We recently caught up with Ocean Pleasant, 15 year old founder of The Asha Project: Silent Voices Of India, US ambassador for Osukuru United Women Network and the Global Youth Editor for Origin Magazine.
What follows is an entirely inspiring, truly hopeful look at our youth culture from the often underused lens of those who are getting it right.
YOGANONYMOUS: Ok, so first off do you do yoga? If so what kind is your favorite, how long have you been doing it, and what does your practice look like?
Ocean Pleasant: In all honesty, I don’t do as much yoga as I should. Being fifteen, I’m more into martial arts, but I’m beginning to witness a gradual shift towards something more spiritually wholesome. I was raised on and around yoga, so it’s just a matter of time before I return. I have a daily gratitude practice, where I sit and acknowledge everything in my life. I feel like my essence has been coexisting with the acknowledgement that everything happens for a reason, the breath of divine alignment. The good and the bad are both presented for my highest growth. It’s painstakingly frightening in the moment, but a week or so later, I look back and completely understand why that happened and how it benefited my highest self. No matter where I end up going in this lifetime, I will always cherish and remember how fortunate I am in a daily practice.
YOGANONYMOUS: You are a pretty busy teenager, at 15 you have accomplished so much. What would you say drives you to do the things that you do.
Ocean Pleasant: What drives me? If I have access to resources and opportunities which can help others, and I’m not utilizing them, consciously aware of how I could be shifting a life, what does that make of me? If one suffers, we all suffer. That’s what makes us whole. And, to be completely honest, I feel that suffering everyday. It drives me, leaves me in fetal, harnesses my courage to speak up for what is right, and leads me when I can instigate positive change. It’s not the most emotionally sustainable of motivations, but, when I’m not doing something, my heart feels heavy.
YOGANONYMOUS: Why don’t you give us a basic outline of what a normal day’s routine consists of for you.
Ocean Pleasant: A “normal” day at home (when I’m not traveling) looks something like: going to the mountains or the gym depending on weather; returning home for 4-6 hours of home schooling, volunteering at the Humane Society, working on fund raising and social media building for groups I’m involved with, make gluten-free blueberry muffins, watching an episode of Suits on my computer (we don’t have a television, it’s my guilty pleasure), endure family time with Apples To Apples. (I just moved to Boulder, and traveling non-stop makes integrating a bit more difficult.) I’m just starting to get a feel for the city, and I’m really loving the mountains!
YOGANONYMOUS: What kind of advice would you give to kids your age out there who want to get involved with community outreach work and seva?
Ocean Pleasant: For any youth who feel called to action and don’t know how/where to get involved, I suggest first revealing what drives you, what inspires you, what makes you want to get up and say, “This needs to change, and I want to change it.” Find groups near your home that get you pumped for action.
I love the Humane Society, and one of my favorite groups is The Amala Foundation in Austin. I have been attending the Global Youth Peace Summit for several years, and I traveled to India last year with them as well. Create a fundraising page for a group or cause that inspires you, gather a group of friends and get them pumped, too. Because, guess what? Compassion = love + action, all of which is contagious. I think there has been an extraordinary mentality shift in adults, from “you’re too young to do anything like that” to “youth are the next generation.” I think www.volunteermatch.org is a fantastic resource, there are some age restrictions, but it’s a great tool.
Growing up in the US, it’s extremely easy to sink into this blissful ignorance that has blanketed over most of our country. So much so that we become oblivious to resources that we’ve taken for granted. Brainstorm and see how you can use connections and tools like social media to instigate change in your community.
YOGANONYMOUS: We know you have a lot of projects going on right now. Can you talk a little bit about each of them, what inspired you to take them on and what is currently happening with each project?
Ocean Pleasant: I founded The Asha Project last year, when I volunteered in a slum school in India. The Asha Project works to empower young women living in impoverished communities around the globe through documentation. I shot the first in my film series, The Asha Project: Silent Voices Of India, last year in the Bhatti Mines slum. (‘Asha’ means ‘hope’ in Hindi.) I gave 8 girls disposable cameras, hoping that providing them with a resource to document their lives would help them realize no one should have to endure what they live through each day. (It’s due to release later this year.) I hope to continue in Africa and Haiti.
I recently became engaged in Osukuru United Women Network, a grassroots organization providing tools for entrepreneurship and counseling to women who have endured physical/marital hardship in Tororo district, Eastern Uganda. Constance lives in the village, and was flown up to SxswEco, where we met. She had little presence in the US, with no social media/online support. In the last month I have created a GoFundMe page to help them fulfill their dream of a sustainable piggery, as well as a website and a Facebook page. I believe strongly in these women, and I’m working hard to help them in any way I can.
I’m a Youth Peace Delegate with The Amala Foundation. They work to create sustainable peace movements, inside and out, engaging youth around the world.
At the end of the day, what these women need is awareness. I started out as a girl with a camera, and the natural progression of my work and inspiration has led me to where I am today. I couldn’t be more grateful, and I’m always counting my blessings.
My blog: www.pleasantprojects.blogspot.com