Aawaaz a space of transformation and belonging for the youth it serves.