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Acting Locally

by Yongjie Yon
Canada

Acting Locally, by Yongjie Yon, CanadaGrowing up in Singapore, I found the highly competitive educational environment very difficult. Being often at the bottom of my class and sometimes even my school, I had no confidence and was very timid and shy around people. It was during this time that my parents, being members of the SGI, encouraged me to practice Nichiren Buddhism. I began to take more responsibility in my studies and gradually improved my grades; however, I was still very self-conscious and lacked the confidence to aspire for anything.

Although I was quite young, I clearly remember hearing SGI President Daisaku Ikeda's encouragement to believe in our unique abilities and contributions. At the time, I didn't really understand what he meant, or believe that a person like me could contribute to society. But as I grew older, his words and example inspired me to want to become more involved in the community.

In 1996, when I was in 10th grade, my family and I emigrated to Canada. There, together with the SGI Vancouver youth, I helped found the SGI-Canada Vancouver Youth Earth Charter Committee in the summer of 2003. My determination was to build friendship and trust in the community.

Although I was still a shy and self-conscious person, I forced myself to visit a number of organizations in Vancouver to introduce the vision of the Earth Charter, which is a declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society.

The experience of speaking to like-minded people inspired me to start thinking about a career in which I could work for the betterment of society. However, I didn't know where to begin or what to do except to continue supporting the Earth Charter and volunteering in the community. Through this engagement, I have been involved in many simple grassroots projects, from organizing street cleaning, recycling campaigns and movie forums on sustainability to organizing conferences, exhibitions and workshops.

I have also had the privilege of meeting many incredible individuals who have showed me the greatness of the human heart and have reminded me what I heard many years ago about the preciousness of life and the unique mission of every individual.

I believe strongly that environmental devastation originates from the minds of human beings, and I am fully convinced that through dialogue and engagement we can unlock life's unlimited potential and improve society. As Mr. Ikeda writes, "No matter how complex global challenges may seem, we must remember that it is we ourselves who have given rise to them. It is therefore impossible that they are beyond our power as human beings to resolve. Returning to our humanity, reforming and opening up the inner capacities of our lives, can enable reform and empowerment on a global scale."

My own experiences and an interest in the issues around care for the elderly came together in my decision to study gerontology at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, researching ageism and elder abuse. My background of working with youth gave me the possibility to explore intergenerational projects with seniors in my community, and, together with my colleagues, I have founded a not-for-profit organization to encourage collaborative intergenerational projects with the goal of empowering seniors and youth.

While completing my degree, I am also interning with the government of Canada in the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development as a junior social research policy analyst.

In 2007, I was awarded a Federal Scholarship. I still tend to see myself as the shy, unconfident and struggling student, but during the awards reception I was introduced by the President of SFU as one of Canada's top, brightest scholars. This is a world away from being labeled one of the dumbest students in the school.

Looking back, I feel deep appreciation for all my experiences of working for sustainability. I am determined to continue to act on the inspiration I received from SGI President Ikeda to open the path of peace through dialogue and community engagement.

[Courtesy, October 2009 SGI Quarterly]

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