Alumni Testimonials

What People Have Said About the Retreat

Young Muslim ServiceMalikah Ebrahim
Leadership Retreat 2015
I attended the YMS Retreat in May 2015. Before the retreat, I always knew I had certain goals in mind. I am a very reflective and ambitious person, and I try to keep my aspirations in sight at all times. But, at the retreat, we were stimulated to think further about our goals and actually create the blueprint to accomplish them. This really helped me because I now had a clear vision and knew what I needed to do to attain my once-far-fetched objectives.

Alhamdulillah, I have met some of my closest friends at the retreat. I have never had a group of friends as supportive and inspiring as the heartening individuals I met at the retreat. To be honest, when we go to mosque and other places, we are not as likely to intermingle with others and we tend to stick with people we know. If we do talk to new faces, we may have preconceived notions or judge based off first impressions.

At the retreat, we were forced to go outside of our comfort zone and talk to people we had never met before. And this is the beauty about the retreat. I learnt so much about people, things that I would never have known if we had met elsewhere. I am beyond blessed with the friends I have in my life right now, and what is more amazing is that we can have deep conversations about life, our goals, and religion, but we can also laugh and have fun all at the same time.
Young Muslim ServiceAzra Jessa
Leadership Retreat 2015
I attended the retreat in May 2015. Before attending the retreat, there were so many things I wanted to take part in and goals I wanted to achieve, but I wasn’t able to accomplish many of them. I always made excuses that I never accomplished them because I was too busy or that they probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway. The retreat made me realize how I was setting limits on myself and that when I removed these limits I could accomplish anything I wanted to!

Since attending I have been able to take on leadership roles at my university and in my community that I was very hesitant to taking on before. The retreat helped me achieve my objectives by helping me figure out exactly what I wanted to achieve in every aspect of my life and making a plan to achieve my goals. I always had so many plans and goals in my head, but writing them down and making a plan on how exactly I was going to achieve them gave me the motivation and encouragement to go out and achieve them!

The best part of the retreat was that we were paired up with people who shared similar visions to us and who would keep us accountable for achieving our goals. I still talk to my ‘goals partner’ almost every day and we keep each other motivated and on track!
Young Muslim ServiceAdil Champsi
Leadership Retreat 2013
I attended the retreat in 2013 as a participant and 2015 as an Angel. The retreat has allowed me to plan better using techniques learned at the retreat. I have enhanced my ability to use foresight to make better decisions in the now. 

Since attending, I have been able to plot my way to graduation of university, as well as achieve many of my ‘leadership’ goals. Although, many of my long term goals have yet to come to fruition, my extensive planning will allow me to keep faith in myself and my ability to achieve my objectives.

The retreat helped me achieve these objectives through planning and preparation, which allows me to be ready for my goals and objectives. The Angels at the time helped me deal with personal challenges and grow as a person, whilst the participants have given me insight to this day that I will never forget.

I want to continue helping the youth achieve an understanding of themselves so that we can have more Shia Muslims within higher ranks of society.
Young Muslim ServiceArif Somji
Leadership Retreat 2015
I attended the retreat in May 2015. They say you don’t know something until you’ve experienced it and this retreat has helped change my perspective on a few things in life. The workshops and activities pull you out of your comfort zone and that’s what you need to do in order for any kind of change. You realize everyone in the retreat is on the same mission to shape their own life perspective and progress further. You are pushed to do things that make you think and reflect about the important things in life; that is where the ‘change’ begins.

Since attending, I have been able to categorize and prioritize the different aspects of my life in a visual manner. You begin to realize what’s important in life such as your family and friends as well as what you would like to aim to achieve in life. Since attending, I have been able to push through my comfort zone to try different things and take steps to attain some of my short and long term goals. It’s no easy task but this retreat sticks with you long after you’ve attended.

The way the retreat was organized in terms of its serene location, fun yet challenging physical activities, workshops that made you reflect and get to know yourself better, the open mindedness and closeness of all those involved helped achieve these objectives.

I only knew a few people before the retreat but I met so many more that we all became close in the short time we spent together. It was like we all became family as everybody was open and accepting of one another, listening to different perspectives and motivating each other to do better. Not giving away too much of the fun, everyone was encouraged to say “Yes” to doing things rather than “I can’t” or “I’m not able to”; and with that in mind, I jumped into the cold lake but it was worth it. Doing something you say you can’t do and then to do it is a great feeling!

Next challenge, I’m looking to do things that further push me out of my comfort zone. Learning new skills and experiencing variety of things life has to offer. 

Everyone who is able to and wants to have a great time improving themselves and meeting people, this retreat is definitely worth it and I would go back again and again!
Young Muslim ServiceKumail Janmohamed
Leadership Retreat 2012
I attended the retreat as a participant in May of 2012. Before going to the retreat I had many ideas but didn't know how to channel my energies in the right way in light of making change happen. I realized that much of what was holding me back was fear. The focus, during some parts of the retreat, on recognizing and overcoming fear have had a lasting impact on me.

Since attending the retreat, I've been able to get involved in many different community-related activities and initiatives. One of these initiatives that is very closely related to my experiences at the retreat is in co-founding an organization called SMYLE, which tries to bridge the gap between youths and seniors in the community. I've also been able to better plan out and achieve some personal goals that I set for myself.

The retreat offered me new insight into my own capabilities through activities revolving around a form of self-reflection, and equipped me with the ability to plan SMART goals in a well-rounded manner so that I can achieve whichever goals I set for myself. I've also learned an important lesson in respect that helps me work well with a variety of different people.

I met many inspirational people at the retreat, both facilitators and fellow participants.The facilitators helped build my confidence in myself and my aspirations. My fellow participants showed me that with hard work and dedication, people can really achieve wonders.

I'm now looking to see how I can make an impact in the way of countering the Islamophobic discourse here in North America.
Young Muslim ServiceYaseer Moledina
Leadership Retreat 2009
I attended the retreat in 2009. The retreat has played a fundamental role in sparking my interest in facilitation, leadership roles, volunteerism and ensuring organized goal setting in all projects I have engaged in. After briefly discussing these factors within the retreat I was able to independently conduct research and read books recommended by the retreat to further develop my interest.

The environment within the retreat also fostered a new perspective on what dialogue within an Islamic environment can look like. Often youth discussions are conducted with gender segregation in order to preserve the Islamic environment. The retreat is able to remove partitions, engage all participants in dialogue while also maintaining physical and social hijab. The environment created within the retreat changed my perspective on how dialogues can be conducted in an Islamic an environment as well as enabled me to network with Muslim youth within the GTA. In addition, the retreat was able to alter my perspective on Muslim identity. Being a Khoja, my community is often insulated and I have had very little contact with Muslims from different ethnicities. The retreat was able to bring together Muslims across the GTA from different cultural backgrounds which even resulted in intracultural youth-led events.

Since attending the retreat I was able to implement leadership and organizational techniques within my own youth committee.  I helped create a mission statement and point of reference document for my committee utilizing techniques that had been suggested through the leadership retreat. I was also able to begin thinking outside the box about the various types of events that my community could engage in based on the model of the leadership retreat. My youth committee was inspired to develop similar workshops, discussions and networking events for the community.

Although it has been quite some time since I attended the leadership retreat I believe the retreat served as a source of inspiration as well as a networking platform. I was inspired to reflect on my own habits, assumptions and thoughts as a leader as well as my role within volunteer organizations. Though I may not have retained all the techniques and strategies taught at the retreat the workshops inspired me to conduct my own research and read books which would promote my development.

Many of the individuals I met at the retreat are still close friends or networking contacts. I was able to foster personal relationships as well as engage in professional networking for my future career. In fact one of the individuals I met at the retreat assisted me in helping focus my career options and introducing me to the  industry I now work in.

The next challenge I am looking to take on is to continue my professional growth within the field of social work. In addition, I would like to work in conjunction with marginalized members of my community to dismantle racism and stigma surrounding mental health through workshops, discussions and focus groups.
Young Muslim ServiceZuhra Mossavi
Leadership Retreat 2012
I attended the retreat in May of 2012. For me, I had never experienced a leadership retreat before, and I was expecting an experience that would be a lot more like the summer camps that I was used to attending. When I came to the camp, I realized that it was very different and it had a specific agenda – to make us leaders based on our unique individual preferences.

Recognizing preferences shifted into recognizing our passions, and then starting to recognize our aspirations. Attending the YMS leadership retreat helped me with this perspective – realizing that I really wanted something and how to identify it. Since attending the YMS leadership retreat I have been able to better recognize in my environments at school, home, and moving on throughout the world, what I really love, have interest in and care for. This recognition has enabled me to focus my energy better. However, the retreat has also opened my mind to continuously seek out knowledge and learning.

In the spring of 2012 following the leadership retreat, until 2013, I was working actively through phases and circles towards the founding of Aspire Youth; it is an organization with the mission to aspire to inspire, and was born since my experience at the YMS leadership retreat. Since then, Aspire Youth has actively been expanding with new team members, now an alumni group, successful outreach to thousands of youth arouZnd the globe, and plans for the future. Our team has great hopes in what we aspire to accomplish and do. I hope to publish an article this year in regards to concepts of spirituality, happiness, development and relations that I have been evolving with since the founding of the organization. Today Aspire Youth is a flourishing educational institution!

Moving on from this establishment is in planning of great and exciting projects! I look forward to launching one soon. In planning, soon to come is SwimGuard – aquatics leadership and advancement especially for women! The program plans for launching as of April 2016!
Young Muslim ServiceImran Dhalla
Leadership Retreat 2015
I attended the retreat in the summer of 2015. The retreat helped me focus on specific aspects of my life that I have had trouble with in the past, and helped me gain the confidence to try new things that could help me in my personal growth.

Since attending, I have built the confidence to take on bigger responsibilities in a number of institutions such as the on-campus magazine I have been writing for over the past two years. I recently took on the role of Editor in Chief and managed to successfully release three issues this year. I can partially attribute this to the retreat and some of the activities that shed more light on whether specific roles were a good fit for me and how I can use my new role to manage other people around me.

The most beneficial part about the retreat was the opportunity I got to network with all the people at the camp. Getting to know all the people, their experiences and getting to learn something new from every single person was the highlight of the retreat. I have struggled with networking in the past, be it social or professional; and getting the opportunity to meet new people is always a bonus!

Talking about next challenge, well, I prefer to take it one step at a time. First of all, complete my wheel of life (it's more challenging that you'd expect!); and always try to attempt something new and challenging which includes meeting new people!
Young Muslim ServiceMohaddisa Janmohamed
Leadership Retreat 2013
I attended the leadership retreat in 2013 and then came back as an angel the following retreat. This retreat allowed me to better focus my goals and create a plan on how to achieve them. My perspective on rigidity changed during this retreat as it taught me to keep an open mind and allow what the universe threw at me to be seen as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

Since attending the retreat I have been able to direct my focus and use my created game plan to execute some of my pressing goals. Through the leadership retreat, I understood the value of being a leader in your life and went on to be a leadership coach for youths at a nonprofit organization. Being able to encourage youths to believe in their dreams and helping them focus their ideas by making them concrete was a rewarding experience.

The retreat has given me a guideline on how to set goals and tools on how to understand the opportunities that come forth as well as the tools on how to ensure that my goals come into fruition. More than that, this retreat has given me a support system where I am held accountable for my actions and steps taken to achieve my goals.

The people I have had the privilege to get to know during this retreat have been my confidants, support and motivators. They are people I can confide in because they are brutally honest with me and constantly remind me of my goals. They support my dreams and constantly encourage me to continue even if it means i have to change my route. Lastly, they are my motivators as their successes motivate me to continue on my journey. when we share our success and  roadblocks we are able to draw from each other’s strengths which in turn leads to our success.
Young Muslim ServiceMohammad Zahid Salehmohamed
Leadership Retreat 2012
I attended the retreat as a participant in 2012. Originally, I wasn’t planning to attend. But after a nice talk with a great friend, I was convinced to attend. After that, I also attended as an Angel in 2013 and 2015.

It’s helped me to realize that I can drive long distances on highways without being scared (2012), and also to remember where I keep my car keys (2013)!  But along with that, the retreat has helped me realize that regardless of whatever goals I hope to achieve in life, there will always be challenges. Some of those challenges are easy to overcome, while others are much harder. And regardless if I am able to actually to achieve my goals, the most important thing for me to do is put forth my best effort and do whatever I am able to do in my capacity. The rest of it is in His (SWT). Tawakkul; He (SWT) knows what’s best, since He (SWT) is the best of planners.

I’ve been able to feel more confident to go out of my comfort zone. This has allowed me to do things which I likely wouldn’t have even thought of doing before. For example, I was able to go to for ziyarat last year after numerous years; it was such an indescribable and incredible feeling to go back after so long. I also traveled on my own last year to Atlanta for the Muslim Congress Conference, which was another wonderful experience. Aside from that, I’ve been able to give back to the community. I was the inaugural Public Relations Coordinator for the then-known Masumeen Youth Committee (now known as Masumeen Youth).  I’ve also joined Jaffari News and have looked after a few different sections, including Religion and Spirituality; this has allowed me to do interviews with different speakers, including Sayed Ammar Nakshawani and speak to other incredible and knowledgeable scholars for future editions, like Shaykh Shuja Ali Mirza and Shaykh Hamza Sodagar. I’ve taken part in other initiatives, like Umoja Games and helping the Al-Mahdi community out during their various events to build their new community centre. I’ve taken various roles at work and gained some incredible and invaluable experiences, such as handling different government client portfolios, participating in specialized projects, and training/coaching new hires. And these are just the things off the top of my head.

The largest way the retreat has helped me is that it has always challenged me to go out of my comfort zone. Going out of my comfort zone has made me push myself beyond my limits. It has allowed me to grow as a person and realize the potential I’ve always had. And most importantly, it has allowed me to get closer to Him (SWT) in ways I didn’t think were possible.

Generally speaking, I personally feel everyone we meet in life teaches us some sort of lesson – whether it is positive or negative. It’s important to look at the silver lining in situations and extract experiences that shape a person. For the people I’ve met at the retreat, I’ve developed some incredible friendships with some of them. I’ve seen some people who are so incredibly driven, that it really motivates me as well. I’ve found myself an incredible mentor, who is like a big brother to me.

I don’t think it’s much of a secret for anybody who knows me to know what the next challenge is *laughs*. It’s been an on-going challenge, but whatever He (SWT) has planned will happen. But aside from that, there are some different initiatives I’m looking to launch or take part in in the upcoming future. Umoja Games is one of them, which will be hosted by New York in July. I’m looking into what the next steps are for Jaffari News – we are also looking for a Graphic Designer and Advertising Manager. Everyday life has its own separate challenges and opportunities – I have to find a way to handle those challenges and determine what the best opportunities are for me to pursue. And lastly, I have that one challenge that still remains – but I have tawakkul that whatever happens will be for the best. He (SWT) is the best of planners.
Young Muslim ServiceHussain Abbas
Leadership Retreat 2015
I attended the retreat in the summer of 2015. The reason why I personally decided to attend the retreat was because of my lack of self-assurance. I had what is referred to as “Imposter Syndrome”, which is when a person finds it difficult to internalize their accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. The retreat changed my perspective on this because I was finally able to let go of the fear of being someone else. One exercise that I remember quite vividly was the one about fear and how to conquer it. Fear only exists if you let it. Instead of allowing your fears to pull you back, you use them in a way to push yourself forward. Embrace the challenges and keep advancing. That was the biggest thing I learned during the retreat and it has helped me in ways I could not have imagined.

Since the retreat, I’ve been able to do all sorts of things! Primarily, I have been able to make bolder decisions which I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t attended the retreat. Some decisions were not as bright as others; but even though I made these bad choices, I was able to move forward regardless of the outcome. I was able to achieve my objectives through all the exercises taught at the retreat such as Jonah’s Complex, SMART goals, high ropes, and the fear exercise to name a few. All of these have had a huge impact on me and I wouldn’t know where I would be if I hadn’t attended.

As short as the retreat was, the people I had the pleasure of meeting are now (hopefully) my lifelong friends. Being a part of the retreat created a bond among all of us that no one else can say they have. We all went through this life-shaping experience which only the people who attended can understand. It has truly been a pleasure!

Next challenge I am looking to take on: the challenge of life. If the retreat has taught me anything, it is that I am capable of a lot more than I think. What you got for me?
Young Muslim ServiceZainab Khadjavi
Leadership Retreat 2013
I attended the Leadership Retreat at Camp Cedar Ridge in 2013. My reason for attending this camp was very shallow at first—I just wanted to have a great time with my friends. I had no intention of goal-setting or seeking motivation for achieving the tasks I was endlessly planning to or doing any kind of mental heavy-lifting. You’re surrounded by friends, in a beautiful secluded camp, gorgeous nature and fantastic weather—the last thing you want to do is be trapped indoors and listen to a motivational speech, right?

Wrong. I don’t know how this team did it, but engaging in inspiring discussions and team-building exercises was one of the best parts of the retreat. I once watched a TED talk that said people who live longer and happier lives are most often engaged in long-term, meaningful social relationships—there’s no better way to prove that then to spend time with a group of people away from the whole commute/campus/work/home routine. I began the retreat barely knowing anyone, but I came out of it a more energized, happy and positive person based on the people I met and friendships that I made. Friends that I love to chat with till today.

I can’t say that I set any sturdy goals during the seminars that I began working on right after the retreat, but I can say that interacting with all the people that I did allowed me to come out of my introverted-ness and have a more open attitude towards meeting new people and forming new friendships. And for me, that is more precious than working towards achieving a certain challenge, because to be able to build the mindset and personality to work hard and believe in yourself, you need a strong foundation.
Young Muslim ServiceMohamedabbas Walli
Leadership Retreat 2011
I attended the retreat as a participant in 2011. The retreat helped changed my perspective due to its diversity. Although there was such a diverse group of individuals, I learned that others can still resonate with your struggles and vice versa. Although individuals may come from different cultures, environments, etc., we all faced similar struggles as we go and we go about dealing with those struggles in our own different ways.

Since attending the retreat, I have been able to grow from a personal as the retreat has enabled to me develop my own skillset. With these developed skills, I have been able to play a fundamental role in running different committees and have taken on different leadership positions. Secondly, I've also been able to greatly develop my networking skills and reach. My network is constantly expanding, and I have also been able to build ties with other youth networks.

I have been able to develop my personal skills set by looking at each of the workshops we had went through, and taking one to two points from each of them to tie them back to my overall objectives. One example would be learning how to and utilizing ice breakers to build a cohesive team. I have also been able to develop my networking skills by being able to spend time working with other individuals and learning from them.

The networks I have reached through the retreat have allowed me to build connections with different communities. From a personal standpoint as well, it has helped in breaking barriers to see how other communities operate their different events and functions, and utilizing their methods for events or functions that I am assisting in organizing.

The next challenge I'm looking to take on is to develop a network where we can assist Muslims in the GTA who are in poverty. The aim will be to look for better methods in reaching out to them and finding better ways to assist in reducing poverty for them. Currently, I am looking at what is approaches are currently taken and determining ways on improving those approaches.
Young Muslim ServiceAnisah Hooda
Leadership Retreat 2016
I attended the leadership retreat in May 2016. Before attending the retreat, I was the type of person to stay within my comfort zone and avoid taking risks or doing anything that was outside my bubble of familiarity. All of this changed during my weekend spent at the retreat, where I discovered a lot about myself as a person and what I was capable of through setting goals, overcoming obstacles, and growing alongside my peers.

Since attending the retreat, I removed the limits that I had unconsciously set for myself in order to achieve many of the goals I had set. I have gained the confidence to take on leadership roles in my school environment, as well as within the community in addition to participating in activities and experiences that I may never have thought of doing before.

I owe my growth and progress to my experiences from the retreat, where I learned how to step out of my comfort zone, face my fears head on, and not let anything prevent me from achieving my goals.

I am fortunate enough to say that I have met some of my closest friends at this retreat. Coming from a smaller community, I had never experienced the level of support, encouragement and inspiration as I did as a result of being surrounded by my fellow participants. We all share a close bond through watching each other grow, develop, and overcome individual obstacles. I can wholeheartedly say that I was able to learn something from each and every person that weekend.

In regards to the next challenge, I am looking to continue trying new things, improving myself, and exploring all that life has to offer. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it!
Young Muslim ServiceHussain Akbar
Leadership Retreat 2015
I attended camp for the first time in 2015, with a great group of people. I can honestly say it was a very memorable and valuable experience to me. The retreat helped me to captivate the more important factors of my life, and it made me realize that without constantly attacking the necessary areas of my life, such as family, or fitness, religion or personal improvement, I will not be able to attain the mental, physical and spiritual wealth and sense of life, as I would like.

The retreat had a constant theme of action, taking action and being the pilot of your own life so to speak. Since attending the retreat I have a found a field I really enjoy studying – Immigration and Refugee studies at Seneca College. The retreat helped me take up small volunteering opportunities, such as the local food bank in Richmond Hill where we deliver both food and furniture several times a month. I also volunteer with the Umoja Academy, and I am a part of the Junior Committee liaison team for Umoja Games as well.

The various themes that we flowed through during camp made me think about a lot of facets of my life, about myself, my family, friends and future. The retreat helped me not only to achieve certain goals but set higher ones for myself that I didn’t think were possible for me; slowly I realized making your own puzzle is all part of growing as an individual.

The changes that we were all collectively going through were not necessarily pressured on to us, rather persistently presented with a lot of logic to the method. After the retreat there are certain obligations and promises you must keep, since attending the retreat I have kept the promises I have made with my mentor and my buddy. We made contracts with one another that are attainable and realistic.

As life never stops, and the challenges keep on coming, I look forward to what lays ahead on my path, whatever that may be.
Young Muslim ServiceKarar Jafar
Leadership Retreat 2011
I attended the retreat in 2011. The retreat changed my perspective on life in many ways in terms of how I should lead in the community and facilitate workshops that would encourage future leaders to emerge. I learned that there are no limits as to how far a person can go; the only limit is the one that is set by one’s own mind out of fear of failure.

Since attending the retreat, I was able to become an Angel and help in bringing more youth from the community to attend future retreats, where they could also acquire the skills and tools to make changes in their lives and contribute to their communities.

Understanding the concept of your morale was something extremely crucial as to the ups and downs a person must go to in order to achieve what they want in life.

I met many great people at the retreat in which I am a still in touch with, and some are actually my colleagues at work. It is beautiful to build bonds that would last a lifetime and see people grow in their own way over the years.

The next challenge I am hoping to tackle is how to revive youth’s spirituality and get them to attend programs on weekly basis. I am also looking for ways where I can empower the younger generation to have the desire to lead and be committed to mentoring and teaching other younger brothers and sisters.
Young Muslim ServiceMaisam Wazir
Leadership Retreat 2016
I attended the retreat in May of 2016. The retreat completely changed my outlook on life. Before I attended the YMS retreat, I was living life where I would take things as they came. Not only was this restricting me from doing the things I really wanted to do, but it didn’t give me the sense of fulfillment and purpose that I was always looking for. The purpose of the retreat was not for me to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do in life, as that is tough to do in one weekend; but the purpose was to equip me with the tools and skills necessary to be able to do that when the time was ready.

After leaving the retreat I set many goals for myself, both short-term and long-term. Equipped with the tools necessary, I was able to accomplish many goals of mine that were in the pipeline for many years. The retreat taught me how to face and overcome many of my own challenges, especially as a youth when much of what is ahead of me is unknown.

At the retreat, I created a wheel called the “Wheel of Life” that had my most important short-term and long-term goals related to various aspects of my life. This wheel was one of the main reasons I was able to accomplish so much after the retreat. Every day, the wheel would serve as a reminder of all the goals that I had set for myself. It was through creating this wheel that I truly understood the importance of being able to set SMART goals.

One of the main reasons I went to this retreat was to meet new people to build new and lasting relationships. I can definitely say that this goal of mine was an outstanding success. I got the chance to meet so many new people and spend an entire long weekend with them participating in so many activities. Not only did I get a chance to develop relationships with my fellow participants but I also got the opportunity to meet some amazing mentors. These are all people I have kept in touch with since the day I left the retreat and some of them have become my closest friends.

As a young individual almost out of university, my next big challenge is to start a business. This is bigger than any challenge I have ever taken on and I can say with certainty that had I not attended the YMS leadership retreat, I would not be as confident as I am now in my ability to succeed in overcoming this next challenge of mine. Not only am I utilizing the skills that I developed over the course of the retreat to help me overcome this challenge, but I am also using the network of amazing friends and mentors that I met at the retreat to help me accomplish this goal.
Young Muslim ServiceMohammed Raza Mawji
Leadership Retreat 2013
I had attended the retreat in 2013. The retreat has given me a new outlook on life and really helped me prepare for university. It has taught me essential skills like goal-setting and moving outside of my comfort zone, which I have been using for the past four years.

Since attending the retreat, I have been able to overcome my fear of heights and take on new challenges with a different mentality. These include sustainable initiatives within my university such as compost bins in all student apartments, water bottle recycle campaigns, and public speaking to an entire student body.

The retreat showed me what a mental block is and how it prevented me from trying new experiences. I saw this over several events that took place at the retreat such as treetop trekking, lake jumping, and some more mental/emotional exercises done in a group setting. It was fantastic because there were several of us getting over the fear together and it showed me that I can do anything if I just put my mind to it and take it one step at a time.

At the retreat, there were many people of which some I was able to create a memorable bond with. There were others I was able to reconnect with and discover new aspects about them, creating a deeper and much more memorable friendship.

I am now looking to further develop myself in my career and within my community. I want to be able to engage with a larger majority of the mosque I attend and am aiming to bring more of a unity within the Muslim youth of today.
Young Muslim ServiceSarah Jeraj
Leadership Retreat 2016
I attended the retreat in May 2016. In all honesty, it was a life-changing experience and I would 10/10 would recommend it. My perspective in life has drastically changed. I was always aware of all the opportunities out there, but I was just sitting around and waiting for opportunities to come up. Thanks to the retreat, I learned that I ought to get out there and create opportunities for myself, as opposed to waiting for them to come to me.

“If the plan isn’t working, change the plan, not the goal.” Goal-setting is extremely important and I’ve been told to do it throughout my life. But just like somebody who may say that they will fix that creaky door or leaky faucet, one may never get around to doing it. The goals are always in the back of somebody’s mind. Since attending the retreat, as soon as I realize now that I want something or I want to change something that I’m doing in my life, I write it down and put it on my wheel of life. Even though I may not be working towards that goal in the near future, looking at my wheel every time I walk into my room is like the bathroom flooding every single time because of the leaky faucet – eventually, you call the plumber.

Pre-planning has enabled me to achieve quite a few personal, social, academic and other goals. My GPA is living a new and luxurious life; I feel like I’m maintaining the close relationships in my life a lot better now; and my time management skills have improved.

I had only lived in Toronto for 9 months prior to attending the retreat, and I was really nervous going to an event knowing only a handful of people. After a couples of hours of being at the retreat, I made friends that I’m sure are going to last me a lifetime. Sometimes it’s hard to share intimate things with people already in your life; but when you connect with strangers on another level, it’s the start of something beautiful. One of my closest friends today attended the retreat as well. Since then, we keep each other updated on the goals we have achieved or are working to achieve.

The next challenge I’m looking to take on is being a mentor for the retreat. Additionally, I’m still trying to provide a better life for my GPA, improve my time management skills as I’m always a couple lectures behind in classes (this is a major improvement as I used to leave them all for right before an exam, until I realized the importance of planning and goal-setting), and a number of other personal, attainable goals.
Young Muslim ServiceShawn Rizvi
Leadership Retreat 2011
I attended the retreat in 2011. The retreat has taught me that leadership is essential to unlocking your fullest potential. In the year I attended, the retreat was focused on developing a strong leader and team player who would commit to making change in the world. I learned that there are different types of leadership styles. Being the most vocal does not necessarily make you a good leader, but serving a cause and owning that cause from the position that you are in – that is true leadership. Whether you are at the front of the line or the back of the line, every individual has an essential role to play in making this world a better place.

Since attending, I was able to gain a scholarship to go perform ziyarah in Iran; this opened up my spiritual state and gave me new perspective. Upon returning from the retreat, I would complete a successful year of founding a large student organization called MESA at the university I attended; it is now in its sixth year, with chapters in multiple universities and over a thousand students within its membership lists. I would eventually go on to graduate university with a strong sense of purpose and confidence, and use the lessons I learned from the camp to become a better professional and stay motivated in my cause to be in a position to do more for the world. I would also run in the 2015 Federal elections for Etobicoke Centre and currently serve on multiple boards non for profit boards. I was also recently nominated for the RBC Rising Star award in recognition of community activity and leading professionals under the age of 30.

To this day, I still reference the book we covered within the retreat "The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team" in workplace conversations. I also attribute the accomplishments mentioned above in big part to the lessons I learned at the retreat and continue to hold dear. I had the pleasure of returning as an angel in 2016 where I was able to share some of my learnings but also would only learn more.

The retreat coordinator would help me immensely by organizing a scholarship for me to go for ziyarah and a study sabbatical in Iran. Without his help, I would not have been able to go on this life changing opportunity.

I would like to run for provincial office in the future and open schools around the world for orphans. I am currently working towards this goal.
Young Muslim ServiceSiddika Pardhan
Leadership Retreat 2016
I attended the YMS retreat in 2016 and loved every minute of it. Before attending the retreat, I had some ideas of long-term goals that I wanted to achieve but didn't have a clear idea on steps to take towards achieve them. The retreat helped me reflect and focus on realistic milestones with accountability to make my visions a reality.

A constant theme over the weekend was stepping out of my comfort zone, which included driving a long distance and doing a high ropes course! The retreat helped me come out of my shell in a supportive environment and helped me gain the confidence I needed. It was exciting to go on new adventures and learn from different perspectives.

I have been able to apply some skills I learned to accomplish one of my career goals I had made before attending the retreat. Not only did I learn new skills, but I was able to implement skills that I already had but didn’t know how to apply. My favourite part of the weekend (aside from my all-time favourite outdoor activity of kayaking) was visualizing all the ideas that were jumbled in my head down on paper in an organized, logical manner which made my goals seem more attainable. I also had some time to reflect on incorporating some balance within various aspects of my life as opposed to focusing all my time and energy into only one area. It gave me a chance to recognize what is really important to me.

Coming from a small community, my social network was quite limited. Attending the retreat allowed me to expand my network and learn from the people I met. It turns out a lot of people were facing the same challenges I was so it was nice to engage and learn from like-minded individuals.

The next challenge I am looking to take on is getting more involved with my community and making a difference where it is needed.
Young Muslim ServiceZahra Jessa
Leadership Retreat 2016
I attended the YMS Leadership Retreat in 2016. Attending the retreat was the best decision I had taken in a while and it was definitely an experience of a lifetime. It allowed me to grow both personally and socially. Through the many group and self-building tasks that were conducted, not only was I able to form a greater sense of self, but it gave me the determination to become a better person as well. Although my initial purpose of attending this retreat was to simply unwind after a hectic semester at school and to make new friends, what I left with surprised me. I took so much more from this experience including gaining a new perspective on life, the ability to challenge myself, and set SMART goals, which have proved to go a long way toward facilitating my future endeavours.

Since attending the retreat, I have been able to make better decisions as I’ve had the time to truly reflect on myself, my needs, my wants, and my goals. The activities at the retreat have enabled me to follow my goals and gain a better idea on how to organize myself step-by-step.

The retreat has taught me a great deal on balancing my priorities on a day-to-day basis. I have found myself improved in all facets of life including family, religion, school, and physical health. By setting goals for each aspect of my life, I was able to allocate a good amount of time for each.

This retreat has really allowed me to grow socially as a person as I got to bond, communicate, and share a connection with many of the other participants. Through the many jokes, long nights sitting by the lake, making our wheels together, and participating in activities requiring us to share and listen to others deep personal thoughts and feelings, we managed to delve into relationships that were totally foreign to us. Through these newfound friendships, we are able to motivate, encourage, and appraise one another on our goals every time that we meet. Most of all, I got to form a deep and strong relationship with someone that I now call my best friend. We have formed an understanding and encouraging relationship that was built on the basis of the retreat’s ideals, leading to a genuine bond that is nothing short of beautiful.

The next challenge I’m looking to take on is to be an Angel for the 2017 YMS Retreat. I strive to be a role model and a leader to those participants attending the camp this year, and to be as motivating as the mentors we had last year. I want to be able to set an example and follow through in as productive and inspiring a manner as possible.

 
Young Muslim ServiceZahraa Saab
Leadership Retreat 2015
I had the pleasure of attending the retreat back in the spring of 2015. It came at a perfect time in my life, where I was overwhelmed with energy, ideas, and optimism but was faced with the challenge of how and where to channel these feelings of productivity. The retreat reminded me to fall back into the habit of brainstorming, goal planning, and self-motivating; I focused on working in the present moment towards fruitful results in the future.

Two years later, I find that my energy has subdued, not because it’s been dimmed, but because it’s been used in a number of different avenues. I’ve taken on a number of leadership roles in the academic and professional world, pursued opportunities I may not have imagined likely, and I’ve cofounded The Blank Page (www.blnkpage.org), an educational online platform for young-adults – a group whose voices often go unheard.

Indirectly, the retreat played a role in making each and every one of these things happen. It motivated me to continue honing my leadership skills, equipped me with the goal-planning skills necessary to tackle any project at hand, and it allowed me to connect with a number of community leaders, creators, and passionate youth.

These individuals and their own leadership pursuits were a testament to the power of young people – something I was in awe of – and the inspiration behind The Blank Page. Interacting with other like-minded individuals who shared the vision of self and community-development, I was reminded that my passion, my optimism, and my overall energy were justified, because others shared these feelings and sought ways to cultivate them as well.

As I tread into the future, I constantly reflect on the person I was two years ago, before and after the retreat. That person still has the same drive as she did two years ago, but now, it is much more defined and directed. For this reason, when life throws challenges my way, I am capable of approaching them with a lot less fear, and a lot more confidence.
Young Muslim ServiceZaigham Salehi
Leadership Retreat 2016
I attended the retreat in 2016. Before the retreat, I had always thought that being a true leader meant that I would have to use my strengths to my advantage but never worry about my weaknesses. As such, I always had a fear of failing and not being able to give my one hundred percent because I was in fear that giving my best would lead to failure and that would not suit my gut well. However after attending the retreat, I realized that I am in a boat of leaders that thrive through failure and that working on my weaknesses and failing is exactly what pushes me to grow stronger and have a larger impact on my life. My life perspective went from being afraid to try new activities (such as joining many clubs in school) to becoming a very active person and trying to be a part of many different organizations to grow, learn, and develop the skills I do not already possess.

Since attending the retreat, I have been able to continue many of the projects I have started with close friends. I have also been able to join more groups in school, which have allowed me to improve my public speaking, analytical, and organizational skills that I had lacked greatly before the retreat. One particular item that I believe was inspired by the retreat that I have been able to do is to be more outgoing and lose the fear of heights. Over the summer, I had many opportunities to engage with more youth and just experience a lifestyle that has me less stressed and more in tune with myself; this has allowed me to bond with friends that I continue to work with and grow in all my projects that I am currently working on.

The retreat has given me the opportunity to seek myself, and understand who I want to be. I got the chance to actually communicate and speak about what I want to change to become the person I desire to be in this world. This opportunity has vastly impacted my objectives and goals to the extent that I look back and always point to the retreat as a turning point in my understanding of my future and that I am reluctant to continue to develop myself as I found some pieces of myself back at the retreat. I learned a lot about my leadership style and how I could control a group dynamic to create a productive team and also understand how others react in different situations, thus allowing me to be a motivational inspiration for myself and my friends who I currently work with on various projects.

Over the retreat, I got to meet with individuals that I knew but never connected with, as well as new faces. From a brotherhood perspective, all the brothers that I have met at the retreat still remember the good times we had together and I feel joy to see that I am remembered by the brothers. The people I met on this retreat have helped me understand that we are all growing together. I would especially like to point out meeting the mentors from the retreat for guiding me through countless pieces of advices from career growth to understanding life at a global scale. The people I met at the retreat became my friends for life and they have helped me enjoy good times and create memorable times that we shared as a group.

The next challenge that I plan on taking is to become a part-time web developer. I have always loved to be able to create things and I have a passion in understanding how technology works. I felt the need to create a new hobby of mine into a learning opportunity and potentially a career path extension. Currently, I have learned a lot of HTML, CSS and jQuery and I am continuing my education with JavaScript and creating new tools to practice the knowledge I am learning. My goal by the end of the year is to be proficient in front-end development and design and to grow my client base through freelance work until I feel ready to apply for positions in this field.
Young Muslim ServiceKhatija Ladha
Leadership Retreat 2015
I attended the retreat as a participant in 2015. This retreat clearly had an impact on me, because I went back again as a mentor in 2016.

This retreat has changed my perspective of life in important ways. Before the retreat, I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life. I hadn’t realized that I needed to understand myself as a person in order to set goals. At this retreat we were able to not only meet and get to know other people, but get to know ourselves in more depth as well.

Setting goals had always been a convoluted task for me because I never knew where to start. The retreat helped me organize my ideas and my goals in a way to make them realistic and attainable.

The activities we did during that weekend allowed me to be able to accept challenges that I would not have been able to do previously, which led me to acquire and discover a plethora of skills. For example, I took on a leadership role at my university, which would have been an abstract idea for me since it was beyond my comfort zone. Making that step made it easier for me to take on other challenges. The next challenge I would be looking to take on is in terms of my career, looking to either volunteer or find a job in my field for the summer inshaAllah; by setting SMART goals, it makes it that much easier to proceed.

In tandem with learning and being enlightened, I met incredible people. A weekend away from society and social media allowed us to make connections and friendships that would last a long time. The people I met have impacted my life; they opened my eyes to different perspectives and have shown me utter kindness. Just being surrounded by people that want to make a change in their lives is the most motivating aspect of the retreat. We all were there to help each other and it was a place where we could be 100% authentic, judgement-free.
Young Muslim ServiceZohra Bhimani
Leadership Retreat 2015
Participating in the leadership retreat in 2015 was one of the most challenging things I have ever pushed myself to do. I grew up in a small community; being surrounded by so many people I did not know and in a new environment, I felt quite intimidated. However, enclosing myself within such a stimulating and positive setting encouraged me to push my own personal growth, and completely changed my perception of what I was capable of achieving.

Growing up, I felt and noticed that it was often the outgoing, expressive, and confident people that were always encouraged to do more, and be more. I felt and noticed that quiet and analytical people, like myself, were never given the same attention, and I always felt there was something about my basic personality traits that I needed to change. Attending the retreat taught me that I did not need to change who I was; rather, I needed to harness my skills and grow with them in order to be the best person I could be. I learned that there is not just one type of person that can push themselves out of their comfort zone; everyone is capable of it, as long as one learns to stimulate development within oneself. That did not mean changing the fundamental basis of who I was – it meant changing the way I saw myself and my potential.

Since the retreat, expressing my ideas and thoughts confidently has become easier. I no longer assume how I might be perceived by others. A huge part of this step forward was the friendships I made at the retreat. Encouragement from a group of people that truly believes in you can truly make all the difference.

Looking at where I am now compared to where I was in 2015, there is no doubt in my mind that the leadership retreat is life changing, to say the least. Motivating myself to break barriers and learning to block the intrinsic desire to limit myself was not easy, but I would not be where I am today without having attended the retreat. I am beyond grateful for the experience, and I know it is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

The next challenge I’m looking to take on is exploring my academic passions, and looking for opportunities to expand my knowledge in the areas that may be of interest to me career wise- global health systems and health promotion. Keeping in mind the motto of “never saying no” to a new opportunity, and remembering that feeling uncomfortable in a situation means you are growing, I hope to continue to delve further into the world of health.