“It is NEVER too late to get involved in the community and we always welcome fresh new faces who are as passionate as us in making a positive difference by engaging and bringing the youth together”
Hi Sanaya! Welcome to our coffee chat and it’s a pleasure to have you as our second guest!
1. Can you please tell us about yourself?
Hi, I’m Sanaya Khambatta and I am 25 from the UK. I come from a business and technical background, having studied Information Technology Management for Business at university, and currently am working as a Senior Technical Consultant at IBM. I am extremely passionate about encouraging others to pursue a career in the technology sector and run yearly internships for university students and industry talks to share knowledge, skills, and expertise within the field. Being a proud Zoroastrian in the UK community, I have always enjoyed socialising with other Young Zoroastrians (YZs) which encouraged me to become more active and involved in the community. As a direct result of this, I am currently the Vice President of the Young Zoroastrians of the UK and Co-Chair for the 8th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress (8WZYC) in London 2023, which is a huge privilege.
2. How did you get involved with the English Zoroastrian community and what drives you?
Growing up, my family always ensured that I had a strong sense of community. As a result, I always had Zoroastrian friends and engaged with them socially on a regular basis, whether that be through attending Sunday religious classes at our Zoroastrian Centre, where I had the opportunity to learn about the religion or having people over at our house. My parents ensured they always attended celebrations or events at the Zoroastrian centre whether that be Navroze, or community led initiatives etc., and encouraged me to surround myself with other Zoroastrians as well as the traditions and values of our community. These friendships continued over the years and became more and more important as I grew up. I loved that sense of belonging and being involved with others my age who weren’t just from school or extra-curricular activities. This helped shape my identity and instilled in me the values of Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds.
My main driving factor for getting involved and even now is to create an environment whereby the future Zoroastrian youth have that same feeling of a sense of community I did and to allow them the opportunity to grow and connect with each other. It is equally as important to get involved in community-based events as educating themselves on our religion, understanding their background/roots, and our traditions. I want individuals to follow the religion not because they must but because they want to be part of this community and environment.
3. How does the UK Zoro Youth stay in touch? Social events, volunteering, meet-ups, etc.?
Pre-covid the UK YZ committee would organise and participate in several events on a yearly basis, in addition to other ad hoc activities to bring together our youth community including having our own volleyball team, Christmas ice skating, meals out, karate classes, sports days, gymkhanas, and other social activities. Every year 30+ YZs are welcomed with open arms on our annual weekend away at the ASHA Centre, within the heart of the Forest of Dean. This trip is a chance for Young Zoroastrians to engage in a weekend of various games and activities, spiritual bonding, teambuilding, religious discussions, and relaxation combined with engaging creative exercises. Year upon year this truly is one of the highlights of our social calendar as it allows us to meet and spend quality time with individuals, who we may not have met otherwise, explore our religion in a new way, relax, and enjoy each other’s company.
We largely communicate via social media pages (Instagram and Facebook) to engage with and reach our youth on a national level as well as spread awareness of community-based events and initiatives. Post- COVID we are looking to restart our social activities in a safe environment, to get the youth more involved, to expand our YZ committee, to return to the Asha centre, and to focus on the organisation of the 8WZYC.
4. Being the co-chair of the upcoming 8th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress to be held in London in 2023, how excited are you to be spearheading this major global Zoroastrian event?
I am extremely delighted to be co-chairing the 8WZYC and we have a strong and enthusiastic team of volunteers to help bring our vision to life! These events are so important in bridging the gap between our global youth and to create a collaborative community. I hope that this congress will contribute towards a legacy for the community and provide a more sustainable future for generations to come. Furthermore, it provides the ideal opportunity to encourage the future generations of the Zoroastrian youth to work together to celebrate, educate, teach, and bond over the religion. I know we have big shoes to fill from previous years, but we are certainly up for the challenge, and I am excited to welcome our global YZ community to London with open arms!
5. Can you tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced or are facing with the preparations for the Youth Congress?
For us one of the biggest challenges so far has been the uncertainty that comes with the pandemic and for the future state of the world. At present, rules and regulations are changing on a weekly basis here in the UK and there is no real assurance of when life will get back to what we consider to be ‘normal’, we have just adjusted to a new norm with limited capacity events, closure of venues and travel restrictions. We want to ensure we can accommodate participation from our global youth; however, we have to factor in how we make an event of this size safe to do so in the new world and put into place contingencies if limited capacity and travel restrictions still exist
6. I remember meeting you at the Los Angeles Youth Congress in 2019, and you shared some of your amazing ideas with me, will you be incorporating some of them in the London edition? What did you personally like about that congress?
As with any event everyone has ideas and visions and it can be a struggle to incorporate them all, however, we have been taking on board comments from the global youth, especially those who attended the last congress and other previous congresses, to learn from the past and create an even more enjoyable experience for the attendees. I still have notes on my phone from the last congress of things I wanted to remember to incorporate for the 8WZYC! At the end of the day this is a congress for the youth by the youth so we want to take their feedback and ideas on board where we can so watch this space for some exciting things to come!!
With the 7WZYC in LA I loved the fact that everyone stayed in one location. I feel this was vital in getting to know and meet others as when panel talks or events were not going on, we had the opportunity to relax in a social environment with other participants. We were able to connect with others whom we may not have been able to otherwise, as they were from different geographical locations, and often we would have ‘after-parties’ where we would all get together after an event to unwind and spend more time with individuals who we had maybe even met during the day. I strongly feel this would not have been possible if at the end of the day everyone were to go back to their respective accommodations and that would have created a different vibe and environment for the congress as you would not have built those close bonds and friendships with other attendees by the end of the week.
7. What kind of volunteers is the UK Zoro Youth committee looking for? Also, with London being such an international hub especially for newcomers and international students how do you as an organization unearth these enthusiastic members and what opportunities are out there for them to serve the community?
We were looking for dedicated and motivated individuals who would love to play an active role in helping to grow and bond with our youth community in London. Our YZ committee wishes to encourage the Zoroastrian Youth to network, organise and participate in a variety of events and activities, catering for mixed interests and collaborate with other like-minded individuals on a national level, ensure the YZ community is an inclusive space, and to encourage unity among the YZ community.
With regards to the 8WZYC, we have several individuals on our committee who have had little involvement with the Zoroastrian youth community here in the UK and those who have never attended a congress before! London as you say is such an international hub and we have members of our team who did not grow up here however want to be actively involved in the community and get to socialise with other Zoroastrians. For the congress, we started our search by targeting our social media channels, mailing lists from the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE), attendees of previous YZ events, and word-of- mouth. We were also very fortunate to be given the incredible opportunity by multiple global Zoroastrian publications to produce an article series that is released every few months focusing on the people behind the 8WZYC congress and our progress, while in turn reaching a global audience to attract more volunteers (check out www.8wzyc.com to read these). A lot of our volunteers are extremely excited at the thought of participating and helping to put their stamp on the congress as well as experience the more social side of being a Zoroastrian and to connect with like-minded individuals who want to serve the community. They wish to create those lasting friendships and bonds on the future of our religion, and we hope that this experience will be extremely fulfilling for them and of course for them to have fun in the process too!
8. Lastly, what message do you have for all our community members reading this on how and why they should get involved?
It is NEVER too late to get involved in the community and we always welcome fresh new faces who are as passionate as us in making a positive difference by engaging and bringing the youth together. In a world of rapidly developing technology, it has become easier than ever to engage with the global community and there are so many initiatives and events that you can get involved in especially virtually. COVID has just proved that to us, that as community led activities and engagements were more prevalent than ever using webinars and virtual discussion forums. Even if it is just through attending an event, you are still making an effort with the community, and you could meet some wonderful people along the way! We are also always looking for individuals who want to help contribute to a successful 8WZYC so if this sounds like you, please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out directly!
Thank you so much Sanaya, for your work and service.
We are rooting for you and the entire 8th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress organizing team!