The following piece is written by Sara Rissanen, the Bahá’í Chair’s newest Intern and Marketing Specialist.
Growing up, I was always taught, by both my family and my community, that I can make a difference — that, if I work hard enough, I can change the world. After graduating high school, I put this to the test. Through participating in a gap-year program focused on leadership-building, I had the opportunity to do a variety of service-work all over the world; from helping recover items after the California wildfires in 2015 to volunteering at a school in Cape Town, South Africa. This year of my life was eye-opening to many of the challenges facing humanity today.
As much as it felt like my actions were making a difference, I experienced a sense of discouragement of being just one voice, one pair of hands – so small in the world at large. Since then, I’ve never lost the drive to make a difference in the world, but have realized that it’s not something that can be realized by one person alone. The only way I can make an impact on the current state of humanity is through working with others to make that change.
I’ve always been a big-picture thinker, always wanting to visualize the all-encompassing view of a problem. Needless to say, world peace is a big-picture topic. So much so, that many times it seems unattainable. Even I cannot quite picture a world in which we don’t have the many problems of our present-day world. The sheer amount of tragedy and disaster is overwhelming — from racism, to our environmental crisis, to war — the list of problems goes on.
This sense of being overwhelmed by the many problems of our world takes away our individual power. I was reminded of the power of community when I was listening to the Bahá’í Chair’s recent event with Derek Black. Not only does a community give us more hands and more voices, but it gives us a sense of freedom to do a small part of a much bigger goal. Community allows us to emphasize the importance of being able to work towards a personal goal — a smaller goal, something attainable, something within reach — that changes the world in a positive way.
The Bahá’í Chair is a huge mover in this by allowing us as students to explore what we can do within our own sphere of impact. I truly believe in the power of education in changing the larger aspects of our world, and I believe that this discussion needs to start now. It’s my hope that our events can open up the discussion among my peers of how we can work together to impact society.
I am very excited to work with Dr. Mahmoudi and Dr. Seaman, both of whom are exceptionally strong women who I can learn a lot from. Knowing them only for a couple of months, I already greatly admire them and the work they do. As an intern, I am given the opportunity to expand my own knowledge, and the knowledge of my fellow students, to the present issues of the time. Throughout my internship, I aim to use my one voice to encourage others to use their voices, and together we can create a better world.
About the Author
Sara Rissanen is a junior studying Marketing at the University of Maryland. She is currently the Marketing Specialist at the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace. Sara hopes to create a better future by opening the conversation of peace-building among her peers.