International Youth Forum (IYF)
Just as a young sapling knows that its task is to reach for the sky, young people need to reach for the best in themselves.
The future of the world rests on the quality of human relationships and the values that underpin every aspect of social functioning. A new way of living ultimately depends on the elevated state of the human spirit. Young minds and hearts are the best places to raise awareness of spiritual values, encouraging them to take up the challenge of re-creating their inner world. It is the courage to ‘see’ things differently; ‘behave’ differently and ‘act’ differently that enables us to creatively build empowering social structures and a better world.
Accompanying young people on a journey to unearth and develop spiritual potential is an exciting and challenging process. As well as providing opportunities through which young people learn about responsibility, relationships and decision-making, much emphasis is now being placed on the development of the inner self.
Leading from within
Spiritual growth is the basis of self empowerment. Encouraging the development of spiritual principles and moral values helps strengthen the capacity of young people to participate with integrity and self worth, as key players within society now and as potential leaders in the future.
Additionally an essential part of spiritual growth is dialogue across generations. Through reflection, personal sharing and discussion, safe and collaborative spaces can be created in which adults and young people can learn and grow together as equals.
Successful leaders know themselves and are able to integrate spirituality into their lives. Over the last 14 years, the young adults of the Brahma Kumaris have successfully inspired and sustained the human spirit sparking creativity, excellence and healthy relationships for themselves, and within their local and national contexts.
Formed in 1995, it has grown into a network of some 8000 young adults (aged 16 – 30) across 49 countries who have chosen to respond to the call of the time and ‘create’ their future. United by the shared belief, ‘When I change, the world changes’ they explore personal empowerment through creative spiritual research of values and principles at the heart of human consciousness in their annual international and national retreats.
Their experiments have culminated in a framework that underpins all the IYF activities in the form of You First. You First is a process developed for young people to: explore and understand their spirituality, connect with their inner strength and resources, and acquire practices which will sustain them in developing their true potential and enabling them to inspire others. This forms part of a larger intention to inspire collective change and re-emerge integrity, respect, unity and peace in relationships and communities.
Inspired to become instruments towards world betterment, their aim is to help young people identify with their inner selves and they use this connection to inform and support the work they do in the world. They have participated in international conferences, collaborated with local community and government and initiated and organized activities across the globe for young people. These activities have been specifically aimed at developing and nurturing spiritual values that empower young people to face social and developmental challenges.
Recent examples of activities (in country order):
- Australia - Outreach to youth with substance abuse and local peace projects funded by the Ashfield Municipal Council; Sydney
- Burundi – Reconciliation efforts with young people whose parents/relatives have been victims of genocide. ‘Heroes of Peace, Values and Conflict Resolution’ workshops for 1500 youth, convened by BK youth under the auspices of the local Italian Catholic Church
- Brazil - "Youth Images and Voices of Hope" in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Campinas and Brasília, gathering youth leaders from different NGOs, universities and religions; Seminars: The Butterfly Connection, Spiritual Based Leadership for Emerging Young Leaders
- Canada - Working with Brampton/Caledon Community Living Organisation, providing workshops on meditation, Ontario; You First – Bringing out The Best in me to the World (Reminding Ourselves How Cool We Are; Halifax
- Germany – ‘DaSein’ (Being Present) BK youth group working with local government and interfaith youth groups in Berlin and Bremen in supporting various intergenerational initiatives. Topics such as Courage to be Human and Trust in a Changing World have been the focus of intergenerational dialogue/interviews between young people, prominent politicians, spiritual leaders and scientists
- Greece - Stress Management seminars for university students, University of Athens
- India - ‘Touch the Light’ - a nationwide values development program developed by Youth Empowered Services (YES) of the BK youth wing and sponsored by the Government of India. Targeted at adolescents aged between 12 – 15, the program is currently active in over 1000 schools and nearly 70,000 children from Standards 7 and 8 have benefitted already
- Israel – Participation in student fairs, offering sessions on the discovery of personal virtues; Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv. You First – Workshop for young people at the local BK centre
- Kenya - Forum on Regional Peace and Conflict in Sudan; Nairobi; Seminars on leadership, communication and team building for 50 youth community leaders in Kiberia slums
- Mauritius – Project YES is Youth, Empowerment and Sustenance, launched in Nov 2003 by President Anerood Jugnauth. YES organized in collaboration with the Port Louis Municipal Council. Caters for 14 -18 yr olds and 18 – 25 yr olds. Main modules of project include: Boosting Self Esteem; Living your Values; Stress Free Living; The Hero Within; and Managing Your Time
- New Zealand - Civic Honour for Voluntary service in the field of Youth Activities awarded by the Lower Hutt City Mayor; Values Workshops for youth; Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin
- Philippines - Annual youth retreat programs for graduating high school and college students
- South Africa – Young Women of Spirit national retreats and events held in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, for young women (aged 18-30) and young women leaders from all backgrounds to explore personal empowerment and self esteem
- Spain – Annual participation in interreligious and Intercultural Internship Programme, Bilbao City, organized by Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (Pax Romana ICMICA/MIIC) with support from the Government of Basque Country.
Representation at European Parliament for the Interfaith Youth Conference in the New Europe; Sharing our Faith, sharing our Pride, in Brussels, Belgium, organized by EUJS - The European Union of Jewish Students;
Participation in the Committee for Human Security and Environment, created by the Catalonia Model United Nation of the United Nations Association of Spain (ANUE) for the parliaments in - The Voice of Youth. Organised by Casa Asia; Workshops Discover What’s Best In You, The Value of Courage, Inner Harmony, Determination: The Key to Success, Stability and Inner Balance
- Sri Lanka - National Personal Development Workshops for Ministry for Youth, Youth Corps Training Centre; topics of workshops included Your Face is the Mirror of Your Mind, The Role of Youth in Nation Building.
Workshops for young professionals, Being a Strategic Person in Your Profession, Journey Towards Success; National recorded programs at Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation; Workshops in schools Sharing Love for Unity
- Trinidad & Tobago - “The Power of Choice” - a country-wide series of public lectures on the effects of positive choice; Strengthening our Minds, Strengthening our Muscles sports program;
Retreat Canoeing through Life’s Cascades, creative workshops, interactive forums, reflections
- UK – Working with national youth organisations on a Young Leaders Program – The Stoneleigh Group
‘Voices Beyond Conflict – A dialogue across generations’ and ‘Respect – Contemplation, Communication and Co-operation – an interfaith youth retreat’ were programmes (in Oxford) in collaboration with a TimeBank initiative – Respect - launched by the Prince of Wales; supported by the Prince’s Trust and UK faiths communities.
Collaboration with local interfaith youth groups in Scotland. Projects to encourage ‘Think globally, Act locally’ by sustaining youth with regular meetings for open discussions and workshops.
Representation in the Youth steering committee of the Scottish Interfaith Council is putting together a yearly Youth Interfaith Conference, which aims at informing young people about the differences and the commonalities of each other’s belief systems
- USA - A series of programs on ‘Celebrating Human Greatness – stories and conversations on Greatness in America’, Ohio, Boston, 2008; Economics of Happiness, Golden Gate University; Workshops on Work-Life Balance; San Francisco, October 2008; Workshops - Living Your Full Potential, Super Hero, Discover the Hero Within; Seattle, 2008.
Retreat – Choose, Change and Become; Peace Village Retreat Centre, New York, June 2009
For further information – please contact the BK International Youth Forum office at firstname.lastname@example.org.