In celebration of the UN International Youth Day 2012, the World Youth Alliance highlights its members around the world who are doing their part to build a better world. Meet Adriana (Lebanon), Christin (USA), Joanna (Poland) Pauline (Kenya), Steven (Costa Rica) and Trina (Philippines).
Being active in civil society, I give a great deal of my time to make Lebanon and my community a better place. Throughout my university years and till now I volunteered in several non-governmental organizations. I started from my university, where I co-founded the Human Rights Club and the Peace Building Committee. Through both student bodies I helped fellow students become aware of the importance of the human dignity of the person and understanding others and that reflects on their rights. Moreover, I was a core volunteer in a project aiming at helping individuals transform inter-personal conflicts through activities. In this project, I organized a community action in my university, where I was also responsible for facilitating sessions on conflict, dialogue, communication skills and negotiations. Moving from university to a wider community, I also work on inter-religious dialogue in Lebanon. I am an active member in Dialogue for Life and Reconciliation, an organization working on interfaith dialogue in the country. Through this organization, I help my community understand the – other person – coming from another community and religion, as this is very important for a country that witnessed a bloody civil war. Apart from my volunteering, my job focuses on policy development at The Youth Economic Forum, a local NGO that aims at empowering youth and that acts as a platform between them and policy makers. On the policy level, I co-authored a policy brief on Establishing a Bus Transportation Network in Lebanon aimed at make the citizen’s daily life easier. As Ghandi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, I try my best to make my country a better place, through small steps that project change.
In 2011 Maggie Snyder and I decided to start a non-for-profit organization called Oliver Literacy to help ‘at risk’ middle school student reach the level of literacy required for their grade level. The education system, especially in New York City, is lacking in the resources to help these struggling students achieve academic success. We believe that since the next generation is our future leaders, they deserve just as much support to improve their own circumstances and in turn be able to later give back to their own communities. We are using university volunteers from around the city to give them the opportunity to use their skills and knowledge to help these middle school students improve their literacy. Since literacy is the base for further academic success we want to give these students the foundation to better their futures through school and beyond, to build a better world.
I believe that each person can change the world, because everyone’s life has a sense and meaning. As it’s said in the Bible, and what the Pope quoted to young people on the XVII World Youth Day: ‘you are the salt of the earth (…), you are the light of the world (…),’ (Matthew 5:13-14). The crucial question to ask is what is the world? I would reply that it could mean many things: your internal world, your surroundings including your family, friends, studies, city or country, and also everything what is beyond that. The perspective of what the world is widens while one’s growing in his humanity and capability, from more subjective to more general notion. What is often said, you can’t change anything without changing yourself.
Currently, objectively I have no social or public position to change the world in the widest dimension. One can say that I am just a student. I have already graduated from public administration studies, and I continue studying law at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw. However I think that by attempting to choose good, putting meaning in what I do, and trying to be a better daughter, sister, friend, human, student, worker, I am taking part in making the world a better place. I want to be more just, honest, respectful and joyful, because I think that given good multiplies. I worked as a volunteer to help elder people, hosted foreigners in my country, and gave piano lessons to my friends. I aim at being kind and helpful in daily life to people around me without expecting any benefits. I found my internship in World Youth Alliance as a way to make the world a better place too. I met many young people who are working with the spirit of service and mission to protect human’s right to life by, for example, initiating and cooperating in drafting the resolution against forced abortion in China. By being here, I comprehended better how each one of us can change the world. In my future job, I would also like to devote my time to working with people in need, fighting against injustice and improving what needs to be fixed in a social space. I think that what truly makes a difference in the world is one’s attitude: believe in a sense of making good and put the effort to change your will into action.
An internship at the World Youth Alliance’s Office in Nairobi was my first job straight after law school. It has been over three years since then, and I still continue to do youth development and activism. I was the Africa Moderator for the Global Youth Against Corruption for a year, I Coordinated Activista Kenya-a global network of youth working toward a poverty free planet, and I co-founded a youth movement: Living in A Shanty Town (L.I.S.T.) to unite youth in slums to break the poverty cycle and a live dignified adult hood.
My greatest take away from WYA was the appreciation of the word dignity and the need to have it uphold. This has been the mantra of my work with the youth.
My name is Steven Guerrero. I’m from Costa Rica and part of the World Youth Alliance Latin America. In my experience with this organization, I have learned that just as daylight comes with every morning, the things we have been given as gifts within us always will find a way to show up. Now, even though I think this, I also have seen how many times these things can’t flourish due to various reasons: either we are not stimulated enough to recognize our talents, or we have been, but lack opportunities. In my case, I can do no more than remember every day how I need to stop and be thankful for the simple but powerful fact that I have not only the opportunity to use my talents, but also that my life is full of opportunities to grow. One of these opportunities was given by WYA because, even though I always thought I was aware of the importance of human dignity as something vital for all and that it relates to our ability to coexist, it wasn’t until I went through the TRACK A and the ISF that I was able to reinforce much of what I had thought since I was a kid. That’s why I also feel lucky to be an agent for change wherever I’m at, in regards to this topic. Now, I have the opportunity to be part of an NGO in my country and in Central America, named Costa Rica Missions, where I have been blessed as their project coordinator by being able to grow and to get the satisfaction of being part of social responsibility projects in vital areas such as health, education and construction. I have also been actively involved in the committee in charge of planning for the local human development plan in my community, in agreement with the local government and the civil society. I have been able to put together workshops to promote growth in my community through the church I am part of, with topics that, for many of us are only basic knowledge learned in a classroom, but are valuable tools for those who didn’t have that chance but now can use this knowledge to achieve personal success and give them their own opportunities, teaching them that they are the great people they have always been.
As a marketing manager for a real estate company under the retail entertainment group, customer service plays a very big role in the business. This means that every single member of the organization, from top management to the front liners, helps create that shopping experience for a customer. I always find it very refreshing whenever I attend a meeting with WYA because I am constantly reminded of our advocacy and the things for which we stand for—that everybody has dignity and deserves to be treated with respect and given an equal opportunity for growth. An important part of my growth as a person lies in contributing to the greater good, being part of something greater than myself. That is why I see to it that I live this through my everyday, and that each person in the organization is given the same opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our customers. Just by constantly empowering them that the things they do everyday—from launching big events and campaigns to simply picking up a piece of trash lying around the mall, they are able to contribute to the bigger picture. We’ve all heard the saying “Pay it forward”, and that’s basically what I mean here. Anything that shows people you care about them and that they have dignity – something we tend to forget most of the time – has the potential to make the world, or our small corner of it, a better place.