Keeping Jain Youth Connected
Jainism is a minority religion in the United States, and adherents are geographically dispersed throughout the country. Amit Jain, 25, is part of an organization that is keeping young Jains connected. As Director of Project Development of Young Jains of America (YJA), he manages various projects pertaining to Jains in the 14-to-29 age group. The mission is to create a network of young members of the faith and establish a forum for sharing Jain heritage and religion. For example, YJA is working to keep Jain youth connected online by building a social networking site called Jainster.com. The organization doesn’t just put on its own activities and projects, though. It has also supported other organizations with which it shares a common cause, such as Habitat for Humanity and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. To learn more about Amit Jain and his organization, check out this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.
Young Jains of America
Director of Project Development
Los Angeles, California
Loyola Marymount University
Independent Business Consultant
Director of Operations
About the non-profit
Young Jains of America (YJA) is a committee of Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA) who puts emphasis on projects relating to Jain youth from ages 14-29.
Our mission is:
- To be recognized as a national and international umbrella Jain youth organization for establishing a network to share Jain heritage and religion through young people.
- To raise awareness about Jain ideals and principles in North America and the world.
- To create a forum for sharing Jain religion.
- To instill a sense of pride among Jain youth about their heritage.
- To address the problems, difficulties, and concerns facing Jain youth.
- To assist and to promote charitable community activities.
- To prepare Jain youth to become successful Jain leaders of tomorrow.
- To develop friendships among young Jains.
- To foster and strengthen local Jain youth groups.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Project management on various levels of projects undertaken by the YJA Executive Board that reinforce our values and goals and helps us accomplish our objectives.
Most notable milestones
July 1991 – YJA is born!
July 1994 – First Convention organized in Chicago, IL
July 1995 – YJA unveils its website – www.yja.org.
July 1996 – Second Convention organized in San Francisco, CA
July 1998 – Third Convention organized in Houston, TX
April 2001 – Mahavir Jayanti 2600 Celebration Play: “The Past Lives of Bhagwan Mahavir” is played around nations across North America.
July 2000 – Fourth Convention organized in Los Angeles, CA.
June 2002 – Annual Habitat for Humanity projects organized.
July 2002 – Fifth Convention organized in Mahwah, NJ.
December 2002 – YJA partners with Veerayatan to send youth to needy places.
July 2004 – Sixth Convention in the Bay Area, CA
July 2006 – Seventh Convention hosted in Stamford, CT
What’s the niche?
What makes YJA unique is how well organized and established this youth organization is. We not only work very hard to put together our activities and projects for our Jain community, but we also work with other organizations that support the same causes that we value. For instance, YJA in the past has been a staunch support of Habitat for Humanity, PETA, Greenpeace and list goes on and on..
YJA has such a deep and rich talent pool of individuals willing to help grow the organization that there is always people doing things for YJA even if no one knows.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Working as a virtual organization across the continent we are geographically challenged. We can’t always be as organized and fluid as we like because of this challenge. It can delay our output at times but in the crunch, we always come through!
What’s in store for the future?
YJA is working to build a strong online presence with a social networking website called Jainster.com and educational tools not only for the Jain community but for everyone. We are working diligently to put together a project management infrastructure over the internet called YJA Outreach, which will help individuals not officially on the YJA board initiate and work ongoing projects.
Best way to stay ahead
Flexibility. Organizations and individuals that can adapt and change to fit their environment can last longer and be more productive.
Guiding principle in life
Yardstick of success
Too many to make one relevant.
Goal yet to be achieved
Conquering fear of heights.
Best practical advice
What’s the worst that could happen? Think about it.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your activities with YJA
Everybody told me that it was hard for them to imagine me putting such an effort into YJA like I have. From this, I’ve inspired my friends to get involved at various stages. The more people I can get the involved, the more I know I’ve done a good job.
Mentor(s) and why?
Dr. Fred Kiesner, LMU chair of Entrepreneurship. He lit a fire in me that will never go out. One of the greatest men I’ve been blessed to know.
What motivated you to be apart of YJA?
I wanted to see a good convention put together for Youth Older than 21 at the latest convention in 2006. I figured if I got involved, I could not only help enhance the experience for the crowd, but also give my input and expertise in a lot of other areas that YJA was lacking.
Like best about what you do?
The awesome people that I work with, hands down. YJA is full of interesting and nice people that contribute to this organization that makes it such a wonderful time there’s ever a meeting or an event.
Like least about what you do?
The politics. Like any organization there’s the underbelly of playing politics to get what you want, or to get things done. It’s not as bad as it sounds but we can do without it.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional athlete. Unfortunately, puberty came early and left like a thief in the night leaving me average…
What was your first job?
A friend and I our freshman year in high school started a business going door to door doing curbside paintings in neighborhoods. We mostly did address numbers on the curb. Our overhead was ridiculously low, but the brutal Arizona sun kept us honest.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Catching reruns of “Growing Pains” and “Scrubs.”
Person most interested in meeting?
Penn Jillette from Penn and Teller (The big guy!)
People know him for his magic acts, but he is on the premiere critical thinkers and enlightened people that we have society. He’s opinion on everything is so fascinating to me.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Bill Gates. Conventiional, I know, but he is still a genius and his success is unparalleled. I’d love to meet and talk with him because there’s not that many people who have been more successful then he’s been relatively speaking.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I’ve broken nine bones, but not all at the same time.
- Up until the age of nine and a half years old I wanted to change my name to Mike, because “I thought it was cool…”
- I’ve taken more theological studies classes over the years than most priests or ordained ministers.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
- Taking the time to enjoying and exploring life and what it has to offer.
“The Body” by Stephen King
The organic movement!
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Anyone interested in YJA for any reason!
Interview by Sumaya Kazi
Introduction by Preeti Aroon
Edited by Valerie Enriquez