I look back at my teenage years and remember all of the things I did. I played team sports, got decent grades, hung out at the mall with my friends, but through it all, I really longed for something amazing for my life, though I was never quite sure what that something was. I did not have much of a plan or vision, but I knew that it was different from what I was currently doing. Maybe that was a normal teenage life.
Moving ahead 15 years, I am now working with teenagers from every background and I am constantly in awe of how different they are from me at that age.
I am the Youth Development Director of Insight Seminars. We offer heart-centered education for hundreds of youth, ages 6-18, worldwide. These seminars provide an opportunity for teens to express themselves, figure out who they are and what they want, accept themselves and all of their potential and flaws, learn positive affirmations and communication, and develop heart centered leadership, etc. It is an innovative program of which I an honored to be a part.
Out of those hundreds of teens, there are 15 that are taking the even bigger next step of spending time working on themselves and discovering a purpose on their journey of self-discovery. Namely, they want to help to empower other youth around the world.
After we completed our Seminar Series for the summer last year, I met with those 15 teens from our Teen Insight Leadership Program to discuss options of where we would want to do this Service Project as a group and what kind of project that would be.
As we were planning our project, I wondered if these kids would just want to take a trip together, to make it more of a fun event. So, first we created a Mission Statement in order to have clarity of purpose for our decision. Then, we researched some of the places people came up with, such as Australia, South America and Israel. They could have easily gone to any number of places that were civilized, had comforts of home and/or were easy to travel to. I was really impressed when, on their own and in an amazing show of compassion for others less fortunate, they declared that this was about making a difference and empowering other youth that may not have their same opportunities. We decided to partner with Knock Foundation and work with an orphanage in Tanzania, Africa where the children were orphaned due to parents dying from AIDS.
They got it!
I felt like one of those proud parents when your child repeats something you have taught them, but you did not think they were listening.
For the teens, it came down to working with a community that does not have summer camps, mentors, money, or any of those things that can help shape a more positive outcome in life, the least of which is parents. They were very clear that this was about reaching a demographic that can be taught all of the skills they have learned in Teen Insight, but for the very first time. When we looked at pictures of the kids we would be meeting and working with, we all fell in love. The teens were so inspired by them and their smiles and the Light in their eyes that we all knew it would be an opportunity for us to be of service, but to also learn so much about ourselves in the process.
So, we had a place...now how were we going to get there? It was time to get details together, meet with Knock Foundation, get the parents on board and involved, and start planning how we were going to raise the money for our travel and the money for the orphanage itself.
This project has been no small endeavor. There was no model for us to plug into; this was completely new to me as the Director and I was enlisting these kids to really put themselves and their commitment out there to help me make this happen.
After collaborating with Knock and creating a basic budget, it was clear we needed to raise at least $120,000 to cover our travel expenses, have enough left over to buy supplies to upgrade classrooms, and hopefully donate money toward the next project that Knock is working on.
It was time to start fundraising. Now, some of these teens come from wealthy families, some do not. So it was about being creative as a group and as individuals to generate this financial abundance to support the project. Once we established the Fundraising Committee and with that, our ambitious calendar of events, the resources and money started to come forward almost effortlessly. (I hesitate to say effortlessly, because I know we are putting in a lot of hours, but there is a lot of Grace that has surely brought perfect timing and situations forward.)
We are all so grateful!
As of today, we have raised about $43,000.
There is even a production company that wants to document the transformation of these teens' lives, before, during and after the trip and make a feature film!
Like I said, resources and money are continuing to show up. We still have a ways to go to complete our goal, but we are certain that it will be reached. We will not stop until we reach our financial goal.
At our last meeting, I went around and individually acknowledged the teens and parents for what they were each working on. It was an impressive list. Since January we have created a brand new website, a promo video, weekly blogs, small and large fundraising events, private donations, logistics for the trip, I could go on....and most of that has been done by the teens, not the adults.
This has been a true test of commitment, focus, persistence and surrendering for all of us. As I coach the teens for each upcoming project, I am frequently reminded that I would have loved a coach at that age.
I think it is now becoming clear to the teens that this is not just about all of us going to volunteer for 2 weeks with 300 children in an orphanage and school...this is about working as a group, taking leadership in our own lives, going outside our comfort zones to ask for what we want, and to keep moving forward no matter what. It is exactly what we teach in our Insight Seminars, and we are now applying it directly to our lives.
This trip will undoubtedly change lives, both ours and -- hopefully -- those of the children in Africa.
For more details on the project itself, our Mission Statement, calendar of events, video and blog or to make a donation, please visit: www.teeninsightleadership.org.
We will travel Aug 4-19, 2009 from Los Angeles, CA to Tanzania, Africa.
Please check back to see what is next for us and where we are in our process.
Teen Insight Seminars