Youth animators spring to life

August 28, 2003
Animated...Anisa Beckman (front), Terra Lew, Nava Derakhshani (second row), Abdullah Norozi, Ezra Hopkins, Tessa Lew (back row).

THAMES, New Zealand — "I feel animated -- like a picture suddenly given life!" says Anisa Beckman, 22, who recently qualified to assist the development of junior youth (12 to 14-year-olds).

Anisa attended a five-day residential "Animator" course here and, like the other graduates, is keen to employ her new skills.

Graduates, who are in their late teens or early 20s, return home to help groups of young teenagers to devise and implement plans of community service as well as look to their spiritual, intellectual, and creative development.

"Animators" encourage junior youth in New Zealand to devote themselves to tasks like gardening at homes for the elderly, taking young people with disabilities to entertainment parks, and taping books for the blind.

The Aotearoa Institute, a training board founded and run by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of New Zealand, organizes the course.

Spokesperson Mary Ann White said the training course combines learning and practice.

"It's a very active course and quite demanding," she said.

For Anisa Beckman, who lives in Kaikoura, on the east coast of the country's South Island, the benefits of the course are clear.

"This training has reminded me of the enormous energy and potential that junior youth have," she said.

"This has stopped me from holding myself back and just leaving them [junior youth] to it, and to start working through this program and to stoke their fire for learning, for action and for doing good and useful things."

One of her co-students on the course, Nava Derakhshani, 18, said that as a result of the course she realized the positive effect that interaction by people her age has on younger youth, especially in the development of self-esteem.

"I hope to take [this experience] back to my home country and future countries that I may reside and serve in," said Nava, who is spending a year here away from her Botswana home in a "youth year of service", a period when young Baha'is volunteer to devote themselves full-time to serving their society through their religion.

This is the fourth year of the Animator training course, and was special because some earlier trainees, such as 19-year-olds Terra Lew, from Christchurch, and Abdullah Norozi, from Papakura, were returning to carry out the training.

Mr. Norozi said that before getting involved he did not take much notice of younger youth.

"But ever since I have made a conscious effort in involving myself with the junior youth and helping and supporting them in their endeavors."

The course held this month was the fourth since training began in 2000. The original trainer of the Animators was Nina Perez, who came from Mexico to live in New Zealand while pursuing tertiary studies. She and Mr. Norozi also carried out additional training in Perth, Western Australia.

The Animators also contribute their skills in Baha'i children's camps, where pre-teens and junior youth combine studies of art and spirituality with games and fellowship, appreciation and enjoyment of nature, and outdoor activities.