Monday, August 19, 2013

The First Peace Walk

This is going to be the fourth year that KCIYA is hosting a peace walk to raise money for a charitable organization (this year, it is UNICEF-check out our Peace Walk page). While helping to plan this year's walk, I started think about the first year that we decided to plan a peace walk.

After going through old emails, I found that the idea of hosting a peace walk was brought up in September 2009, as an idea to be a mini event to help support the organization, Let the Children Play for Peace, which is a grassroots initiative seeking toys for children of Gaza and Sderot, Israel. But it wasn't until a youth council in December after Eboo Patel came to Kansas City when the idea started to solidify. Back then, it seemed like an impossible task, planning a whole walk, especially for an organization that was barely a year old. But, the idea to walk from the Islamic Center of Johnson County to Beth Shalom to Church of the Resurrection was an exciting idea, so we ran with it.

And it almost seemed to be an impossible task. The original plan was for it to hold the peace walk on Mother's Day, however, there were so many things that we needed to do, like contacting sponsors, confirming with the route stop locations and making sure our beneficiary could attend. About two months before, we ran into some planning problems that caused us to push the walk back until August, which gave us plenty of time to plan again. Then before we knew it, we were halfway through summer with less planned than we needed to have at that time. Luckily for us, our beneficiary asked us to push the walk back to October, which once again, gave us more time to plan. And somehow, we planned a fairly successful peace walk, in which we had 150 people attend, and made a profit for Let the Children Play for Peace. I remember the feeling of success after the peace walk had ended, I couldn't believe that we had pulled it off.

Looking back, I realize that the only reason we were able to pull of the peace walk was because of two things: luck and the persistence of one of our mentors. There is no way we could have had a successful peace walk without her pushing us to plan the first peace walk, which is how we've been able to plan the peace walks ever since. Of course, every year, planning the peace walk involves a certain amount of luck, but because of our mentor's help that first walk (and subsequent walks afterwards), we have been more prepared and more ready to plan successful peace walks.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Looking back...

When I first became involved in the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance, I never imagined how much of an effect on my high school life that it would have. It wasn't just the number of events that I attended, or the amount of service projects that I attended, it was the individual connections at each events, both with new people and people that I had know for many years.

The second KCIYA event I ever remember attending was when KCIYA went to the 3HO Kundalini Yoga Center and met with Sat Tirath Ashram to learn about the Sikh faith. I think that was one my first encounters with a faith that wasn't my own, or wasn't Christianity. It was amazing how some of the practices were similar to my own faith, and how many people of different faiths had come and gathered to listen. But, the thing that I most remember about that meeting was that I made a new friend. We talked about our different faiths for a while, but then we also just talked too. And it wasn't just then, we kept in touch for a while after that-at different KCIYA meetings and even sometimes outside KCIYA meetings. That was one of the reasons why I kept going back, I loved meeting new people and making new connections.

Much, much later, I began volunteering at a Kansas City Urban Youth Center with one of my friends who was one of the key people for getting KCIYA started. We decided to support KCUYC for our senior service project after volunteering with it with KCIYA a couple of times. Volunteering at the Urban Youth Center was one of the most eye-opening experiences I had. On our car rides back from the center, my friend and I would reflect on our experiences working with the kids there, which made us grateful for our education and realize that education was one of the key factors that was separating us from the children that were a part of that after-school program. There was one girl in particular who I worked with, who was very talented and good at reading, but only when she was encouraged to push herself. Not only was this project a reflection on the inequalities of education, but also it was something that made me grow closer to my friend because we started talking about issues that we had never talked about before. 

Which, in short, is what KCIYA is all about. It is about meeting new people and talking about issues that aren't usually talked about with the people that you hang out with. And that is another one of the reasons that I keep coming back. I believe in the power of conversation between different people and I believe that conversations that occur because of KCIYA interactions helped me to grow as a person.

Monday, August 5, 2013

First Month Reflections

If there is one thing that I have been reminded of during the first month of this internship is that things can't happen all at once.  From planning the peace walk to studying for a certain standardized test, unfortunately everything can't be planned for or reviewed for at once. As much as I want to get everything done at once, things have to be done at a specific time with a specific timing. Take for instance, planning the peace walk. Because it is scheduled to be in the second week of October, when I was writing the timeline in mid July, it was tempting to try to get all of the tasks accomplished that week, so we wouldn't have to do them later. However, things like the press release, the teeshirts, even advertising the peace walk, need to be left for later in order make it a success.

This principle is something that also can be applied to the internship as a whole. When given the tasks at the early Tuesday and Thursday morning meetings, it is tempting to get the tasks done right away, rather than spreading them throughout the week in order to get them done properly. If there is one thing that the first month of this internship has taught me, it is how to split my time between working and studying, and how some things have to be done at a specific time in order for them to be done properly-it is all about the timing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Second Time's the Charm...

This is my second year of participating in the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance summer internship. I have been involved in KCIYA since the beginning of KCIYA-I think I was one of the first people to go to one of the first meetings held in February of 2008, when Second Presbyterian hosted youth trainers from the Interfaith Youth Core. I still remember what they were talking about-how the media only shows the bad interactions between different faiths, and rarely ever shows the good relations between different faiths. The goal of IFYC was to promote religious pluralism, a concept that I had never heard of until that time. Religious pluralism goes beyond tolerating religious diversity, it celebrates religious diversity and builds bridges between different religions and beliefs.

After that first meeting, I was excited enough to come back to the next meeting. Soon, I was meeting with two of the adult mentors who were leading this initiative along with a couple of other youth who were returning members. We met a Dean and Deluca in the summer and discussed the idea of this interfaith group going forward. We came up with service ideas, ideas for social projects, and ideas for how to get this group off the ground. It was a very excited meeting, and I know, personally, I was very excited to be involved with this group that was just starting, and was very excited to see where this group would go. Which I guess, is the reason why I keep wanting to help out with KCIYA now, partially because I remember that excitement that I felt from the first couple of meetings that I attended, and partially because I still see a great future for this group and want to help it along the path of becoming a group that is beneficial not just for Kansas City, but maybe even for the world.