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Focusing
on a positive impact

Two Worlds, One Family

By Ravi Patel

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to represent @Johnson & Johnson at the One Young World Summit as one of 65 company delegates. One Young World brings together over 2,000 young leaders and change makers representing over 190 countries to discuss solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. Top global leaders and young activists shared inspiring and heartfelt stories that inspired all present to work towards a brighter future.


I reflected on my journey in a way that grounded me to my youth – by recalling some of the Disney movies that were hallmarks of my childhood. Through Disney, I reveled in magical kingdoms filled with fairy tales and heart-warming stories of individuals from all around the world. These tales brought in worlds with snowmen, aliens, and even chimpanzees and apes in the jungle. When I watched these movies as a child, I didn’t fully appreciate the messages that Disney promotes through song lyrics. I decided to use a lyric from Tarzan to help me summarize some of my key learnings from the Summit.  


“Put your faith in what you most believe in

 

Two Worlds, One Family

 

Trust Your Heart

 

Let Fate Decide

 

To Guide These Lives We See”

 

 

Put Your Faith in What You Most Believe In

Everyone in this world has something in common. We sometimes sit idly by waiting, watching, and hoping that the world will evolve into a more equitable, happy, and peaceful state that can bring humanity forward. I’ve seen this in small and large ways throughout my life. Hope seems to be an easy out.

For me, this particularly is apparent with education. I vividly remember a cold winter night during exam season at my university when I was studying in the Engineering Library. As I started packing my things up at 2 in the morning to go home and rest before the big exam, I turned and saw a fellow student push his white board away, toss the marker, and shut down in a state of defeat. He had given up any and all attempts at solving the problem. All I could remember was how I hoped that he would be able to figure it out by the time the test comes around so that he would succeed. However, as the One Young World Summit made clear to me, hope without action does not change the world, and in this instance, would not lead to this student passing his exam. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would always hope that someone would provide an equal educational opportunity to everyone, but I quickly realized that wasn’t the case at my university, and that definitely wasn’t the case on the global scale. 

As Mahatma Gandhi stated: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Most importantly, that change must start with us.

The change I wish for? Exceptional educational opportunities for everyone. 

As we fight for the changes we put our faith in, because it will be a fight, we must remember to adapt, to recover, and to grow as we face challenges to become ever more resilient. So put that faith in yourself. You have the power to create change, you have the power to move mountains, and you have the power to create a revolution. 

 

 

Two Worlds, One Family

Evolution and advancement are reoccurring themes throughout history. Humanity advances through curiosity, competition, and global need. However, as we’ve evolved, we’ve begun to create boundaries that divide us, that separate us, and that blind us – even without our knowledge or intention. It became ever more apparent to me at the One Young World Summit that our world is divided into two realities. The more I see one world improving for the privileged, the more I see another world fighting for basic human rights and opportunities being pushed further and further away for so many.

When I was in India a few years ago, I witnessed unfiltered separation between two worlds standing right next to each other. I saw stores filled with the most expensive and elegant clothing I had ever seen, surrounded with alleys of children with broken legs fighting their pain to drag themselves to the storefront to ask for money so they could get simply eat, dismissing the possibility of someone paying for their medical care. My dad gave a child some money to go get some food, but was immediately met with people on the street saying he shouldn’t do that because that will cause more people to ask. I stood there in awe, shocked by how easy it is to pull us farther apart rather than bring us together. What actually separates one human from another?

We may not have the same looks, beliefs, or social norms, but we need to realize that we are all human. And that underlying connection, even if it may not always seem evident from the outside, makes us family. We do not let family suffer, we do not turn a blind eye to our family’s struggles, and we do not leave family behind. Even if we can’t see it directly, no one wins a world that loses. Families provide a structure for love and support through the darkest of times, and times are certainly dark. This connection, this bond, and this act of caring for one another is needed now more than ever.

Trust Your Heart 

The heart is a guiding compass in the most difficult of times, as we face some of our most challenging decisions. However, we tend to ignore this compass when we handle situations with pure logic. This concept really resonates with me, especially after hearing Dr. Jane Goodall, an inspiration for this article, speak about her path to her dream at the One Young World Summit. She shared how society shot down her dream of working in the field as a researcher, calling it too ambitious and not suitable for a girl like her. And at that moment, she could have succumbed to societal pressure, but with a full heart she resisted. She spent countless hours reading in the library because she couldn’t afford to buy any books to take home. She fought for her work in the field even when she didn’t have any money. Others told her not to empathize with the chimpanzees, told her it would never work, but she didn’t let that negativity get to her. Her work eventually introduced a completely new understanding to what makes us humans, established potential evolutionary links with common ancestors, and started an institution that leads the way for animal and environmental conservation. She stayed driven, largely due to her mother’s unwavering support and simple advice: “If you really want something, try really hard and don’t give up.”

That something for me is my charitable engineering work, which came from my relationship with my grandfather. At his bedside on one of his last nights with us, I couldn’t help but notice an uncontrollable fire inside of me. The moment at which I knew things wouldn’t look up, I created scenarios of how to fight for his recovery, how to dedicate my life to make sure he gets better, and how to make sure no one would have to go through that pain again. I was fueled by what my heart needed, I was hungry for the solution that he needed, and now I am excited for what the future holds knowing that with unbelievable tenacity, anything is possible.

When you do figure out where your guiding compass is telling you to go. . .

Do it with a full heart, do it with a relentless attitude, and do it with joy. 

 

 

Let Fate Decide

 

Does fate control our lives?

 

The One Young World Summit highlighted for me the many differences in this world. There are countries with an abundance of wealth and countries with people fighting every day to see tomorrow. There are people up against all odds fighting for basic human rights, and those that live in more privileged environments. There are families that are thriving, and families that are falling apart. We can’t control which of these two worlds we are born into, but we are able to write our own stories to create the change we want to see in the world – stories that will defy society’s limitations and survive in the harshest of circumstances. We need to fight to shape our own stories, otherwise someone else will write them for us. 

 

 

I look to my parents as a living example of controlling their own stories. They were both born in India, but had wanted a better life for their soon to be family, and so decided to move to the United States. They struggled as immigrants accepting any job that was available, forfeiting their ability to get degrees by both working multiple jobs at once, while trying to raise a family, and fit into a society that wasn’t necessarily their own yet. Even with countless reasons to give up and go back to India, they stuck through it, and wrote their own stories of what success looks like, creating the future that they wanted for me and my brother. 

 

 

To Guide These Lives We See

 

Who will guide us to a better future?

 

The world is often focused on destruction, sadness, and doubt that change is possible. So naturally, when taking an activist’s path, we are met with frequent negativity, especially in the early stages of our lives. Society tends to resist change, holding tight to time-driven knowledge. Yet, we are not going to reach the United Nation’s 2030 goals for a sustainable future by doing things the way they have always been done. I now recognize we need urgent change sooner rather than later. And I believe young people are a part of this urgent action. But how can someone who has been on this earth less than a quarter-century be heard, create change, or make an impact? No one said the path forward is going to be easy. Barriers and preconceptions need to be broken.

However, we are not alone in this process. With the lessons learned and wealth of experience from older generations, we can paint a future that we wish to see together. We are at a point in time where the next decade will decide the fate of this world, where we will fill in the blank canvas of what is next, and by adding the creativity and tenacity of the younger generations into the mix, we can bridge the gap between the two worlds and set the stage for future generations to come. Teamwork and collaboration will guide every paint stroke on the blank canvas of our future. Let’s not hesitate on how to start, let the activist family around you be your strength and direct you. Let negative talk inspire you. Do not wait for anyone else to validate what to act on or what to create. People young and old have the power to change the world, and together, we will bring humanity forward for EVERYONE. 

 

The First Page in my Story of the Future

The main question I ask myself now that I have returned from the Summit is how will I act on my learnings? The world can’t be fixed in one day, but it can start trending in that direction. I’m excited to share with you how I’m hoping to contribute to that future:

 

Youth Education

Education should not be a luxury. It is essential to encouraging a child to determine their strengths, their passions, and their full potential. Many children face health, societal, economical, or environmental barriers to accessing the education to unleash that full potential. In these scenarios, school is not a priority, survival is. I pledge to bridge the educational gap between the “two worlds” and work to remove educational barriers for children so they have the freedom to explore and fulfill their dreams. I am starting in my own backyard by working with organizations to offer my tutoring and mentoring services for free to children in challenging circumstances.

 

Engineering for Good:

“Do it with a full heart, do it with a relentless attitude, and do it with joy.” Joy comes to you in different forms and is not something that the world defines for you. The source is something that is unique to you, it’s just a matter of finding it. For me, joy comes from engineering. The act of designing and creating a solution from scratch, the constant curiosity of how mechanisms work, and the ability to simplify and improve lives for the better provides me endless joy. With that in mind, it is time to combine my source of joy with the needs I see in my community. Therefore, I pledge to provide innovative engineering solutions to not only the ones that can afford it, but to the ones that seek and benefit from the true value of it.

 

I start this journey with a collaborative project with the non-profit organization A Leg to Stand On. This organization provides free orthopedic care to children with limb disabilities in low-income countries across the world. I am leading an initiative to design a cosmetic sleeve specifically created for their prosthetic leg model, The Joshi, to strengthen the self-esteem, confidence, and emotional resilience of each child. To provide them a combined solution that they can truly call their own.

 

Now I turn to you. What will you pledge for the betterment of our world? Please comment or reach out directly to share! I would love to discuss and learn more.

Kindest Regards,

Ravi Patel