The Summit was the most useful and interesting week of my life. I learned so much about myself and the rest of the world. The atmosphere around the village felt so safe and I was easily able to trust everyone.
Even though the name of the Summit is “Global Youth Peace Summit,” don’t expect to sit all day and talk about peace in the world. This Summit is about much more. It’s about finding peace within yourself so that you can teach others what peace is. I learned that:
– I’m not alone in this world.
– Honesty is what you need to build true friendships and relationships.
– We shouldn’t judge a book from its cover.
– We should never waste our PRECIOUS HUMAN LIFE.
I’m thankful for everyone that helped me participate in this amazing experience. The Summit was HONESTLY the biggest experience of my life. 🙂
During my weeks stay at John Knox Ranch for the Austin Global Youth Peace Summit, I experienced a collective healing for youth, and adults alike.
It was a comfortable and safe environment for all who were willing to share their unique personalities and struggles, without fear of judgement. For some it was a playground to test out being who they actually are, away from the things that make them feel like they couldn’t. For others it was a time to voice what they had held in for their entire lives, because they never felt comfortable using that voice, even to their loved ones. The energy that the Summit creates is unordinary and hard to find, however, what is taught is that this energy is something that is within each of us and can always be cultivated.
From my experience, when it starts in one person, it spreads like wildfire. I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to share that week with everyone who attended. Despite my lack of funds and procrastination, the Amala Foundation helped me to make it possible and I’m forever grateful. I’m looking forward to volunteering next summer!
United States, 18
Each time I have attended the Global Youth Peace Summit, it has been transformational and an essential ingredient to my personal growth and journey in this world.
I didn’t have an epiphany at the Summit, and I didn’t leave a new person. It was in the subtle, rather than the obvious, that my life has been impacted by this community. This year, I left with the empowered ability to stand in my truth, to listen to my intuition, and perhaps most significantly in my own journey, to be a friend to myself. I believe that to be able to send youth out, to meet the world in this way, is so important to the health of this planet, and Amala’s doing it.
I have never experienced a community such as the Amala family; I have never felt so at home. For some of us, this is an experience like nothing we’ve ever known. It is invaluable and it has shaped who I am and how I live my life.
When it comes to Amala and the Summit, there are really no words to do it justice. All I can say is thank you. We are truly ONE VILLAGE.
United States, 18
Ko Ser Lu
The Summit has impacted my life in so many ways that I can describe. It changed my life, it changed my perspectives, and it raised me like I was a baby. No words can describe how amazing the Summit was.
I love explaining things to people. For example, if my friend in school wanted to know about the Summit, I would say that the Summit was amazing for me. If you go there, you will be interested. However, it will change your life.
I just want to say thank you to the leaders of the Summit. It was amazing meeting you this year. It wouldn’t have happened without you guys. I love this Summit, and it loves me. It opened my heart to learn and get knowledge from people. Sharing experiences with others. I love it. And I also wanna say thank you to the youth, for helping build the strongest community in this Summit. I love you all. I know you guys will go far and do great things with your life.
With Love & respect,
Ko Ser Lu
The first Summit I attended was this year in California, it was only a month or so ago and already I feel like a different person. It has shown me everyone is different in physical features, backgrounds, and experiences but regardless we are all One Village. It has shown me who I am without any masks, that change is okay, and that everything that’s ever happened, happened to get you where you are now.
It’s an experience that will open up your emotions and free up your self so that you can feel your self fully and authentically. You will probably make some of your truest friends here. And no matter what, you are gonna be accepted for who you are.
I learned that no one has problems that are insignificant in comparison to someone else’s. That not every thing will always go the way you want, but that’s okay. That people have to trust and love all other people, for their differences and similarities, in order for them to truly get along. That regardless of how you were brought up, it is easier than you would think to connect with someone on an equal soul level.
I have met some of the realest people there. I feel like everyone there is my family, not connected by blood but by love and respect.
United States, 15
The Summit was a magical place. The people I met there were incredible, and each one of them had a story to tell. I also had a lot of things to share, but I was a bit shy. I was told at the Summit that it was a place to open up and share what you had been hiding inside your heart. I spoke and cried at some moments. I met people from diverse backgrounds and their stories shocked me. It was a place for healing and connection. It was the second day of the Summit and we were sitting in a morning circle quietly with closed eyes. I felt like I was sitting there alone and then after that a lot of people did their religious practices.
The Summit brought a huge change in my life, and I started caring about people around me who were affected by society in many ways. I learned a lot of new things from the Summit. Apart from making friends, I tried mediation exercises, yoga games and singing. I stayed a couple of days with the One Village Music Project and recorded a song with different languages in it. I did a rap in Urdu. As a whole, this event changed my thoughts, gave me some new perspectives to look at people’s lives, taught me to heal my community and just be myself. I want to thank Amala, for it gave me a chance to be a part of its loving community and I am looking forward to coming back again.
Amala is my second big family that is always there for me and for everyone that needs support. I love being with them, it makes me feel peaceful, safe, loved and happy. They’ve always been a big inspiration to me since my first year of the Global Youth Peace Summit. All of them were very nice and kind to each other, no matter what skin color, religion or where they came from. I’ve learned to be more open minded and accept people that are different than me. I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of friends from different countries and different beliefs and learned about their beautiful cultures.
Amala always say that, “Everything happens for you, not to you.” This sentence helped me a lot to get through the tough times, and I started to use it with my friends as a positive thing to say for support. I am so glad that I got to spend time and be with them, It’s like they opened my eyes to a bigger world and helped me know how to understand it. Big thanks and gratitude to all my Amala family.
What is Amala? If I were to try to explain what Amala means to me and how it has helped me open up and forget the worries of judgment, it would take a really long time. It’s a place to truly let go and open up to a whole new world of love, acceptance and support. When you show up you automatically feel the good energy from the people around you.
It’s a safe haven for young adults to be able to be themselves or to open up to their true feelings and feel different emotions, such as love, fear, happiness, uncertainty and many more; without the fear of being judged. It’s a village, where everyone has their own role, to be authentic, in other words, to be themselves. It’s a community where one belongs, where one is loved, accepted and understood. It’s home, away from home.
United States, 18
What is amazing about Amala is the immediate support that is given to anyone who walks through its doors. These people (adults and youth alike) opened their hearts to me and gave me love and acceptance, making my fears meaningless and obsolete. More than that, they trusted me, coming to me for advice, being vulnerable and letting me support them just as much as they were supporting me. I felt honored and privileged to witness them in their true forms, which inspired me in turn to explore myself and find my true form. Amala introduced me to myself.
At Amala I learned that being a human being is a wonderful thing. I learned to love life, to take risks, and to be authentic because to me life is meaningless if you do not live it as who you truly are. I learned love is meaningless unless you open up and let someone love you for who you really are, not for the mask you show them. More importantly, I learned that I can be and am loved for exactly who I am. At Amala I found the family I desperately needed, but had never thought to ask for.
Life is a journey of discovery and instead of scaring me, it now excites me. This new excitement is largely due to that initial ocean of support and acceptance that I first received from Amala. I love this community more than I can put into words. It is my family and my salvation. I can only wish that everyone will find something that gives them the love, joy, support and discovery that I have been lucky enough to receive through this foundation. Full of love, respect, honesty and community, we truly are one village!
United States, 18
For me, most importantly, Amala gave me the opportunity to be myself and learn how to fully live with what that means.
I came to the Global Youth Peace Summit for the first time when I was 15 years old. I knew nothing about the program or the foundation, but discovered a whole new world of wonderful people and different choices. I learned about new cultures and, through that, to appreciate mine. Because of all the people I met, I learned that everyone is important, everyone hurts and anyone can teach you and share their wisdom. I learned to appreciate the small things as well as the big ones, to listen to others, to nature and to myself. I learned that everything is possible if we want enough.
I learned to trust the way of the universe and that I have the choice of growing from everything, and I learned to love unconditionally (but I’m still working on it). And yet, I learned that I have a lot more things to learn. I honestly can say that I am who I am today because of Amala. So obviously I came for two more years.
If I could describe Amala in one word, it would be discovery. Amala helped me find things about myself that were forgotten or never found. Since the first day I came to Amala, it made me see the importance of connecting with my inner-self.
Amala has taught me to accept myself and to not let fears control my path. The first time I went to the Global Youth Peace Summit, it was an awakening for me. I saw and heard many individuals who were from all around the world and who had struggles. It was like I was seeing the face of their country who needed help. It wasn’t just one individual, it was the whole village who had struggled.
No matter how big or small the struggle was, it was accepted. I think that was the beauty of the Summit. I saw their struggle and they saw mine and together we had the power to overcome any fear of doubt. I will forever be thankful to Amala for showing me the beauty of life and for making me a leader of peace. I met so many people from all around the world, and learned their languages and culture. It has made me work even harder to reach my goal to build communities all around the world. Without Amala I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Amala holds a great piece of my heart. It has done so much for me and opened my eyes to a lot of things. Amala has helped me improve myself and open up way more. This was with the help of the Global Youth Peace Summit, which was the best week ever. They have also helped me with one of my passions in life which is music. They gave me, and others, the space to make an amazing album twice. It was one of the best times ever just to see all the different types of music come together.
Another thing they helped me do is recognize that I have a strong heart that can hold lots of space, and that my heart can change people. Just realizing and hearing that meant so much to me. I could go on all day about Amala so I’ll end with this, Amala creates the best space to come and be your true self. Without it I wouldn’t be anywhere near as close to who I am today. Thanks Amala.
United States, 18
This last summer I connected with a young woman named Ola. She is a muslim and I am a christian. As most of you know, the conflict between muslims and christians started a long time ago and continues today. But when I met Ola, my whole thoughts and views on muslims changed. There was a sense of acceptance which was a great feeling for me, something that opened my eyes to look deeper and search deeper into who someone actually is. I was taught how to embrace and appreciate life because there is probably others who are going through worse. I have learned to be accepting of my surroundings and just people who are different from me. I have learned that discrimination does nothing except hurt ourselves, because at the end we all are humans trying to survive in this world together.
I have learned how to express myself fully through music. The Amala Foundation has provided a great program for me, and other youth, to be involved in music. It has helped me learn how to be patient and how to collaborate with others, mostly listening and appreciating other people’s ideas because they all matter. Amala has made me the person that I am today, and my greatest gratitude goes to the Amala Foundation people and programs they have offered me. I feel at home when I am with the Amala Foundation One Village crew. It is always the best feeling that I wish to feel forever. I appreciate all your great service, and when I grow up I’ll want to help others the way you’ve helped me.
Democratic Republic of the Congo, 18
My name is Yvonne and I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2004, my family moved to Burundi because rebels were threatening to kill my tribe. We settled in a refugee camp called Gatumba. We were there for almost a month when, on August 13, 2004, a group of armed rebels called Forces for National Liberation massacred 152 Banyamulenge civilians and wounded another 106 including my mom, sister and brother Espoir.
My mother was shot in the stomach while she was pregnant with my younger sister Lulu. A bomb injured my sister Jolie’s right arm and a bullet hit her left finger. My brother Espoir was shot in the shoulder. My father went out to get help but the refugee camp was far from the city.
I was left alone at home with my wounded mom, brother and sister. I was just 10 years old and I didn't know how to get them out of the house without being shot. I could smell the smoke of all the houses that were being burned as they got closer to my house. I told my mother that we had to try and get out of the house before they burned it. We managed to escape and find someone to take us to the hospital. Fortunately, all of my family members recovered from their injuries and my mom gave birth to my sister Lulu a couple months later.
In 2007, we were able to move to the United States. Shortly after moving to Austin, I attended a World Refugee Day celebration with Espoir and that is where we met the Amala Foundation. Since 2007, my brother Espoir and I have attended every Global Youth Peace Summit except two. We were even able to participate in the 1st Annual California Global Youth Peace Summit this past Summer. The Amala Foundation has taught me a lot of things about life, mostly to accept and embrace who I am. And to know that it doesn't take the whole world to make a difference. One person can make a difference.
Currently, Espoir is doing great in his 3rd year of high school. He plays on the varsity soccer team. I am in Junior College at Cisco College. I am studying accounting and will begin playing college soccer next year.
“The Amala Foundation gave meaning to my life. It helped in the journey of finding my inner self.”
My name is Bahram and I was born in Iran. My religion is Bahai. In Iran, we could not go to school because of our religion. They made my father resign from his job as a university professor only because of his religion. Four years ago, we had to flee our country because they started to arrest Bahais throughout the city. Several of our best friends are still in jail in Iran because of their beliefs.
We fled to Turkey and lived in a small city there; it was a very bad situation for all of us. Luckily, after 13 months, we were able to come to the United States. When I arrived, I had no friends and because my language was not good I had trouble making friends in school. Fortunately, all of this changed when I became involved in the Amala Foundation. I made many new friends at the Amala Foundation from all around the world and although we were all very different, we realized how we were all the same.
Being a part of the Amala Foundation and going to Global Youth Peace Summit has been a big part of my life. It totally changed my attitude toward my future and made me so hopeful. Amala taught me how we can all love each other and how we can discover peace. I will never forget the amazing memories I had with the Amala Foundation. I am happy to say I am now able to go to college and am attending Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio.
Evelyn Apoko is a Ugandan youth who at the age of 12 was kidnapped from her family by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The children abducted by the LRA rebels were sometimes beaten, forced to kill, made to steal, sexually abused and treated as slaves. The atrocities Evelyn witnessed were unspeakable. One day, while Evelyn was washing clothes, a plane flew overhead. People started running and Evelyn was forced to carry an impossibly heavy load. While running, a bomb dropped next to Evelyn, killing the woman and baby next to her and severely injuring Evelyn’s face.
Later, the rebels came to carry the wounded back to camp, but they left Evelyn to die in the grass. Evelyn managed to survive and get back to the rebel camp - only to be ostracized for her appearance. On the brink of being killed by the rebels, Evelyn escaped and barely made it out alive. An organization called Strongheart Fellowship helped to bring Evelyn to the United States where she was connected with the Amala Foundation.
Evelyn has attended every Global Youth Peace Summit since 2010, most recently serving as a Counselor-in-Training. Evelyn has also attended all three of Amala’s One Village Walks inside San Quentin Prison. She has also been heavily involved in Amala’s year-long One Village Project as well as Camp Indigo.
Over the last two years, Evelyn has become an advocate and voice for children who have been abducted by armies and militias across the world. She has appeared on CNN, Oprah, and other major news outlets. Just last year, she testified in front of Congress which led to Congress passing a resolution that will help to protect children who have been abducted by the LRA.
“I grew up in a world of bloodshed, fear and tears. The Global Youth Peace Summit was a place where I was honored for being a whole human being. I was embraced with a deep love....a love that I never knew existed...a love that I know”
Nany was born in Guatemala City. Her childhood was often tough as her family struggled to make basic ends meet. At 13, her mom was forced to flee Guatemala for the United States after a local gang repeatedly threatened her life. Due to her mom’s absence, she assumed the role of caretaker for her two younger sisters and younger brother.
For three years, Nany and Nany’s mom (from the United States) attempted to get Nany and her siblings to the U.S. Finally, after three years, they managed to escape their situation in Guatemala. After a long and harrowing journey, they arrived safely in the United States where they were granted asylum and re-united with their mother; all with the help of the Center for Survivors of Torture in Austin.
Shortly after arriving in Austin, Nany was introduced to the Amala Foundation. Nany has attended every Global Youth Peace Summit since 2009, including the 1st Annual Northern California Global Youth Peace Summit. The last three years she has served as a Counselor-in-Training at the Summit.
Nany has truly become a leader in the Amala Foundation community where she helped to create and run the year-long Young Artists In Service Program. In 2011, Nany traveled to India with the Amala Foundation to serve at the organization’s Bhatti Mines School in Delhi. Nany has also participated in Amala’s One Village Walk inside San Quentin Prison as well as Camp Indigo.
Nany is an extremely talented artist. While in high school, her work earned her an award as an “Ahead of Their Time” artist by the AMoA Art House in Austin. Nany graduated from McCallum High School in Austin where she received a distinguished award for Most Improved GPA. She now attends Prescott College in Arizona where she has received an academic scholarship.
“The Summit was the first time I realized I was a gift to the world.”
Breez's mother and father separated when he was only 8-years-old. He was raised by his mother and would sometimes go years without seeing his father, who was either traveling for work, or in and out of prison.
At just 15-years-old, Breez began struggling with drug addiction including heavy cocaine abuse. This addiction nearly turned fatal one night when Breez was rushed to the emergency room after suffering seizures. It was at the hospital where Breez's family discovered he had epilepsy. He was placed into a coma to stop any further damage to his body or mind. When he awoke a week later, doctors told Breez he had experienced 15 grand mal serizures over the course of 2 hours, he was lucky to be alive and even luckier to escape with zero brain damage.
After the near-death experience, Breez decided to turn his life around; he stopped taking drugs and drinking alcohol.
Soon after this experience, Breez discovered a local youth development program through his school called Urban Roots. It was through Urban Roots that Breez was introduced to the Amala Foundation. Over the last four years, he has thrived as part of the Amala Foundation community where he has participated in five Global Youth Peace Summits, including two as a Youth Mentor, and this year becoming our first youth to transition into the role of Counselor. At 19, he also traveled to India with Amala to serve at the Bhati Mines School in Delhi. This past June, Breez attended his second San Quentin Peace Walk inside San Quentin Prison where he was able to get a first-hand experience of what those periods of his dad's life may have been like.
Breez is now an educator at a Foundation Communities Learning Center in Austin, dealing with youth ages K-5th. In addition, he teaches a class called Gender Matters to teens during the Summer through Safe Place, an organization that helps battered women and youth that have experienced violence or domestic abuse.
Breez is also a talented musician who performs regularly in Austin, spreading his message of peace and unity to the masses. It is through his music that Breez has recently been able to re-connect to his dad who he is now seeing on a more regular basis, and the smiles get bigger every time.
"I've learned to not be ashamed of any part of the story that is my life.”