C: What are your values and aspirations? Who are you and what is your story? Now that you are done with your undergrad, what are you looking forward to?
A: Some of the values I hold close to my heart are having an ever growing faith with the remembrance of God, building and teaching empathy through service, self reflecting, learning and reminding people of the power in sharing their stories.
In my final year of university, a question I would get quite often is, what do you want to do in the future? I was at a crossroads—while I felt fortunate enough to have a number of pathways open to me, I was not completely sure of which one to walk on. I would change my answer every now and then and make a mental note of the reaction elicited by the inquirer. I soon came to realize that
1) This was exhausting and 2) I was constantly looking for some form of approval from people who likely were not concerned with my career prospects and decisions. By the end of my fourth year, I came to terms with the fact that all I knew for certain was that I wanted to use everything I had and dedicate everything I am to serve humanity. So, when a professor raised the same question to the class in one of my final in person lectures, I answered in the most honest way that I could, I want to help people, I said, finally feeling sure of myself. And that, I decided is my all encompassing aspiration, to be somebody for somebody.
Being a full time student while also running a non profit on a full time schedule was an experience in and of itself. I had spent so much time in school eagerly awaiting every weekend and break to catch up with advocacy work, and every slow period in donation requests to catch up with classes. Upon graduating, I would say my work with ATBF has increased three-fold. More families reaching out to support and for support. More stories being shared and told. More donations moving in and out (socially distant, of course!). While the world has taken a dramatic shift these past few months, I am hoping we all use this time to be deeply self reflective of our intentions and internal biases, and emerge as better informed, self aware, socially conscious and actively anti-racist individuals.
It has been an absolute pleasure to be able to work alongside budding young activists and support them as they develop their own passion projects. Building an organization from the ground up nearly 7 years ago, I faced a number of challenges in trying to find my voice, sharing my ideas with others and garnering support. Upon finishing undergrad, I am so grateful to use the various platforms I was lucky enough to speak on to continue to amplify the voices of young children who are relentlessly deprived of their basic human rights. I aspire to create a world where children recognize that food, water, education, safety and security are not privileges, but basic human rights that should have been delivered the moment they were!
Who am I ? You can find me riding my bike under the sun, embroidering flowers on all of my jeans, documenting my thoughts in one of (too) many journals or volunteering for a good cause. I am a passionate children’s rights activist striving to create platforms for individuals to share their stories, while simultaneously trying to write my own.
C: To finish off the interview, I would love to hear if you have any other final thoughts or perhaps advice for young passionate individuals who are keen to create impact driven projects. What is a specific piece of advice or tip for youth at this moment in time who might be confined at home… what can they do if they have the capacity to be engaged?
A: Throughout these past few months, Aiza’s Teddybear Foundation has not only received an outpouring of support from the community, but also an exponential rise in the number of people reaching out for assistance as well. Many families who we have worked with in the past were already struggling to afford their basic necessities prior to the pandemic, so needless to say, their hardships have been exacerbated. While we are navigating these uncertain times as a collective, the way that each individual experiences it couldn’t be more different.
For anyone struggling with societal pressure during these difficult times, please remember that it is not selfish to put your needs first. Put on your oxygen mask. Make sure you’re breathing. For anyone who has the capacity to serve, you may benefit from devoting some time to honing in on your passions and discovering how you can use them to benefit your life and that of others. I have always loved speaking with and learning from people. I realized pretty early on that, while my passion was storytelling & activism, helping people was my purpose. Even with this broad statement, I was able to understand myself on a deeper level because it’s not so much about the words themselves, but the process of finding them. I launched our first Youth Advisory Board as a result of being asked to mentor students of all ages for as long as I can remember. As much as I had always wanted to connect with kids in this way, being in school myself, I lacked the amount of time I needed to fully devote myself to the task. Fast forward to our present times, I put out an ask to garner a sense of how interested individuals were and received an overwhelmingly positive response. We ended up welcoming double the number of students we had initially planned, to our team. Every meeting, we invite a new guest to our call to share their story, lead a workshop and answer questions from the group. Guests consist of career leaders, youth champions, change makers and motivational speakers. Every month, our team sets personal goals and tracks their progress, works on assignments, advances their knowledge on children’s rights and the sustainable development goals, develops their public speaking skills, contributes to our projects & programming and so much more. Long story short, if anyone has the capacity to be engaged, I encourage you to seek out existing organizations that align with your values and channel your creativity and time into supporting them! As a result of a dwindling number of volunteers, I am certain that they could use the extra hands. Use this opportunity to connect with individuals from all walks of life, serve alongside them, listen to stories of the plight of their experiences and grow together! There is so much we can learn from lending our time, our energy, our listening ears and our loving hearts to the experiences of others.
To connect with Aiza, you can find her on Instagram or Twitter @aizabidxo. To learn more about Aiza’s Teddy Bear Foundation and learn more how you can support their work or volunteer, visit: www.aizasteddybearfoundation.com or follow on Instagram or Twitter @aizastbf !
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