“It was great to see and experience how people from various parts of the world can unite in an effort to build a culture that supports and nurtures the dignity of each human person, and how much can be accomplished when this happens,” Evelyn Velásquez, a WYA intern from USA, shared after her internship in New York last year.
Every year, WYA welcomes over 100 young people from around the world to undergo the Internship Program at the Global Headquarters in New York and the 6 Regional Offices in Kenya, Manila, Belgium, Mexico, Lebanon and New York. The program provides an opportunity for young people who are inspired by the ideas and work of WYA to gain professional skills on WYA’s projects and substantive learning experience on WYA’s core ideas.
How are young people able to make a difference through WYA’s internship program?
Let’s hear some of the stories of our intern alumni.
Celebrating the beauty of life
“At the end of our activity, I must say that it was truly one of the best days of my life. They’ve taught me valuable lessons of dignity, courage and strength,” Celine Hintermeister, a regional intern at the WYA Middle East office, shared after she and her fellow interns organized an animated day for child patients fighting cancer in Beirut.
In her blog article, Celine shared her experience spending time with one of the child patients named Ibrahim. According to her, he was very excited to paint and decorate his mask and to take a photo with it afterwards. Ibrahim also shared his dream of joining an international volunteer group in the future and how excited he is for the job. Celine was inspired to hear Ibrahim’s hopeful dream despite the challenges that he is currently facing.
Celine also shared that she would usually feel bad every time she would see child cancer patients because she feels that they’re very young to suffer. But at the end of the activity, she didn’t anymore feel bad for them. Instead, she feels so much love, respect and admiration for them and their family. She was inspired by the hopes and dreams of the children. “They reminded us to celebrate life despite personal struggles and challenges,” Celine shares.
A new generation of young people
“As I huddled at the back of the room with a donated cup of coffee, I was taken aback by the sixty young people packed into rows of chairs, listening intently to a talk by founder Anna Halpine about the reason for the World Youth Alliance. According to our culture, this isn’t supposed to be possible. Young people are supposed to enjoy selfies and pumpkin spice lattes, not self-awareness and purposeful Saturday lectures. And yet, there they were, scribbling intently into their notebooks and drinking in the insights that come with almost 17 years of fighting for a vision of the human person that sees all as sharing in intrinsic dignity,” Carissa Tinley, an intern at the WYA headquarters who co-organized the 2015 North America Emerging Leaders Conference, reflected in her blog.
The Emerging Leaders Conference happens every year in each of the WYA region and offers young people discussions, lectures, and training on topics relevant to ongoing international policy debates. Last year’s overarching theme was on “Health and Education: Keys to Development”. Last year, over 500 young people participated in the regional ELCs. Aside from the lectures, some regional ELCs also provided the delegates with an opportunity to create their own project proposals to provide solutions to some of the issues discussed at the conference.
At the end of the conference, Carissa shared that the “students were stepping up left and right to start chapters, begin the Track A Training, and grow the membership of existing chapters. Tristan Smith, an ELC delegate from the US, shared that “attending the ELC is essential to grasping what it means to be fully human and understanding the responsibility that comes with human excellence. The ELC engrains commitment, teaching youth how to integrate human dignity with community interaction and informing the youth about social policy”.
The search for meaning and purpose
During the 3-month program, interns also undergo the Certified Training Program (also known as Track A), a collection of texts that provide the philosophical underpinnings for the mission of WYA. It presents a summary of philosophical, historical, and modern day texts that focus on the dignity of the person and human rights. One of the readings comes from Victor Frankl’s book titled Man’s Search for Meaning. María Estraviz , an intern from Spain who did the internship in Belgium and New York, shared that “Man´s search for meaning is one of those unforgettable books that can provoke a change in your way of looking at life and the people around you”.
“It was meaning, or the seeking for meaning in one’s life, that made the difference. Not a general ‘meaning of life’ feeling, but particular purposes that “differ from man to man, and from moment to moment.” For Frankl during his time in the camp, the desire to see his wife again and his hope of publishing a book on his psychiatric theories gave him a reason to hope that helped bring him through his nearly three years of captivity,” María reflects in her blog.
She also mentions that “another remarkable aspect of the book is how the author is able to write about his experiences entirely without bitterness or vengefulness. Additionally, he does not lose his faith in humanity and is able to discover the goodness even among his enemies. Frankl tells the story of a camp commander, a Nazi, who used his own money to buy medicines for the prisoners from a nearby town. Upon liberation by Allied forces, the prisoners protected this “enemy” from harsh treatment by their rescuers”.
The stories of Celine, Carissa and María are just some of the many inspiring stories that our interns have experienced during their internship program. If you would like to hear more of their stories, we invite you to visit the WYA Blog. If you are a young person with a strong desire to protect and promote human dignity while making a positive impact in the society, we’re looking for you. To learn more about the schedule and requirements, you may click here.
Because of the generous contribution of our WYA members and friends, we are able to touch the lives of so many young people. We also need to raise $20,000 by the end of the year to sustain the internship program. We hope you will continue to support WYA. Make a contribution today at http://www.rally.org/WorldYouthAlliance.