by Pamela Brown
Inside Chappaqua – May 2009
Suna Senman is an idealist, philosopher, and inspirational mentor, helping people, especially teens, discover the essence of their being, nurture their harmonious relationships with others, and create ban exemplary world. “As a teen, I was concerned about problems around the world and the suffering people were experiencing from war, famine, and disease. I hoped to change the dynamics of disrespect that lead to violence and neglect. Decades later, I have my own teens and observe a world far different than what I hoped for at their age,” said Suna. Her 15-year-old twins attend Horace Greeley High School.
After working as a clinical social worker with challenging mental health patients in some of New York’s troubled areas, Suna focused her skills on healthy human devel- opment. In 1996, she created a developmental program at local schools, including Play Care at the First Congregational Church in Chappaqua, and in 2004, she found- ed the World Foundation for Original Human Development (WFOHD), a not-for-profit educa- tional program. Through WFOHD, Suna offers youths and adults the opportunity to visualize and create a healthy future world.
“We felt respect was a core element, and looking at the world, there was a lot of gender-based disrespect causing great suffering in the world across cultures and throughout his- tory,” said Suna. She pres-
ents Gender Respect Seminars four times a year, offering new perspec- tives to stimulate discussions and self-discovery. “We focus on a key common element—being a unique individual who wants to express the self to the fullest and harmonize with others.” The women’s seminars comprise three series: breaking the feminine down to basic core units; layers of a person’s being and differ- ent roles played; and how women experience themselves in relation- ship to men. “The seminars are like taking a miniature piece of life and finding something meaningful to you, where you are at this moment, that you can apply to the rest of your life,” Suna explained. There are Gender Respect Seminars for men and women together, too.
To encourage healthy living, on the first Wednesday of every month, September through June, from 9:30a.m.-11:30a.m., Suna hosts free monthly teas at her home. Open to men and women, it’s devoted to connecting with one’s individual thoughts and feelings and to be part of the community. “It’s an open forum, like a lab in living in the feminine/yin space. I present a topic simply to have a beginning point,” said Suna. “They’re a practice in being and consciously living in the moment. A few days ago, I noticed myself in a very unbalanced state, of chasing my infinite To-Do list. I noticed my virtues diminishing. Compassion got lost in giving direc- tions and orders,” she said. “Joyfulness, appreciation, and love got lost in the guilt of not having gotten more done. These teas remind me to smell the roses and ‘be,’ live a life worth living. I find the teas to be magical in how they bring people together.”
Suna’s new book, “Being: A Process” offers a scientific and spiritual approach to living a balanced life. “The most important thing for a woman is to know herself and be herself. I also feel a woman’s identi- ty can be smothered behind some- one else’s need and can get so extreme she doesn’t even know that she doesn’t know herself,” said Suna. “Each person’s experience is real. It’s the interpretations that dif- fer. I elaborate on this in my book. This perspective is the basis of my attitude toward being a mother and drove me to develop the programs under WFOHD, especially The Youth Project (TYP) which Teens for the Future (TFTF) is a pilot project of.”
In 2007, Suna founded Teens for the Future, a youth-based organization encouraging young people to envi- sion their future and make the world a better place. “Teens con- sciously build their future centered on respecting self and others. The teens created a mission to discover needs that most people are unaware of and become part of the solution.
They begin their process by researching the causes and chal- lenges of an issue, and then create a short term project bringing some solution to the problem,” said Suna. TFTF has collected school supplies for one thousand children in Darfur, held an essay contest allowing teens to voice their concerns for their communities, and sponsored a young nurse on a medical mission to serve 6,000 orphans in Uganda. Last year, TFTF held a tri-state Awareness Day at the Chappaqua Library and spearheaded a collabo- ration of schools to provide support to Ugandan orphans.
TFTF put Hithia Shibuya’s life in per- spective. “It allows teens in America to have a broader mindset to what is going on in the world and allows them an opportunity to make a dif- ference for other teens around the world who don’t have the resources we have here,” said Hithia, 22, of Tarrytown. “Through my involve- ment with youth programs and serv- ice projects in different countries, I’ve seen the contrasting differences of my world to other people and I see how much I’ve been given in my life. TFTF allows teenagers to see what’s happening around the world and brings them to a point where they want to help others.”
Hithia views Suna as a mentor to the hope for a better future. “Nothing is impossible. Suna has a very optimistic viewpoint toward making a change in the world and lives her life according to the princi- ples of WFOHD. Her outlook on life is one of tranquility and peaceful- ness,” said Hithia. “I believe people are limited by the pessimism they see in the world and therefore are limited in trying to do something to make a difference. Suna goes above that pessimism and keeps going.”
Suna’s background has influenced her life’s work. Born to a Swedish mother and Turkish father, Suna was raised throughout the United States and was a competitive gym- nast as a teen. “It taught me to overcome many fears and go beyond my concept of self. I also traveled around Europe in my late teens getting exposure to many cul- tures,” she said. Suna earned a B.A. in French with minors in German and political science from West Virginia University and holds degrees in biology, math, and Swedish from the Gymnasiet in Sweden. In addition, she earned a Master’s Degree in religious educa- tion and social work.
Overall, Suna’s goal is to provide the next generation with better oppor- tunities to create a world that pleas- es them. “Young people want to make a difference in the world. I believe in giving each person the space to be the unique individual he or she wants to be and that person will contribute to creating a harmo- nious society and beauty in the world.”
For more information on Suna’s proj- ects, visit www.WFOHD.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or to get on the notification list for the monthly teas, email Genderrespect@aol.com. For snail mail: WFOHD, P.O. Box 7, Chappaqua, NY 10514; Phone: (914)414-6186. “Being: A Process” is available now at AuthorHouse.com and local bookstores.