“I like to think that human beings are tiny dots. For us to make a significant change in this world, we cannot do it alone. We must find connections, make a collaborative effort and take part in the movement.” Nugrahanti, 2020.
I got a fantastic opportunity to attend the NEXUS USA Summit in Washington DC. Not only I was attending the event as a participant, but I was also volunteering for three days during the summit. For those who are not familiar with NEXUS, it is an organization or as the members would like to say, a community of next-gen philanthropists, founders, investors, entrepreneurs, and leaders who gather to discuss global problems and find collaborative ways to address those issues. NEXUS envisions a world where justice and diversity are celebrated, and everyone shares a responsibility to make the world a better place.
In NEXUS Summit, I listened to the amazing speakers whose visions and actions focus on helping others. NEXUS gathers speakers with different expertise, from various cultural backgrounds who work in different sectors and passionate about multiple issues. It is like a one-stop-shop that feeds my soul and brain. These are some of the remarkable sessions that I enjoyed:
- Blanket the United States by Bob Dalton (the founder of Sackcloth and Ashes)
Bob Dalton was inspired to help the homeless when his mother became homeless. His stereotype shifted and he realized that most homeless shelters need blankets. Soon, he started the Sackcloth and Ashes that aims to donate one million blankets to shelters by 2024. When someone buys their blanket, they donate one blanket to a local homeless shelter. I think that is great social entrepreneurship where success is not only measured by profit but also by the impact they create on people’s lives. You can check their beautiful collection here.
- From Human Rights to Value-Based: The Case for Authentic Inclusion of People with Disabilities by Sara Minkara (the CEO and founder of Empowerment Through Integration).
Sara Minkara lost her vision on her seventh birthday, but she used her disability as her strength and became more resilient. She completed her post-grad degree at Harvard and later establish a non-profit organization called Empowerment Through Integration (ETI) that aims to end the stigma against disability through changing the narrative around disability and marginalized community to the inclusive society. ETI conducts social programs, volunteer training, and workshop that can support youth, their families and communities. She has implemented projects in Lebanon and currently, there are volunteer opportunities if you are interested.
- Influence Into Action: Activating the Next Generation in Refugee Response by Negar Tayyar (Global Whole Being Fund) and Christine Mendonca (Humans on the Move).
Negar Tayyar’s refugee story reminds me that what we take for granted might be something unreachable for others. We have a safe and peaceful house which these ‘people on the move’ could only dream about. How does it feel to always run for your safety and cross borders multiple times to escape danger? I believe no one wants to live in that situation. Negar mentioned that her experience taught her that home is where her family is. Her experience motivated her to launch an organization that aims to help the holistic wellbeing of the ‘people on the move’ such as refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants. Read more about Global Whole Being Fund here.
- Bringing Mental Health Out of the Shadows by Zak Williams (Bring Change 2 Mind).
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy.” Robin Williams. I believe everyone knows and remembers Robin Williams. One of the most talented, funny and charming actors, in my opinion. I was devastated when I heard that he committed suicide. How could someone who was full of life and joys (or so I thought) choose to end his life? I found that difficult to understand, so did his son. NEXUS invited his son, Zak Williams, to discuss mental health issues and to share his experience of dealing with his dad’s death. This conversation was real, even though it is challenging to pick up the signs from people who struggle with suicidal thought, Zak Williams mentioned that one big clue is isolation. Unfortunately, sometimes there would be no clue, sometimes you can’t read between the lines on what people with mental illness think about. Furthermore, mental illness has various types, it might not look like what we expected. Bring Change 2 Mind has a great explanation of mental illness. Please check this page to understand more so we can help each other. Additionally, I like to listen to this podcast, which describes itself as “a comedy podcast for over-thinkers and the neurotic, pining over everyday struggles and the minutiae of everyday life with an *occasional* emphasis on depression and mental health.” Check it out!
- Erasing the Hate by TM Garret (C.H.A.N.G.E)
Garret was a former member of the White Supremacist group and a member of a German Ku Klux Klan faction who is now a human rights activist. He founded a non-profit organization, C.H.A.N.G.E that stands for Care, Hope, Awareness, Need, Give and Education. The organization engages in anti-racism and anti-violence campaigns, such as the “Erase the Hate” tattoo cover-up campaign which will provide the hate tattoos cover-up for free. When the interviewer asked what changed Garret’s mindset from being a white supremacist to an anti-racist activist, Garret said it started from his interaction with his landlord who was a Moslem. He said, “I was still a racist at that time and I believed he was a terrorist. I wanted to expose him and take off his mask, but he was so kind. With his kindness and generosity, he was the one who took my hate mask off.” One of the most important messages from this discussion was that everyone, regardless of their labels such as liberal, conservative, behind any label, we will see a human being and we will see many commonalities.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. During NEXUS Summit, I met like-minded people who want to improve our living conditions and make the world a better place. I like to think that human beings are tiny dots. For us to make a significant change in this world, we cannot do it alone. We must find connections, make a collaborative effort and take part in the movement. Therefore, we should focus our energy on building bridges, not walls. I hope through NEXUS, we will see more grass-roots collaborations, innovation, global resources, and transformational leaders.