I wrote an essay and competed in the Goi Foundation, my first essay submission and some of my friends asked me to post it online. Let me know your thoughts.
“I envision a world. We are human, we smile at one another daily, we give heed to strangers, children have their bellies full and everyone has a roof over their heads. People have access to basic education, health care and appreciate life’s greatest blessing – Mother Earth.

From the pay-it-forward philosophy that my mother ingrained in me, boundless optimism and from my experience, I would like to share my insight on how I contribute in creating a peaceful world. Peace for me is not just peace amongst people, but more importantly, within ourselves.

There are two challenges that I believe, if brought to awareness, would bring peace, they are defining our own paths and challenging our beliefs.

The first challenge is rooted in people following borrowed paths of their family, friends and community, living most of their lives never exploring where their true passions are. Society is driven by the rationale that if we don’t achieve certain milestones then we will never be happy; people chase the ‘status quo’ of how they ‘should’ live instead of how they ‘want’ to live.

The model is purely an economic one, focusing on a materialistic spree and financial security. People often replace passions for the analysis of people’s opinions and standards. To find peace, we need to discover our own interests and create a life of meaning where one sets their own standard. When I was running training programs for AIESEC nationally and regionally for 1500 MENA youth the most powerful question was “What do you want?” Often most youths had never been asked that question and were astounded when they realize that they are focusing their energies and running someone else’s race.

Everyone is looking for something and the moment they realize what it is, life is transformed as they have found a purpose that is truly their own.

The second struggle falls under re-designing beliefs from ‘but… if’ to ‘what… if’. Most cultures worldwide work by the reward and recognition system where, through time, we are conditioned to limiting ourselves thus closing off opportunities.

Common excuses range from, “my contribution won’t make a difference” to “I have no time, money, or expertise”. What if we were to use our creativity to think of solutions? What if we reinforced beliefs that life is an evolving growth process, in order for us to succeed, must we not also dare to experience failure?

During university, I took part in one of the first community based learning course where my team consulted an NGO to ensure their programs were sustainable and wrote a grant on their behalf. On an excursion to a slum area in Cairo, a classmate who had been very sheltered had her first interaction with one of the slum children.

She met 8 year old Fatma who didn’t go to school as she had to walk two hours daily to collect water for her family of five who lived in a room equivalent to three bathroom cubicles. Fatma blonde hair resulted from lack of nutrients and she wore a thick sweater in the intensive 43 degree heat because that’s was all she had.

My classmate was traumatized by what Fatma had to go through that she started to focus on engaging more volunteers to support this community. Through that experience, my classmate pushed herself outside her comfort zone and began volunteering regularly, channeling all the “but…if”s to “what…if”s and assisted the growth of the programs.

I learned that young people can elucidate that by constantly challenging themselves, that change of perspective is a very powerful tool for growth but also for achieving peace.

In order for myself and young people to achieve this vision, the truth is that there is no set path to accomplish it; its roots lie in understanding ourselves, our failures and successes, and thereby defining our own unique pathways to meaning.

We need to resolve our internal turmoil and ensure that we have control and are able to manage our emotions and realize that we need to become more aware about our own wants and needs.

Identifying what is important to us to help us find meaning, re-looking at perspective and celebrating our daily blessings are small actions. This is how one finds peace in a materialistic age.”



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