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Emerge at Sant Bani’s Education Conference

What does it take to help a person believe in herself? And, with this belief, what does it take to help her act upon her vision?

In both Sri Lanka and the United States, we are learning together- learning to have confidence in our abilities, learning to communicate our ideas, and learning to work with one another to affect change. We are learning to believe in ourselves, and to channel both our frustrations and passions into meaningful action.

As we learn, how do we share the obstacles we’ve faced, the inspirations we’ve had, and the questions we’ve explored in a way that can resonate with youth and help them develop their own ideas? What does it take to mobilize both passion and action, to harness our collective energy to do tremendous good?

Today, I told the Emerge Story to about 70 people at Sant Bani’s educational conference entitled “Conversations In A Changing World.”

What a conference it was. The day opened with the beautiful words from Joia Mukherjee, Medical Director of Partners in Health. As she sang “We Shall Overcome” in Creole, and reaffirmed time and time again an important Haitian saying that “every person is a person,” I couldn’t stop the tears from trickling down my face. Every person is a person, a person with hopes, fears, aspirations, a person connected to every other human being through his or her yearning for fulfillment and community. It is this belief that drove me to start Emerge.

As we discussed our rapidly changing planet, and the ways these changes disproportionately affect the poor, I felt so honored that Emerge too could be a part of a forum that emphasized honoring the dignity of every human being. And, in a conference hall packed with educators from all over the country, I realized that through youth, we can not only honor the dignity of every human being but celebrate it through our vitality and energy, and through our relentless optimism and perseverance. We have not heard “no” enough to have overly-developed notions of what is possible and impossible. We are in a position to build new systems, unbound by conventions. But, we can only harness this energy if we find ways to educate youth such that they believe in themselves and feel connected to the world around them.

I delivered 3 presentations within 24 hours: the opening public event last night, and two workshops for educators today. I am exhausted. Yet, I am also excited, rejuvenated, optimistic, and alive. I am excited that my own inspirations and struggles, in addition our team’s thoughtful approach, dedication, and brainstorming, can help others in thinking through their own relationship with the world.

At the end of the day, as I saw women from the conference proudly wearing Emerge jewelry, I knew that our story had touched them. These precious jewelry creations, in their glittering simplicity, are each symbols of the dignity, individuality, and beauty of every person. We are truly building a community, one bead at a time. And, I proudly walk within this community- the Sri Lankan girls and children of our Bead Program, the American youth that has driven our operations, our wise board and dedicated Sri Lankan team, and our encouraging and generous supporters- as connected citizens of one tiny planet.

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