Inspired by AYUDH Americas’ recent participation in several UN events, this year youth from around the world met to discuss pressing global issues during the 4 day annual summit in Chicago. The summit focused on implementing several of the UN’s recently established Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. The summit, entitled “The Ripple Effect 2016: One World, One Home,” featured a first ever Youth Parliament which discussed the local issues of 8 represented countries: Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, India, Japan and Canada, featured inspirational talks by leaders in their fields as well as workshops by world-renowned experts, and finally announced its 2016-2017 initiatives.
In the past year, AYUDH Americas has focused on 3 main initiatives: AYUDHChange, to collaborate in aiding young people in the developing world receive education; AYUDH Nurturing Nature, to protect Mother Nature through cleanliness drives and tree plantings; AYUDH Serve, to fight hunger amongst the homeless. Surpassing these goals, AYUDH chapters around the Americas raised funds to provide education for more than 8 children, collected more than one ton of trash, planted more than 300 trees, and served more than 1,400 meals. These proposals were created at last year’s Summit, and therefore one central goal for this year’s retreat was to create a new list of service-based initiatives.
Donya Nasser, United States’ Youth Observer to the United Nations encouraged youth to see their voices as being important, saying, young people have the unique ability to create a butterfly effect, or a ripple effect, changing the social and ecological imbalances across the world.” She argued that young people are often discouraged from “having a seat at the table” of global conversations, and urged AYUDH Americas members to see themselves as global political actors.
In the main event of the summit, the Youth Parliament, AYUDH Americas chapters from North, Central, and South America voted on the to main Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that they believed AYUDH should tackle in the coming year: Quality Education, No Poverty, and No Hunger. After days of deliberation, including late night discussion sessions, three new initiatives were announced.
To respond to the UN’s SDG of “Quality Education,” the first initiative, AYUDH Teach, emphasizes the creation of values-based content by AYUDH members. Chapters would then implement this content in long-term tutoring aimed at working with frequently disenfranchised youth.
To respond to growing poverty levels across the Americas, AYUDH Connect emphasizes the creation of personalized “blessing bags” which will hold daily necessities and personal hygiene products. These bags will be personalized to the local needs of the different chapters’ homeless population, and the project emphasizes the importance of local youth working with people who are often rendered voiceless in their communities.
Instead of deciding to serve food to others for their “No Hunger” initiative, through AYUDH Grow the youth will foster qualities of sustainable consumption in their own lives, in order to inspire others in their communities. To do so, this goal will involve the planting and caring for different vegetables throughout the year, allowing for young people to teach family, friends, and community members about the importance of creating individual gardens.
The four days were filled with workshops and inspirational talks based in the four themes of ‘One World, One Home:’ a place for acceptance, a place for growth, a place for self-expression, and a place of for a sustainable future. Jeff Robinov, former president of Warner Brothers and founder of Studio 8 led the keynote speech, illuminating a non-traditional path to success.
Other featured speakers during the summit Lucia Rijker, a world-renowned boxing champion; Sienna Nordquist, the youngest UN Global Champion for Women; Karen Moawad, a UN Global Champion for Women and Amrita University faculty member; Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya, the Director of MA Center Chicago and operations Midwest; Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya, Executive Director of MA Centers; and Ron Gottsegen, President of MA Centers.
The summit also included engaging workshops about sustainability, self defense, self empowerment, community building, music composition, natural and local soap making, yoga, traditional physical defense, and bridge building.
In his concluding remarks, Br. Ramanand, the Director of AYUDH Americas and M.A. Centers in the Eastern region, illuminated that “AYUDH Americas grows each year as we continue to expand on and implement new and unique service goals. Our growth, as an individual and as an AYUDH family, is marked by the lives we are able to create an impact on with Amma’s Love.”