Youth Profile in Action

I am lucky to have been born into a global family, an organization called The International Association for Human Values (IAHV), a non-profit NGO affiliated with the UN that works in every continent teaching people in slums, refugee camps, and natural disaster areas how to eliminate their stress and fear with simple breathing techniques and meditation. These techniques are also taught to students as part of the IAHV’s Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!) program. Having participated in the YES! program at least five times, I have witnessed firsthand how these techniques make a profound impact on the lives of people everywhere and I have observed the powerful effect that this knowledge has had in my own life.

My involvement with this organization has given me many unique experiences and has also shown me the power of a large group of people working together for a common goal. I have traveled all over the world on service projects and made deep connections with many kinds of people. I have helped teach these techniques to young children in Haiti and organized service projects and courses. At our organization's 25th Year Celebration, I spoke in front of thousands of people at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., about how these breathing techniques have helped me.

Being a part of this community and practicing these techniques since I was little has had a huge influence on my life. I feel like a very emotionally stable and aware person. Although I’ve seen my friends struggle with stress and even panic attacks, I’ve always been able to maintain a sense of confidence, inner peace, and serenity. I also know how many people are tempted and swayed by what their friends are doing and I feel so lucky to have the ability to follow my own convictions. 

Through this community I have also met my best friends and role models. They are all clean from drugs and alcohol and this has formed my outlook and shaped my lifestyle. Their friendship, knowledge, and commitment to being healthy, happy people who serve others and help the world inspire me. The bonds I have with these people are the most important relationships in my life. Though I am biologically an only child I feel like I have brothers and sisters all over the world.

Throughout my life I've struggled to define bliss. For me, the happiest times of my life have been when I'm outside of my comfort zone in foreign contexts and situations. When I was eight my parents pulled me out of school for two months to visit India, and we visited slums and remote tribal villages on the fringes of civilization. Although I was horrified by the conditions of extreme poverty they lived in, I was inspired by the expression of joy in the lives of the children we spent time with.

Last summer I lived in a town of one hundred and five people nestled in the mountains of Nicaragua with no running water, latrines, electricity, or roads. They had almost nothing we consider necessary to be happy, but instead their happiness was defined by community togetherness and human connection. Being part of this community for seven weeks I experienced bliss like never before and realized what is missing in contemporary American society.

Life in America revolves around what we want or don't have. Our culture constantly tells us that to be comfortable and happy we need money, good looks, or mind-altering substances like alcohol and drugs. What's missing is the awareness that comfort and happiness lie within as innate human values. These common qualities are forgotten and instead human differences are emphasized, creating fear and seclusion. I’m so lucky that I’ve been around this knowledge since I was born, and I really hope that more people, especially teenagers like myself, can realize how they also have such true happiness and joy within them already.

My time in Nicaragua proved that differences in culture, language and appearance are trivial. It's amazing how easily we connected though we had nothing in common except that we were alive. Our planet is vastly beautiful and intertwined, yet many of its inhabitants feel alone because they're limited by fear and boundaries. To realize that we're connected by an innate unity more powerful than our differences has made me complete. This is bliss.