Shayan, 23, student living in Ashfield, New South Wales
Transforming neighbourhoods
“In my inner-city neighbourhood, I serve as a tutor of study circles, which have about five to ten members each. We study together to develop knowledge, skills, qualities and attitudes that enable us to help our neighbourhood develop, socially and spiritually. For example we learn about working with children and junior youth groups.
“In my experience, the neighbourhood is a very suitable place for collective learning in which men, women, children and youth can participate.
“In fact, we have learned that the increased capacity gained from engaging in community building activities has enabled us to move on to more complex social action and to contribute to discussions on issues of importance to society.
“For example, in my neighbourhood the mothers who are involved in the community building process saw that the local schools were not providing the assistance that their children needed.
“The mothers didn’t have the resources to pay for tuition so they started a small class to help the neighbourhood children with their maths.
“This shows a community taking charge of the spiritual and material development of their neighbourhood.”
Sense of purpose
“Transforming neighbourhoods means helping people to develop a strong sense of purpose so that they can work together to promote the welfare and the wellbeing of the neighbourhood and everyone in it. It’s about the spiritual and social progress at the grassroots which ultimately contributes to the transformation of the whole world.
“My motivation for getting involved comes from my understanding of the twofold purpose of my life: to grow intellectually and spiritually, and to contribute in the transformation of society.
“On a personal level, this involves developing my latent potentialities, including virtues and qualities. On a social level, it means doing what I can to promote the welfare of others. I think the neighbourhood is where I can be most effective in contributing to meaningful social change.
Inspiring quotation
“I find this quotation inspiring: We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions."