Empowering the Younger Generation to Become Agents of Change in their Communities
There is a Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (JYSEP) right here in Lyle/High Prairie. Meetings are every Sunday from 3 – 4:30 at the home of Rene and Bill Weiler. There is no charge for participation and anyone 11 – 15 years of age is invited to join. The Lyle group was started three years ago, and there are others following the same curriculum in other parts of the gorge.
This program, developed by the Baha’i Faith around the world, is an outgrowth of the Baha’i commitment to social transformation and community development. In children and youth they see “altruism, an acute sense of justice, eagerness to learn about the universe, and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world.” They believe that children and youth have the potential to change the world, and the JYSEP was developed to help them reach that potential.
The program’s aims are to foster their powers of expression (learning to communicate effectively through language skills and the arts); spiritual perception (awareness of the world around us and our place in it); and moral structure (developing the skills to analyze circumstances and make honorable moral decisions for the betterment of all).
The term “spiritual empowerment” in the program’s name points to the innate spiritual capacities of every human being, qualities such as kindness, justice, generosity, discipline, truthfulness, compassion. So it does not matter at all what religion or church you belong to. In fact, even though the JYSEP is Baha’i-inspired, only two of the group’s participants are from Baha’i families. There is no religious instruction, but spiritual capacities are heightened and developed through service, prayer, the arts, consultation.
This dynamic program can usher middle-schoolers through a unique and important stage of life in an environment that is positive, supportive and builds bonds of trust and friendship. The components of the program are the arts, recreation, study, and service projects within our own community. A lot of emphasis is also placed on leadership and participants teaching their skills to the rest of the group.
For example, on a recent Sunday one participant taught the group how to do knot tying. The following week one of the youth taught cupcake making and decorating. An example of a service project that the group has undertaken is organizing an annual game night for the entire Lyle community, held at the Lyle Activity Center. Another service project the youth devised was making and selling apple pies to enable them to put together a big care package for some needy friends. They are encouraged to generate their own ideas for service and to brainstorm the means to accomplish them. This is a powerful experience for middle-schoolers.
Contact Rene Weiler if you know a youth who would like to join, or if you would like more information. Also, there is a wonderful training program if you are 17 or over and interested in learning about the special qualities of 11 – 15 year olds and how to facilitate a JYSEP in your own neighborhood.
Call 365-3972 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.