Interview

Connecting Each District Member to Our Mentor's Heart

District Profile: West Sahara District


SGI-USA’s West Sahara District is just a short distance from the world famous Las Vegas Strip. The only difference is that in West Sahara District, everyone is a big-time winner. In early 2014, the district leaders realized that no youth division members were attending meetings. Starting with chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the district leaders determined to develop a district with an abundance of young people.

As a result of the efforts of these dedicated district men’s and women’s leaders, over the past two years, 12 youth division members joined the SGI-USA in West Sahara District. They became a Champion District in 2014 and 2015, and are taking concrete steps for the further development of each member’s faith and the district’s growth.

West Sahara District members gather for a discussion meeting, June 2016. Photo: Chelsey Anson.
West Sahara District members gather for a discussion meeting, June 2016. Photo: Chelsey Anson.

Q: IN YOUR WORDS, WHAT IS THE
SIGNIFICANCE OF YOUR DISTRICT?

 

Nanae Perez
District Women’s Leader

ChampWSahara098A: In our chaotic society, it is the profound bonds of friendship that I’ve developed in my district. When I received the Gohonzon and joined the SGI-USA in 2002, I had no interest in practicing Buddhism. But I was deeply impressed by the pioneer members who supported me with encouragement, food and several times they even gave me furniture that I needed. I felt supported by them in all aspects of my life. I wanted to be like them; to be a person who had an unlimited capacity to care for others.

Through my interactions with the members, I was exposed to SGI President Ikeda’s guidance, which inspired me. I began taking on leadership and eventually became the Las Vegas Region Young Women’s Leader. I graduated into the women’s division in 2014 and immediately was appointed district women’s leader of West Sahara District. As the district women’s leader, I strive to embody Sensei’s heart and the care of the pioneer members who supported me. Every day I try to visit at least one member, even if it means to just leave a note of encouragement at their doorstep when they are not home.

My greatest joy in life is hearing members’ victories. Every day my co-district leaders and I report the amount we chanted in the morning, encouragement, our struggles and victories on a group text message to stay in close communication. We also take a photo after each discussion meeting and send it to Sensei so he can see the growth of our district each month. In fact, he has responded to our reports, saying, “Thank you so much for the photos.” My determination is to connect each member to Sensei’s heart.

West Sahara District leaders strive to unite with SGI President Ikeda's heart and vision. Photo: Chelsey Anson.
West Sahara District leaders strive to unite with SGI President Ikeda’s heart and vision. Photo: Chelsey Anson.

Jon Symons
West Chapter Young Men’s Leader

ChampWSahara084A: The district always gives me the opportunity to support members, especially the young men. Having this place where I can reach out to and encourage others to transform their lives is the greatest benefit of my Buddhist practice.

I received the Gohonzon in February 2015 and was able to solve the biggest riddle of my life which was: Why is it that no matter how hard I work, I can’t get anywhere in life? Buddhism helped me realize that I had been trying to change everything outside of myself, but I needed to look within and transform myself first.

In May 2015, I was appointed the young men’s district leader for West Sahara District. We were able to increase our active young men from 1 to 4. Every day I chant tons of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and envision each of the young men being victorious. I am also doing my best to visit them at home and chant with them. Every time I feel deadlocked, I remember Bodhisattva Never Disparaging who said: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308).

Rose Rudiak
District Young Women’s Leader

ChampWSahara088A: The district is like my family. When I joined the SGI-USA in April 2015, I was in the middle of major life changes and struggles. My district became the place where I could open up and receive encouragement about improving my life. I remember thinking, It’s so rare to be able to meet with such a positive and supportive group of people on such a regular basis.

Around six months after receiving the Gohonzon I became the district young women’s leader. At first, I felt so new and inexperienced, but by challenging myself to attend as many district discussion, study and planning meetings as possible, I learned so much and am getting more confidence when explaining Buddhism to others. My district women’s leader also visits me to chant together and supports me in so many ways. Her care and support makes me want to extend that support to others.

Usually before a meeting, I’ll start struggling and sometimes even consider not going. When I push myself to go, I always leave the meeting with a refreshed perspective on my life. I have recently been very inspired by the following guidance from SGI President Ikeda, “When your mind seems ready to drift off to sleep, or when you are overcome by a feeling of lethargy—tell yourself: Break through!” (May 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 54) I’m ready to break through in all aspects of my life together with my district!

Alex Diaz
District Men’s Leader

ChampWSahara087A: My district is a place to raise capable people for kosen-rufu.

I joined the SGI-USA at 19 years old in Los Angeles. I wasn’t seeking a religion or philosophy. My friend, who was an SGI member, simply invited me to a Buddhist meeting.

When I arrived, a woman looked at me, smiled, took my hand and gave me a big hug. I felt so warm and happy. I knew this was the right place for me. Through my Buddhist practice, I have developed more compassion for others and a seeking spirit to never stop expanding my life.

My main goal for my district is that the members become strong and happy. Because I have to be at work before 6 a.m., I wake up at 2:30 a.m. to chant for the happiness and protection of my district members. My women’s co-leader Nanae and I often get together to team up and visit members. When Nanae and I are united, I see that unity pervade the entire district. I’m confident that through our district’s unity and efforts to spread the Mystic Law, we can make Las Vegas a Buddha land!

Keys to Our Victory

1. Helping each member connect to President Ikeda’s guidance
2. Consistent home visits and member care.

ChampWSahara103