October 23, 2012 (MMD Newswire) -- Seventeen-year-old Nathan Youssef of Durango, Colorado wants to inspire other teenagers to get involved in their communities. After spending time volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park, a home for rescued elephants in Thailand, Nathan decided to turn his long-running blog on giving back into a 125-page how-to manual entitled 101 Ways To Contribute.
In 101 Ways to Contribute, Nathan writes of his Muslim-American heritage, "There's not much of a Muslim community to be found in Durango, Colorado (where I live); and by "not much", I mean "none". When volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park with Loop Abroad, he discovered something about culture and community: you can always reach out and integrate yourself and others by helping. This revelation led him to understand why he'd always been so motivated to get involved, from helping to start the charter school at which he'll become the first graduating class this May to volunteering for local environmental and political causes.
The final product offers practical, helpful information for teens who want to get involved but don't know where to start. "I don't think kids realize how much we can do," says Youssef. "We can impact political campaigns. We can get issues into the media. We can influence environmental policy. We can draw attention to causes that matter. And most importantly, we can give our time and energy and help our neighbors. Huge donations get media attention, but writing to a soldier who is serving our country to sitting down to chat with someone of a different religious background matter. These things breed tolerance and help strengthen communities. We have the power to do that, and I wanted other kids to benefit from what I'd researched and learned."
Youssef decided to offer his book for free on 101waystocontribute.com in hopes of spreading his message of contribution. However, he is asking that those who can give a $2 donation do so. All proceeds go to the Elephant Nature Park, a reserve in Northern Thailand where injured, mistreated elephants who've been rescued can live out their days in safety. Nathan has made two volunteer trips to Cambodia with Loop Abroad, and was one of the first volunteers to help begin work on the new Elephant Nature Park in Cambodia, where rescued elephants will roam free.
"This is a small way I can give to this great organization. I learned so much there about how service can overcome the boundaries of culture and unite people," Nathan has said. "I think that's the calling of my generation."
Photo: At the Save Children in Asia Organization, Cambodia (2011)
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