by Benjamin Alcorn, Durga Thakral & Elizabeth Corley with AYUDH Americas
For five days, more than 175 youth from across North, South and Central America met to explore how collective, global peace begins with inner peace for each person. The gathering was for AYUDH Americas’ sixth annual youth summit – the Ripple Effect 2019 – which took place this August at MA Center Chicago.
Youth from different walks of life, be it students to young professionals, learned to harness inner strength, self-love and awareness as the first steps in achieving a harmonious community. Their discussions took place with renowned leaders of social change who mentored an emphasis on community, spirituality, service and mindfulness.
The days began with an emphasis on developing inner strength through Amrita Yoga, Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique, and prayers for world peace. Next, the participants transitioned into the external experience of days packed with guest speakers, workshops and team-building activities.
One of the summit’s key goals was to establish ways to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while assessing professional skills in project development, innovation, leadership and project pitching.
These efforts centered the Annual Youth Parliament, which provides a space for youth to rekindle their excitement for service to the world and engage with a community of motivated mentors and peers. The goal is to find a dedicated, grassroots approach that will implement change in their local communities and put their words into action.
For 2019, AYUDH delegates formed ten teams that were challenged to develop an original project that they would create, plan and pitch to a panel of development experts. Teams could be seen passionately pouring their creative efforts into new ideas, and in the end, projects were finalized with a vote by AYUDH Americas at large. The selections were:
AYUDH Reuse and Restore – AYUDH will clean up beaches and highways and upcycle reusable materials, such as glass bottles and aluminum cans, to reduce waste found in water. The overarching goal is to work towards zero waste.
AYUDH Revitalize – AYUDH will host interactive workshops to raise awareness about the practice of reutilizing food waste by turning it into compost. This effort can significantly reduce the amount of waste going into landfills.
AYUDH Purify – AYUDH will raise awareness about the dangers of pharmaceuticals contaminating our water supply, soil and vegetation. Deterra drug deactivation bags©️ will be distributed by AYUDH members to educate their community about proper medication disposal.
AYUDH participants worked side-by-side with esteemed leaders of social change. The youth were inspired by the life stories of the mentors, alongside their professional quests to build bridges of peace across humanity and lead a restoration of health to our planet. Panelists included:
Ralph Chami, the Assistant Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – Chami spent most of his career supporting fragile states in the Middle East, and more recently, has shifted his focus to the environmental and financial implications of the conservation of whales.
Chris Caren, CEO of Turn It In – Caren spoke about keeping inner peace in today’s busy world.
Siddartha Rabindran, Microsoft Solutions Architect – Rabindran led youth through professional development activities and Q&As.
Jessica Jane Robinson, Climate Change Activist – Robinson is deeply invested in the wellbeing of her hometown of Alameda, which is threatened by rising sea levels. She is the creator of the grassroots program “Miss Alameda Says Compost” and uses her performance art background to reach today’s youth and raise awareness about climate change.
Diya Heal – Heal spearheaded the greening of Amma’s 2019 North America Tour, working to reduce waste, facilitate composting and recycling, and promote a culture of sustainability.
Jeremy Belzer, Music Composer – Belzer led AYUDH through multiple music making and production activities, which featured upcycled materials found at the MA Center Chicago.
Br Ramanand, Director of AYUDH Americas – He is also the spiritual director of MA Center in the Eastern US.
Br Dayamrita Chaitanya, Executive Director of MA Centers Americas – He travels the country giving spiritual talks, counseling satsang members and answering questions at public events.
Br Shantamrita Chaitanya, director of MA Center in Central US – He resides at the MA Center in Chicago, conducting regular spiritual and social service programs and inspiring spiritual seekers throughout the central US.
The summit participants also found avenues to experience and celebrate the joy of life with activities that ranged from music production to group sports. The nighttime events included icebreaker games, a bonfire and talent shows. It was in these moments that participants came together as an AYUDH family, forming lifelong friendships as well as lasting educational and professional connections.
In addition to their own development, the AYUDH members hosted their second annual kids camp. It brought together children from the age of 5 to 13 years and educated them on the role they can play for the betterment of society. In return, the young ones put on a talent show, which included dances, a rap performance and a play. AYUDH cheered the little ones on, and the night ended on an incredible high note for all.
In the end, the AYUDH Americas Youth Summit was a revitalizing time for all involved, as it brought renewed inspiration to the overall quest to uplift our planet. What came across clearly was that reaching that goal starts by finding ways to make a difference in each one’s local communities. Together, those efforts intertwine to create better lives for all beings.