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The FIRST experience empowers participants and their communities

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Hakan Habip

FIRST Volunteer, Turkey

My view is that FIRST is about building humanity in the world. By expanding the depth and width of its reach, FIRST can build humanity in everyone.

In 2000, I dreamed of nurturing digitally savvy youth to help unleash positive change in Turkey. My wife discovered FIRST, and we soon organized FIRST LEGO League tournaments. With the help of many, we just finished our 12th season and already have over 11,000 digitally, robotically, and graciously savvy youth from 47 cities! The participants have improved their design, coding, research, and presentation skills. More importantly, they have learned to practice empathy.

They are also strong communicators. They take pride in discovery, in listening, in kindness, in sharing, in Gracious Professionalism®. They have developed win-win attitudes. Corporate donations have allowed us to reach girls, the underprivileged, and the traumatized. As one example, 150 of our students are from the Soma region, the site of a tragic mining accident. Each student lost a relative or a neighbor.

Their FIRST LEGO League experience gave back their voices, their smiles, and built a capacity to deal with the trauma. Yes, FIRST also allowed them to take a memorable selfie with popular rock stars. The team Coaches say the meek students have learned to stand up, and the egocentric students have learned to share and cooperate.

Over the past nine months, at least five bombs have exploded in our part of the world. The stark reality is there is a will to enslave humanity through fear, coupled with inequalities, failed ecologies, and increasing violent weather patterns. Together, these issues feed higher risks on conflicts. Parallel efforts from many are needed to find timely and consistent solutions.

Issues among countries exist, but among children they do not. Let me repeat: Issues among countries exist, but among children none do. Let us capitalize on this. The FIRST experience empowers its participants and their communities. The mere sight of FIRST students gives hope to everyone. Let us run FIRST competitions for Turkey and our neighbors. Gracious children will heal their communities. In turn, these communities will help bring peace.

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