‘Humans First Club’ wants to make the world a better place for all
Editor's note: This article was written by Gonul Ceylin Sener from Turkey, one of the four delegates selected to share their success story during GYV’s session during the 2017 summer Youth Assembly at the United Nations. Find out how she made it below, in her own words.
“Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving, it doesn't matter
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times
Ours is not a caravan of despair
Come, yet again, come,” Rumi, humanist, philosopher and best-selling poet in America, once said.
There are many future humanists and peacemakers in the Youth Assembly at the United Nations who are coming from different parts of the world. We all share the same world and the society we live in, and no matter who you are, you make up a unique part of this universe, like puzzle pieces that are not like each other but still complete a whole picture of a diverse yet harmonious society.
As a 21st-generation granddaughter of Rumi, the great poet and philosopher, I was brought up in a family where inclusiveness and generosity for every human being is a main principle. Such values influenced my perspectives on life tremendously from a very young age. The ideas that my family’s ancestor, Rumi, planted and nourished eight centuries ago are still remembered and mentioned today but unfortunately not applied to the everyday life as they ideally should be.
I knew that I had to take some action toward promoting an inclusive community. Keeping in mind that some conflicts originate from prejudgments, the seeds of my thoughts began to grow and turned into flowers. I thought that we, as youth, can initiate a club that aims to remove all those misunderstandings. As a first step, we should start improving ourselves then include people around us. Thus, “Humans First Club” was born thanks to the efforts of a group of eight international students coming from different countries like China, America, Turkey and India.
Coming together as a club in an international school, we brainstormed ideas on how we can have an impact in our community. We, as citizens of the world, see that inclusiveness is the cure to the problems the world is experiencing now. Our differences in society should be our wealth, so we developed different structured empathy techniques that would help the communities not only to break the prejudgments between different cultures, races and ethnicities but also to produce real solutions for various problems we saw around us.
It was extremely interesting for me to see my friends quickly breaking their prejudgments on other people whom they do not know closely. We know that if we can come together as a society of diverse origins and use our power to act together rather than separate ourselves from each other, we can achieve cultural wealth and harmony.
Now, just a few months following our launch with only two students, the “Humans First Club” grew to around 20 members.
Our group has since planned several projects under our one big goal, building empathies between the several groups of our population. Our first project was on Alzheimer patients, in which I decided to combine three things I love the most: elderly people, helping others and using technology.
As a kid who lived with her grandparents for five years, I knew that if I wanted to help my community, I should start with helping the elderly not to feel isolated from society, especially people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Therefore, we visited an Alzheimer’s care center in Turkey. It was heartbreaking to see the elderly being alienated from the people they love and how this situation has affected them. Following our visit, my friends and I started the “Humans First / Alzheimer” project. We went to the care center again, became friends with many of them and played games with them. We even tested the effect of music in improving their focusing capabilities.
Before starting, we took lessons from a neurology professor on what Alzheimer’s disease is and how to approach the elder patients. The results of this research project were presented during Turkey’s National Alzheimer’s Conference.
Our project was then recognized with the “Young Researcher Award.” This study was accepted to be presented in the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2017 world conference in London.
With the goal to help people in mind, we simply didn’t want to do a single project only because it wouldn’t help us leave a strong impact on society.
The second project we did was educating underrepresented children in some of Turkey’s rural villages, where we met kids who don’t have the same opportunities as us. Their toys consisted of pieces of rope and a few stones. We came to realize how privileged we are and how we can use our resources to help other youths. With this idea in mind, we went to Anadolu University to turn our raw idea into a real education program. The university rector and other officials saw in us young passionate individuals trying to solve one of our country’s biggest challenges as a team. They trusted our passion to achieve our goal. We planned some activities with the kids, started a summer school for them and taught them lessons in mathematics, music and creating simple toys and instruments.
I saw that if we hold hands together and turn the negatives into positives, we can achieve our goal to promote inclusiveness. Our initiative that started as a club formed by only two friends turned into an international youth program bridging differences between people of different social classes.
With our initial project, we took theater lessons to acquire empathy techniques and work and act as a successful team. With these theater techniques, we got the chance to explore ourselves, as members of Humans First Club coming from diverse countries. We figured that if we could break the prejudices between ourselves then we could also help other youths to do the same.
“Some Hindus were exhibiting an elephant in a dark room, and many people gathered to see it,” my great grandfather Rumi once said. “But as the place was too dark to permit them to see the elephant, they all felt it with their hands, to gain an idea of what it was like. One felt its trunk, and declared that the beast resembled a water-pipe; another felt its ear, and said it must be a large fan; another its leg, and thought it must be a pillar; another felt its back, and declared the beast must be like a great throne. According to the part which each felt, different descriptions of the animal were given. If you give a candle to everyone, their differences will be gone.”
We can all contribute to society in some way. It is up to us to make inclusiveness a main characteristic of our system. We need to establish partnerships with individuals who have different talents and skills to prepare ourselves as future leaders of increasingly diverse communities.
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV