An old boss of mine had a saying: “if you’re old enough to recognize a problem in the world, you are old enough to do something about it.” Through my work with The Smile Project, I am inspired every day by young people, not just recognizing problems, but stepping up to address them.
Through a mutual friend, I was connected to Lana Duong of San Jose, California. Lana is the founder of the Fight Against Bullying Project. I am so excited to share her inspirational work with you today.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”
Lana: What is happiness? May it be the minimalist thing of giving a compliment to a stranger or paying for the car behind yours at the drive-thru? May it be participating in an organization in which you believe their cause and speaking up in what they stand for?
Happiness is finding joy in the simplest things. It is waking up to your favorite alarm tune, styling your outfit, and heading out the door to seize the day. It is putting a smile on other people's faces as they walk by, and being a positive highlight in their day. It is getting involved in your community, aspiring to better the world everyday.
For me, happiness is making my family proud. I define happiness as giving and being the light in a dark room. I have seen a balance of darkness and light. By being a leader in the Positive Alternative Recreation Teambuilding Impact (PARTI) Program I have been able to let my little light shine. I remember when I went to Vietnam, a place where my family had grown up, I visited orphans who felt safe playing with me, even though I was a stranger. That's when I first discovered the power of my light.
Liz: Tell me about your project.
Lana: "Fight Against Bullying" is my youth service project. That's why I joined the PARTI Program. Many youth today have experienced bullying, whether it be in-person or online. I have seen others around me get bullied and it made me realize that I needed to protect my light for those who would need it.
My project that I am leading, with the support of PARTI, brings awareness to young teens and children who have been bullied. It also communicates to adults and my peers the effects bullying may have on the victim's health and well-being. "Fight Against Bullying" allows for inspiring youth leaders to bring equity and change within and beyond their community, as well as unite as one voice on the common purpose of bullying awareness and prevention.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Lana: Bullying has always been a topic I wanted to bring attention to. It is something that affects young individuals in school environments and social media platforms, but it may also hold effect in their lifetime. As a child, we may not have spoken up against bullying out of fear and judgement. Being something I witnessed first-hand, I was driven to be the voice I wish I had. As youth, we are the future! I aspire to collaborate with young teens in working with me to make a change.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Lana: Service to me means providing support for those who may need it and lending out a helping hand. It is lifting others up when they are down and being their shoulder to cry on, without expecting anything in return. It is simply giving and being there to help.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Want to volunteer and be a part of greatness? Contact us!
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote to leave us with?
Lana: I love this quote by Alan Kay: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”