Nicol Perez is the 2016/2017 US Youth Observer to the United Nations. As Youth Observer, Nicol represents the voices of young Americans at the United Nations. In her role, Nicol works to engage young people around the country in the sustainable development goals by speaking with young people in various conferences, universities, communities and online. Nicol graduated from the University of Florida (UF) where she was president of Nourish International, a student-run, non-profit organization that works towards making a sustainable impact on communities around the world. During her time at UF, Nicol spearheaded a project in Guatemala City, alongside 3 other students, where they taught business classes to a group of 50 single mothers living in extreme poverty and provided them with the tools and skills needed to start their own businesses. At UF, Nicol co-founded the Global Leadership Program where elected students spent a semester leading business ventures around campus to raise money to start a Goat farm in Uganda. Later, Nicol studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailand where she volunteered with the Mechai Viravaidya Foundation for a semester. Upon graduation, Nicol received an Outstanding Leadership Award for her work in Guatemala. After college, Nicol lived in Maastricht, The Netherlands, where she worked with students and community leaders to start a community house and business incubator. Later, Nicol moved to New York City and completed the Emerging Leaders program at Nielsen. There, she rotated under the Public Development and Sustainability vertical and worked with global non-profits to help measure the impact of their social initiatives. Nicol was also a part of the United Nations Association’s Young Professionals Program. She served as the VP of Technology and Innovation for the Economic Development Committee, for which she planned and executed events that foster awareness, dialogue, and support for the work of the United Nations. Nicol currently resides in San Francisco, California, where she is also a Product Marketing and Communications associate at Instagram.
Donya Nasser recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. John’s University where she studied Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies as an Honors student and McNair Scholar. She is passionate about advocating for gender equality and reproductive justice on both a domestic and international level; empowering women, youth, and minorities to become civically engaged and run for office, and contributing to Middle East policy while combating stigmas and stereotypes. She has interned for the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, and the Brennan Center for Justice.
Donya served as the 2015-2016 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations and a Truman-Albright Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is currently the youngest Board Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Board. She is a 2016 Humanity in Action Fellow, 2015 TRIALS Scholar, and 2014 PPIA Fellow. She has previously served as a member of the Advocates for Youth Young Women of Color Leadership Council, the President of the College Democrats of New York, and AAUW Youth Representative to the United Nations. A Truman Scholar, she intends to pursue a joint degree and prepare herself for a career in public service and foreign affairs so to be in a position to better serve women and underrepresented communities across the country and the world. She has supported these marginalized groups through her academic successes, leadership advancements, and social media opportunities.
Donya believes in the power of galvanizing younger generations, who embody the potential of our future to secure equality and justice for all. She is a 2016 Bustle Upstart Award Honoree, 2015 recipient of the WIN Young Women of Achievement Award in Service/Nonprofit Advocacy, and a 2014 Glamour Magazine Top 10 College Woman and L’Oréal College Woman of Worth. She has been featured on ABC, Al-Hurra, Al Jazeera, the Huffington Post, the L.A. Times, MSNBC, and Voice of America. She was named one of CDS’ 2016 “30 Under 30 Leaders of Tomorrow” and Persian Tech Entrepreneurs and Forbes’ “100 Most Influential Persian Entrepreneurs and Innovators of 2015”. She has been a speaker for the Iranian American Women Foundation, the International Association for Volunteer Effort, AYUDH, the United Nations, and many more conferences. Donya is currently attending SOAS, University of London as a recipient of both the John Loiello and Kamran Djam Scholarships to earn an MA in Iranian Studies.
Rijker started her martial arts career at the early age of six, when she began training in judo. A year later, she was part of the Dutch National Softball Team. At fourteen, after picking up fencing a year earlier, Lucia became the Netherlands Junior Champion of that sport. When she was fifteen she began kickboxing and knocked out the reigning American kickboxing champion, Lily Rodriguez. Rijker eventually amassed a 36-0 (25 KO) record as a kickboxer, and won four different world titles, along her fifth, most notable and informal “World’s Most Dangerous Women” title. Rijker’s immense experience gives way to inspiring talks that she delivers all around the world.
Br. Ramanand is the director of AYUDH Americas. A a long time monastic disciple of Amma, Br. Ramanand met her at the tender age of 3, and has had the good fortune of growing up at Amma’s ashram from a very young age. Alongside his role in AYUDH, Br. Ramanand directs Amma’s organizations and its activities in the eastern US and Canada. He travels around the US and Canada conducting satsangs in various cities and delivers talks at Universities to share Amma’s message of selfless service and love. He has written and composed many devotional songs (bhajans) and his melodious voice can often be heard alongside Amma’s during many bhajans. Br. Ramanand is a PhD graduate in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his talks, usually conveyed humorously, are very inspiring and uplifting.
Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, a senior monastic disciple of Amma met Her first more than 30 years ago. With characteristic wit and lively examples, Swamiji has a captivating way of sharing his experiences and profound spiritual insights, gleaned from over three decades of life as a disciple. He met Amma in 1978 and soon after came to live at her ashram in India.
He has been traveling around the globe with Amma since her first world tour in 1987. These days, he spends most of his time visiting Amma’s ashrams and centers around the world; leading retreats, giving discourses, conducting yoga and meditation classes, and organizing the many disaster relief and charitable activities of the organization.
Born and raised in the USA, Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya met Amma in 1990. He became a Brahmachari (monk) in her Indian Monastery in 1993 and has been engaged in Amma’s social, educational and spiritual activities around the world ever since. He was based in Tokyo for ten years as Director of M.A. Center Japan, primarily active in East Asia, the Pacific Rim and Africa until 2012. Since then, he has been based in MA Center Chicago, conducting regular spiritual and social service programs there, and inspiring spiritual seekers throughout the central US with his heartfelt talks.