YOUTH who are inspired, motivated and filled with passion can become individuals who can accomplish just about anything. Here in the Sultanate, there are quite a number who can prove just that and The Brunei Times had the privileged of retelling some of their journey to greatness.
Ambitious, determined and passionate would be some words that come to mind upon meeting Khairunnisa Ash’ari, an advocate for youth development and climate change action and the co-founder of Green Brunei, who has won the Youth Service Award in 2013, ASEAN Youth Day Award in 2014 and the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in June this year. Based on its website, the prestigious UK-based award recognises and celebrates youth from the Commonwealth, aged 18 t0 29, who are examples in their communities and are using their skills to change lives.
On her journey to where she is today, she started it all by being involved with various activities since she was a student in Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) holding posts such as Treasurer of the Student Representative Council, Vice President of UBDFM, Secretary of the Fonemik Club and the International Students Club.
“Light Up Cambodia and Brunei+20: National Youth Seminar for Sustainable Development are some of what I feel proudest of, mostly because of the impact both projects had on me as well as the people involved. They were two of my very first projects I organised and I learned so much from them. In Light Up Cambodia, I managed to raise over $2,000 to deliver 140 solar lights in Cambodia. The experience visiting the rural communities in Kampong Speu and Lvea Aem showed me what poverty meant in other parts of the world and how communities are working hard to improve their conditions despite the hardships they were facing,” said the 27-year-old. She was nominated by a friend during a call for nomination for the Queen’s Young Leaders Award and was selected for the award. “I felt overwhelmed. The award wasn’t just about receiving a medal from Her Majesty the Queen, but it was also a year-long training and mentorship led by the University of Cambridge, so it was quite exciting meeting with other awardees and these amazing speakers and trainers. During the Residential Week in London we had the chance to meet with so many people including Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as visiting Twitter, BBC and The Royal Commonwealth Society.”
The path she chose is not without risk and it required her to take a leap as she made the unconventional decision not to further her studies or find a job after graduation.
“This would have to be the biggest sacrifice I’ve made. I decided I wanted to get involved in community work by working and volunteering with different organisations. It was that decision that has led me to becoming who I am today. I’ve been doing various odd jobs in sustaining myself, but the experience I’ve gained over the years are definitely priceless.” On the other hand, an impressive Dk Erfa Afiffah Pg Md Fazian brought home the Gold reward from the ASEAN +3 Children Gifted In Science Winter camp research presentation in which each participating country had to prepare a poster and a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation on specific problems threatening the sustainable development of the sea. The topic her team chose was known as The Ethics of the Misuse of Marine Resources.
“We started preparations three months in advance. This required many trips to the UBD library, visits to the fishery department, late-night research as well as daily meetings.
“We were quite surprised when they announced that Brunei won the award for best presentation. When we heard our country’s name being called out as champions, I never felt prouder. In that moment, I told myself that everything was so worth it, the sleepless nights and endless cups of coffee, it all paid off. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it’s because that was one of the most significant achievements in my life,” she said.
As for Muhd Mahyuddin Hj Othman, the President of Society for Community Outreach and Training (SCOT), he has been selected for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) programme to visit United States of America.
“I might have applied with the intention of getting selected but I was still pleasantly surprised when it happened. I am definitely looking forward to travelling to the States as I have never been there before but what I am most looking forward to would have to be meeting like-minded individuals like myself from around the ASEAN region and the United States of America. I am hoping to be inspired by what they are doing in their community and I also believe this is a great platform for future collaborations.
“Growing up for me, not having money means not being able to get the latest gadgets or video games. I didn’t know that for some, not having money meant they won’t eat for a day or two and I found this when I started to be more involved in SCOT. Knowing that, even though I may not be able to completely change their lives for the better, I am still doing something meaningful that in some way may impact their lives and that is the driving force for me that made me want to continue what I do,” said the 23-year-old regarding one of the many reminders that motivates him to remain active and involved. As with all good things, sacrifices are often necessary. “I can recall during Raya last year, I had to attend a conference in Cambodia conducted by the Humanitarian Affairs in UK for a week so I had to skip the first week of Raya. It was sad but I ended up having fun nevertheless as I spent time at an orphanage in central Phnom Penh alongside a group of very inspiring youths from around the world.”
If you open yourself up to people, situations and experiences, you will find that inspiration can be derived from anywhere and anyone at any time. “I would have to say the experiences I’ve gained since my time in school is what has shaped me to be who I am today. The more exposure I had volunteering in events, the more I wanted to contribute my time and energy towards a good cause. It’s not just about getting involved in the projects, but also meeting with so many amazing individuals who have inspired me. All the other youth and former youth leaders are the people I aspire to follow and be,” said Khairunnisa.
It’s the same for Muhd Mahyuddin who finds his role models everywhere. “To me, there isn’t any one person that I am inspired by, it’s a collection of people in my life and even from the Internet. It ranges from my family to friends to a 20-year-old guy from Manhattan speaking on Ted Talks.”
“Find your passion and never give up. I’ve seen and been inspired by youth who come from underprivileged backgrounds yet are doing so much for their own communities. It goes to show that opportunities are everywhere, you just have to be brave and take them. Be proactive and seek information that you need, and create your own opportunities whenever you can,” advised Khairunnisa on how everyone can get started.
For Dk Erfa, there is no better time than now. “As we all have heard millions time before, life is short. There is no time to hold back and wait for the right time to do what you want to do in life. There is no time to regret the chances we didn’t take. I know, we are still young but that is the whole point. We are young. We get to learn from experiences and mistakes. I always keep in mind that when at first you don’t succeed, you try again. As they always say, ‘Fall seven times, stand up eight.’ If all the doors of opportunity are closed, break through a wall and create your own passage to opportunities.
“Do what makes you happy and content. Pray, tawakkal (rely on Allah SWT) and respect your elders. Face and conquer your fears. Be open-minded and explore what life has to offer. Be kind and give whenever and wherever you can. Make yourself and the ones you care about proud. Make your mark in the most positive way imaginable. We only have one life to live so make sure it’s the life you want,” she added. There isn’t a great world of difference between you and the young individuals who have received awards, who are highly involved in various projects and activities and who are selected to participate in exclusive programmes overseas. The only difference is that they’re willing to take a risk and make the move towards just what they want, which is something you can make the decision to do.
Source: The Brunei Times