“You need something bigger than yourself to give your life meaning” –Rick Warren
Over a week ago, I had the privilege of participating in the 2018 Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York.
In its simplest form, the Youth Assembly provides a platform that brings together the youth from all over the world to discuss world social problems and possible solutions. Participants not only get the chance to hear and learn from experts, but they also get the opportunity to network and share ideas and project initiatives with fellow peers from across the globe as they discuss how to approach and tackle problems that affect humanity and the world at large. The theme of the winter forum: “Innovation and Collaboration for a Sustainable World”
My journey to the Youth Assembly began on a windy Wednesday evening, it was springtime of 2017, a day when a carnival of scents blew in the air clashing like the Titans. I spent the evening listening to a podcast message on: How to Live a Fulfilling Life and the key takeaway from the message was, “You need something bigger than yourself to give your life meaning”.
As I sat down to write my goals for 2018, I put down a note that I would try and volunteer more this year, at least once a month at the very minimum, that I would strive to use my strengths, my talents and whatever little I have to share and give back to causes bigger than myself in my community. (Maybe then, my life in 2018 will be more fulfilling). That is how I began my search for opportunities, found and applied to support the 2018 Winter Youth Assembly as a volunteer in the Communications and Media team.
The session was an eye-opening, thought-provoking experience. I had the chance to speak, learn and interact with people who have committed their lives to causes beyond themselves to create a better society, a better world. I was humbled to meet people who have much less or have experienced deep struggles in life and yet fight for causes that promote social development in their societies beyond their own personal needs. I left the session in deep reflection: “What am I doing with my life today that is beyond myself?”
As I reflect on my experience, I made note of some of the lessons and key takeaways that I hope to hold on to and share with you.
1. You manifest and achieve what you dare to believe is possible for yourself. Dream big, you are worthy and capable of it.
Though I have no formal education or extensive experience in journalism or media studies, I dared to believe that I was capable of taking on the challenge of successfully engaging and interviewing the delegates and the speakers on such a huge platform for the world to hear what they have to say. If I lacked the self-confidence and belief that I was capable, then I would not have applied, consequently missing out on this impactful, life-changing experience that allowed me to connect with the world’s greatest human beings.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
2. Be kind, be respectful to friends and strangers alike. Take the time to know the person seated next to you at a networking event.
When Khaloud entered the room, you couldn’t tell that the 16-year-old Saudi Arabian girl has designed the eco-friendly smart car that uses the same technology that NASA uses for rockets, has 8 inventions and holds 4 patents. She was extremely humble, spoke a few words and was very easy to dismiss. Though I got the chance to exchange pleasantries with both her mother and grandmother who had accompanied her to the forum, I didn’t get a chance to know her personally. My best friend, Chido, on the other hand, took the time to engage her more and would later share tales of amazement on there discussions. Today they are great friends.
My West African sisters came representing in full force
3. Surround yourself with the right people who can elevate you, support you and help you achieve your goals. Your network matters.
Back in 2016, when I learnt that the AFRIMMA awards were searching for a female host, Chido Tendayi made sure that I would not go to sleep that night before submitting my audition video despite the fact that I felt terrified to do so having never hosted before, she knew beyond doubt that it was something I would enjoy and was capable of, she is the one who recorded my audition tape. I ended up being the backstage host for the event.
Chido Hazel Tendayi
In my first conversation with Chido back in September of 2015, she mentioned that her career goal was to work for humanitarian causes, work for the United Nations. Back then, we didn’t even know we would turn out to be best friends. Flash forward to December 2017, when I learned about the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, though Chido was away on vacation in Zimbabwe and it was already past midnight where she was, I made sure that she would not go to sleep before submitting all the requirements that would ensure that we both went together for this session.
“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher” -Oprah Winfrey
4. In your present circumstances, you have what it takes to make a difference in the world. You can create the change you want to see around you.
On Thursday, February 15th, 2018, I met Ruetendo Precious Ngwena, (another friend that Chido would introduce me to). The three of us sat down for dinner in Midtown Manhattan. We spent the evening listening to the young girl share with us the story of her life. Her struggles were deep, so much so, that my soul silently cried out as I listened to what she had endured at such a tender age.
At 22, Ruetendo runs a nonprofit initiative that supplies sanitary towels and detergents to young girls in Zimbabwe. She was participating in the forum as both a delegate and a contestant in the Social Venture challenge to receive funding and mentorship for her initiative. Here she was, giving back to others despite her own struggles, using her voice and her life to make the world a better place for others.
When it was announced that she was a winner, I couldn’t help but cheer and cry at the same time, I had met her only 24 hours prior and yet I knew that she truly deserved it.
“Be the change you want to see in the world”- Gandhi
5. Live beyond yourself!
You are made for more than success; you are made for more than survival. You will never be satisfied living for yourself.
I write this post to create a mindshift where we each deliberately pause to ask ourselves:
- What am I doing in my personal life that is beyond myself?
- What am I doing to make the world a better place?
- Am I living or just existing in the life that i have?
With Lots of Love, Iro