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KARACHI: The buzzing sound in the British Council library on Monday was a clear departure from its usual quiet demeanour as young students from different schools of Karachi sat together and exchanged ideas and plans for a more promising future, their own as well as Pakistan’s.

This exception was only made because gathered on the library’s premises were social enterprise mentors from across the country at the Commonwealth Big Lun­ch, aimed at bringing tog­ether the Commonwealth community and allowing a healthy and conducive environment to share ideas.

The British Council and the British Deputy High Commission in partnership with SEED Ventures organised the lunch where the purpose was to teach children the importance of social enterprise in an increasingly dynamic world.

British Deputy High Commissioner Elin Burns shared her excitement at the project which she felt “has given us an opportunity to teach young students the importance of social entrepreneurship. Common­wealth Big Lunches are about celebrating being part of the Commonwealth, encouraging people to come together and making new connections. Sixty per cent of the Commonwealth population is under the age of 30, and I am delighted we have the opportunity to engage with inspiring young Pakistanis.”

She said the idea was launched by the Eden Project in partnership with the UK government; thousands of people from across the Commonwealth are coming together to celebrate, discover and share their Commonwealth links, stories and experiences with one another over a shared meal.

Ms Burns spoke about the Prince’s Trust International initiative, Enterprise Challenge Pakistan, and called it a great initiative to instil entrepreneurship in schoolchildren. “It is a brilliant way of unleashing Pakistan’s younger generation’s potential with regards to social entrepreneurship, innovation and starting businesses and we are expanding this project further from 28 cities all across Pakistan.”

Several mentors were in attendance and sat down with the students and talked to them about the necessity of social enterprise; they used their past professional experiences to facilitate the upcoming generation. As children are naturally curious the mentors were tasked to encourage this state of inquisitiveness in them and teach them many important lessons. One of the most important was to not give up even if the idea they had worked hard on did not pan out. Failure, they were told, was an integral part of learning.

Mentors present included Sarfaraz Rehman, former CEO of Engro Foods, Khusro Ansari, director SEED Ventures, Mark Rakestraw, Deputy Head of Mission, British Deputy High Commission, Favad Soomro, director of Engro Foundation, Saima Anjarwala, Corporate Services Manager at British Deputy High Commission, Alam­gir Firoz of Firoz International, and Neelam Hassan of AEROsync.

The runner-up of the Common­wealth Class Story Writing Competition, Hira Tanveer Siddiqui, also read out her story.

The gathering in Karachi was one of many Commonwealth Big Lunches happening across the 53 Commonwealth nations from March 12 — Commonwealth Day — until Sunday, April 22.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018