Stupidest idea for suicide prevention ever.

The Malaysian police is planning to criminalise suicide by arresting those who attempt suicide. According to their twisted logic, jail is enough of a deterrent and besides, they can be counselled in jail anyway.

STUPIDEST. IDEA. EVER.

Mental health, depression, and suicide are issues that touch me deeply. I have lived with depression and anxiety for about half my life now, and I have attempted suicide before. Thankfully I have found Skincare Rejuvenation’s review and people that were able to reach out to me with compassion and kindness, and now I’m living a full happy life while managing my mental health.

I could hardly get anyone to respect me, or others with mental health issues, in school. We were all brushed off with “oh it’s just in your head” and “don’t do your exams here, you’ll just bring the pass rate down” (for what it’s worth, our school had a 100% pass rate on the SPM, even with at least 2 confirmed mental health cases taking the exam). The emails that I receive nowadays through EducateDeviate show that nothing much has changed. I still get people asking me for help, despairing that their dilemmas over university choices and their families not accepting their dreams are enough to push them over the edge.

Here are some things about depression:

  • Depression can be caused by a number of things: malfunctioning neurons and hormones, stressful situations, genetics – or some other links that are currently being researched. It’s both biological and environmental.
  • There are currently a lot of therapies, both conventional and alternative, that help with depression – medication, psychology, naturopathy, massage, acupuncture, colour therapy, sports, other things. Different things help for different people.
  • People who attempt or commit suicide usually feel like they’ve run out of options, or that they’re crying out for help. When you’re suicidal or depressed it’s extremely hard to think about other people’s reactions because you’re stuck in the brainwave of “no one cares about me anyway, I’m useless”. Jail is not a deterrent.

Here’s what helped me through my many years of ups and downs with depression:

  • Helplines like The Befrienders, who I absolutely recommend. Give them a call or email if you’re depressed and need an ear. sam@befrienders.org.my, 03 7956 8144/5.
  • The company of supportive and caring friends and family, who didn’t hold my depression against me and treated me with patience and compassion.
  • Being involved in fun, fulfilling projects that fitted my interests (a lot of my depression had to do with feeling “trapped” in situations I wasn’t fond of but felt obligated to do).
  • Medication and psychological therapy – it’s great to talk to experts about practical ways to manage the depression.
  • Breathing, meditation, flexible sports like yoga, dance, or circus – it takes your mind off the depression for the moment as you concentrate on your moves.
  • Self-care like massage, good books, a filling meal – this is something we absolutely suck in as a country, and which I’m still working on. Our culture doesn’t encourage taking care of ourselves – and yet it’s absolutely necessary for survival.

I read this article on suicide in South Korea and it saddened and worried me. So many of the factors mentioned in the article – the pressure to succeed, saving face, honour in death – are also evident in Malaysia. Yet our mental health services are almost non-existent, particularly for young people who may not have enough independence to seek out their own psychiatrist or counsellor. School counsellors may not be of much help too, if they follow the line of “suicide is a sin!” – yeah, as if that’ll help anybody.

How else can we create awareness and compassion for mental health in Malaysia? How do we help those trapped in the web of suicide and depression?

Some other pertinent links:

The suicidal need support, not punishment (Letter from T. Maniam, National rep of the International Association for Suicide Prevention)
Suicide a cry for help (letter from The Befrienders)
Hostile reception pushes Bostwanian students to the brink of suicide (hooray racism!)
Suicide rate high among ethnic Indians in Malaysia
Excerpt from “Suicide Prevention” about suicide rates in ethnic Indian communities in Malaysia

Racist brainwashing by Biro Tatanegara – GRR

Biro Tatanegara (rough translation: Civics Bureau) is a Government-run agency that organises mandatory “citizenship” workshops for students that have received Government scholarships for tertiary education. Under the guise of “education” and “building a multicultural Malaysian culture”, these workshops are hubs of anti-Chinese/Indian/etc racism and anti-Semitism, shaming non-Malays while claiming Malaysia to be a Malay-only nation.

Education in Malaysia has been compiling stories from students and observers of these workshops. Here’s an excerpt of their experiences:

Jew-blaming:

…Malaysiakini reported that first-year students of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) were told at a seminar organised by BTN that foreign elements which want to see chaos in Malaysia were funding certain student groups. The speakers drew a link between these local student groups, ASA and the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit organisation which they said was sponsored by American and Jewish elements.

Indians, blogs, and Christians are evil:

He even said, “Kalau ular dengan India depan mata, ketuk India dulu.” (If a snake and an Indian are in front of you, hit the Indian first.) … He said so many atrocious things that I will list them down in point form.

-Explained how the Malays aren’t racist but others are racist towards us.
-Bangsa Malaysia (The Malaysian race) does not exist, neither does Malaysian Chinese and Indians, only in the strict Malay, Chinese and Indians. (Interestingly, behind a booklet provided to us, one of the objectives of the programme is to produce a -“Bangsa Malaysia”. Obviously, he was ignorant).
-Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian language) does not exist, it is Bahasa Melayu (Malay language).
-Nothing wrong with waving the Keris (A traditional ceremonial Malay dagger which some politicians have waved in anti-non-Malay sentiment).
-Bumiputra (Malays and indigenous people) hanya 55% di Malaysia, give birth more people!
-The University and Colleges Act was partly made to ensure a Malay Vice-Chancellor in Universities which should be the way.
-Blogs are “berdosa” or sinful.
-Christians will not like Muslims.

Even the Malays reacted badly:

The instructors blatantly told them that they should not question the rights and privileges of the Malays as the non-Malays should be thankful that they were given citizenship status and a place to stay on their soil. My daughter together with the other non-Malay students was shocked and went back to their dormitories depressed. And to the Malay students, the instructors told them to be aware of this fact and not to mix too freely with the non-Malays.

A Malay friend of my daughter came back crying to the dormitory saying that she could not take the racist position taken by the government authority. My daughter then began questioning the bumiputra policy and was disgusted with such blatant indoctrination. This incident has also made the students harbour anger and resentment. Their fear for the authorities and losing their scholarships made them keep their cool.

When Education in Malaysia blogger and MP Tony Pua queried Biro Tatanegara about these allegations, this was their reply, as roughly translated into English by me (it’s originally in Malay):

Biro Tatanegara is an agency that runs courses based on citizenship and patriotic spirit within the whole of Malaysian society. Participants of these courses come from various cultures and age groups.

BTN also uses information or statistics that are obtained from other government agencies such as the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Statistics Department, the Implementation and Adjustment(?) Unit (ICU), the Ministry of Finance, and other Ministries in presenting facts to the participants, and it is departmental policy to not allow BTN speakers to touch on anything that can disturb the feelings of any race, and if this has happened the Department will drop them from being a BTN speaker.

In relation to your query, BTN realises that it’s on the blogs on the Internet, and based on our investigations, [your] claims (the bit about the snake and the Indian) are false. It is possible that some speakers had explained a few Indian proverbs relating to Indian societal matters that were misunderstood by the listener. Investigations have been undertaken and we have found no recordings that could be used as proof to verify the allegation.

As for your second query, BTN has never received any complaints about the matters that you have mentioned, and as far as we know there has not been any airing of videos like the ones you described (anti-Semitic clips) in our courses as organised by the Department.

According to past scholars that have attended such workshops, all recording devices (including mobile phones) are confiscated upon entry and all materials are carefully counted upon return. Many have said that they are too fearful to speak out as they are threatened with the loss of their scholarship – which, considering that many recipients are from low-income backgrounds and there aren’t many other funding options available, would be a major blow.

This sickens me to the core. I’ve heard plenty of racism in school but was lucky enough to not get a Government scholarship and therefore be indoctrinated into BTN’s faulty logic. Some of those that have been to these workshops have sadly reported on their peers passing on racist messages through social networking sites and being completely influenced by these workshops. If anyone’s threatening national security, it would be these goons!

I would like to see a private scholarship fund started for these students, so that they still have funding options for higher study without being gagged and afraid to speak up. There should be a way to get recordings of these workshops, even if it means James Bond-style spy gear. This menace – which is 100% funded by taxpayer money! – needs to disappear.

(Side note to Mum: I’m sorry for scaring you again. [I participated in a rally against the Clean Feed filter in Brisbane and spoke up about censorship in Malaysia – she saw my words and video and got scared.] I take full responsibility for anything that comes out of this. But unless things are done quickly, more and more young people will be brainwashed and we’ll just have an intolerant nation.)

Malaysian Youth Index – Absolute Rubbish

The Malaysian Youth Index is an analysis of surveys done on 4087 young people in Malaysia aged 15-40 in 2006. The idea was to get a feel for how young people in Malaysia are faring and what they get up to in their spare time.

It’s absolute RUBBISH!

The Index does not tell you anything about what young people are doing, feeling, or thinking – it’s stuck in moralising and patronising tones and is completely filled with bogus assumptions. The only good thing about it is that it reveals that most of the backlash against youth is just a big moral panic – though I’d disagree with their assertion that it’s the media’s fault and say that it’s mainly the Government pushing such anti-youth views in the first place.

Here’s what’s wrong with it specifically:

The Survey in General: Firstly, Malaysia seems to be the only country that defines youth as 15-40 years old. (there’s tons of problems with that act already but that’s worth a separate post.) The United Nations defines it as between 15-24 (with the Rights of the Child declaration going up to 18) and recommends separate analysis of teenagers and young adults. Those above 24 – or even 30 to be more permissive – have very different lifestyles; they are more likely to have worked for a while, started a family, and be more settled, whereas youth are still developing themselves and seeking their life path. This disparity is evidenced by the age range of people in the Youth sections of Malaysian political parties – most of them are closer to 40 than 14. This does not give an accurate representation of youth at all.

Also, the language use in the website is deplorable. I understand that there may have been language barriers, and that the document was most likely originally drafted in Malay. However, for a Government publication, editing and proofreading is crucial. Presentation is important, and the lack of care for the language shows a lack of care for the project overall.

The numbers and terms used in the analysis are very vague – what’s the difference between “good” and “very good”? How do you define those terms? Is a 70 “good” or “neutral”?

There is also no demographic information at all – what are the typical age ranges of the youth surveyed? Are they studying, working, having a family? What race are they? (I personally do not want this question to ever be asked, but it’s such a common thing in Malaysian research that it seems odd not to consider it.) Are they in urban, suburban, rural areas? What are their interests? Basically – who are the youth being surveyed? This would have a major impact on the results, as it could indicate a major skew in demographics.

Self Development: The terms used here are vague and open-ended. What do they mean by “Self-Esteem” and “Self-Efficacy”? Are the interviewees the best source of self-reflection? What does it mean to have “good Emotion”? Why is “Depression” on there – why not consult medical records? (Though it’s unsurprising to see a low number for that and for “no stress”). How do you measure those things anyway? It would be better to ask them in terms of activity or reaction – “if this happened, what would you do?” or “how would you react if…”?

Social Development: Why is the ONLY category here “relationship with parents”? Where are the measurements for relationships with friends, loved ones, other relatives (inc siblings), schoolmates, teachers, colleagues, mentors? What about those whose parents have divorced or separated, or who are orphans? What about those who consider other people as their parental figures? Again, how do you measure a “good relationship” – number of heart-to-heart chats? Good will? Presents bought?

Identity: Again, this just involves very vague terms and does not accurately reflect how youths really identify themselves. How about asking about their choice of clothing, associations, media? (this does get asked but in a later section.) How about their choice of friends or activities? Marketing people are usually good with this sort of thing.

The report claims that volunteerism and political activity is low – well, firstly, it’s not necessarily easy to do such work in Malaysia when it’s illegal for university students to join outside societies or political parties (the proposed amendments apparently make it easier, but there’s still a prohibition against blacklisted by the Home Minister, which could be anything) – if they did so, would they admit it in a Government survey? The demographic information would be very useful here – they may have deliberately targeted a more politically apathetic subsection (I certainly haven’t seen any open calls for youth census info). Also, many young people get involved in things that they won’t necessarily immediately associate with volunteering – such as Interact/Rotary/Kiwanis work, school clubs, or just helping a friend out. Asking specific questions about activities is crucial here.

Health: Why are they asking the youth themselves for this info – isn’t this what medical records are for? Anyway, they’re asking about really major diseases that don’t often happen amongst young people. However, this doesn’t mean that youths are necessarily healthy – it’s not diseases but habits that indicate that. Do they exercise? Do they eat well? What do they eat? How do they take care of themselves (do they)? There was a survey some time back about how artists perceive their health as being good yet reported all sorts of symptoms that could lead to moderate/major illnesses (sore muscles, headaches, low appetite, etc) – could this be happening here too?

Self Potential: Very, very vague. How do you measure entrepreneurship? Leadership? Skills? What skills? What about skills – how much do they know, how much are they willing to learn, how do they learn? This section would have been better off being measured through external evaluations and observation – people can have skewed perceptions of their own abilities.

Media Penetration: The results show what sort of media youths use, but it doesn’t reflect how much information they absorb or what they do with the media. “Computers and Internet” is unnecessarily broad – there are vast uses, from blogging to gaming to creating own works. How about alternative media? Oh wait – that’d get you arrested.

Leisure Time: The survey results imply that youths do nothing with their time. However, there’s obviously more to life than sports, exercise, or clubs! Young people hang out, they work, they meet friends, they travel, they read, they help their familiesm they indulge in their own hobbies, they do all sorts of things. Limiting it to three is not helpful, and will of course show that youth are “lazy” – when indeed they are extremely productive and have contributed heaps to the national economy. (That report, produced by a Canadian agency for the UN, is much more reflective of Malaysian youth issues.)

Deviant Behaviour: Hello moralising! With that tone, who’s going to admit they partake in “deviant behaviour”? What if they don’t find it deviant? (Don’t give me the tripe about “all religions and cultures believe the same things are deviant” – this ignores the vast diversities in Malaysian culture.) Some of these measures shouldn’t come from asking young people – they should come from medical and police records. Besides, what’s “obscene” or “loitering” specifically?

With extremely vague categories and a distinct lack of categories in some sections, lots of moralising, and generally awful methodology, it’s pretty obvious that the Ministry of Youth and Sports have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. They’re planning an International Conference on Youth Research at UKM in December – I can’t decide whether to go or not. On the one hand, I could set them straight and get proper insight; on the other hand, if this is how they do their research, it could all just be a huge mess.

Youth Helping Youth: Pinkpau’s Guide to US College Applications

American college applications are a strange beast. I considered applying to a few US colleges before but the sheer number of alien acronyms, requirements, and costs (not to mention the fact that I would theoretically be a “transfer” but wanted to start over) gave me too much of a headache. It is a wonder sometimes that there are international students in the US tertiary system at all!

Writer and general busy bee Su Ann, also known as PinkPau, went through this herself last year and has succeeded in getting herself a spot in a top US university (I believe Columbia but I could be mistaken). She has helpfully provided a comprehensive guide to US applications for Malaysian students, whether fresh out of secondary school or in pre-university programs. This first part of her guide also includes a sample resume for the applications (don’t let the sheer number of achievements scare you!), as well as a sample fee waiver letter – really useful as US college applications can go higher than US$50 each and many people typically apply to a few at once.

Su Ann will publish a few more guides, including one on writing the application essays. She’s also happy to answer questions till January, the end of application deadlines.

Asking a qualified college counselor experienced in US colleges is the ideal option, as is contacting the university, but Su Ann has a very friendly peer perspective and definitely makes a great start. I wish I had her guides three years ago!

Guest Post: Max Norman – Being a Diplomat in a Multicultural World

Max Norman is the main blogger of Ask The Kid, where he provides answers to life’s queries from the perspective of a young person. We are pleased to bring you a guest post by him today:


Being a Diplomat in a Multicultural World

We no longer live in a world of nations and governments; we live in a world of sects and movements, religions and cultures. As you already know, these differences have lead to great conflict and senseless hate. As the next generation, we must embrace this world, for it can not be changed. We need to learn the art of diplomacy in a new fashion, for a new world. It is up to us to re sow the seeds of peace and well being, of enlightenment and education, because the world will fall apart without peace; people will keep fighting until the end. If you practice diplomacy, you will set yourself apart, gain respect and help make the world a more peaceful place.

These skills aren’t something you can learn in school. They must be tried, tested and refined in the real world with real people. The family unit is a fairly apt forum to practice the majority of your diplomacy abilities, although the broader skills must be engaged with other, different people. To start off, you must learn how to communicate your thoughts effectively–this is usually what starts conflicts. Speak, write or illustrate ideas in a simple manner in a common language, and spend all the necessary time to get your point across. Staying persistent reaffirms confidence in relationships, because it shows that you are patient and willing to accept differences; this makes a good impression. It is VERY important to make a good first impression, but remember that with each culture, virtues change. Do research to explore the manners and courtesy of the person’s/organization’s culture.

Understanding motivations is a key tool for solving problems and creating new relationships, even if the motivation is foreign and seems unfounded. Everyone is driven by passion, which can be used to sway their feelings; if one can tap their driving force and aim it in a new direction, your goal is achieved. This must be done using rhetorical skills and demonstrations persistently to convince them of the right way to go. For example, if a criminal is shown the consequences of crime, then shown how much better life is preventing crime, many times they will migrate away from illegality. If not, a stern action–like an arrest–can set them on the road to enlightenment. This applies directly to conflict: if you show the trouble makers why they are wrong, provide a solution and foster change, people might just change their minds, which even in small increments advances your cause. Motivation never goes away; it just shifts in a new direction.

In our world today, a lot of violence is fueled by heritage. In Iraq, the Sunnis are fighting the Shiites because once very long ago, one of the sects–it is not known which–murdered a relative of Mohammed, the creator of Islam. The terrorists who kill themselves for these causes were told to do so from a very young age, which is important to keep in mind. This same pattern occurs is most religious wars, and must be taken into account when negotiating and appeasing members of these parties. One must at least appear independent of both sides, and talk as equals to find out what is causing this violence. From there, steps can be made to appease warring factions.

The quest for peace is as old as humankind. Until recently, diplomacy was on the national level with governments and rulers, but it has now shifted to sects, organizations and cultures—all different. To negotiate for peace, you need to be able to communicate your solutions effectively, and always understand that determination is not superficial: much conflict is brought about by deeply rooted emotional factors such as religion and history. Practice these skills; use them at home and at school, for you will be the ones using them in the future. Even in the best of times, conflict will not be completely vanquished, but diplomacy can work on issues bit by bit, every one bringing you closer to peace.


If you’d like to contribute a guest post for EducateDeviate, feel free to contact me with your ideas. I’m particularly looking for contributions from young people on topics that interest them.

The Oncologist Fallacy (or Why University Rankings are Unreliable)

This is an argument that I often receive when debating the merit of applying to a university solely based on their prestige or ranking. Ming, sorry, I don’t mean to pick on you, but you’ve articulated the argument very well.

If getting treatment from the best oncologist in the world is within the means for a cancer patient, chances are she will do so.

Besides the obvious, that education is nothing like medicine, there are a few reasons why statements like that don’t stand when it comes to choosing a university, or choosing your educational direction in general.

1. You don’t go to see an oncologist if you’re having problems with your foot, or if you’re feeling fine. Similarly, not every university is suited for everyone. Harvard is often the standard for “top university”, but you wouldn’t be happy at Harvard if you prefer smaller classrooms and you’re very artistic and rather hippie-ish. As far as I know, Harvard doesn’t have a great creative arts/creative industries faculty. To use a statement now stressed by many college counselors and university faculty everywhere, university is a MATCH, not a TROPHY. You should be aiming for the school that best matches your needs, ideals, and personality – even if it turns out to be an obscure school in the middle of nowhere.

2. There isn’t a single “best oncologist”; no one doctor holds the monopoly on quality. Just because XYZ Doctor managed to hold the top post, doesn’t mean all the other doctors below him are crap. Similarly, just because XYZ University did not rate very high on the rankings, does not mean they’re terrible and are not worth a look. There are many brilliant universities (and doctors) out there, particularly in regions like Western Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, South America, New Zealand/rest of Oceania, and other places that just don’t figure into traditional ranks. It is really stupid to think that only a handful of universities are able to provide a top-notch learning environment.

3. Best according to who? Rankings, despite looking objective, are actually rather subjective – it all depends on how the ranking body decides to calculate their criteria. How would you put into numbers something like “satisfaction of student body” or “best match for your needs”? The U.S. News, which is generally the “gold standard” for US university rankings, have come under fire for putting in false information for colleges that refuse to participate in the rankings. So are the rankings necessarily reliable? Not when you have a growing backlash of colleges against it. It’s not just America either; there has been criticism over the UK’s Times Higher Education List, as well as Canada’s Maclean’s list.

4. How honest is the oncologist? It’s not just the rankings body that messes up numbers; some universities are also cheating at the game. There is a major lack of transparency on both sides about how the numbers are calculated and calibrated. There is no way for us to know that the numbers are at all accurate or representative, so why rely on them as your main – or only – source of information. It would be far better to do more research on each university individually, getting information straight from the source, and making up your own minds based on your own needs.

5. Everything happens in context. You may have found the best oncologist, but what if they live too far away? Or they’re booked up for months? Or if they’re too expensive for your budget? Similarly, there are many other considerations to make when choosing a university. Where are they located – is it an atmosphere you enjoy, is the weather good, can you afford to live there? How about the student body – how homogenized (or not) are they? Is it small or big? Are the classes heavy on theory, or are they more practical? Does the school expect you to do an internship or semester abroad as part of the course? Does one course differ from another in style? There are many aspects that make up the learning process of a university, and are things that aren’t necessarily reflected well in rankings.

6. Can you afford it? Another argument that is usually made for going to a “top university” is that they supposedly give you a lot of funding, so you can afford to go. Never mind their extreme selectiveness; it is extremely difficult to get funding for studies, particularly if you’re an international student. In many countries, international students are expected to pay full-fee, and scholarships are highly limited. FAFSA, which is the US Government’s way of working out financial aid, is not applicable to international students. The world of financial aid is mysterious and complex, especially if you’re a “high-ranking” university – funding resources are limited and not all of them can afford to (or want to) support students that can’t pay full fee. Interestingly, there are a growing number of smaller-scale universities that are open and willing to give full financial support – they are often more attuned to student welfare (treating the students as individuals with needs and desires) and don’t have to deal with too much internal competition.

Looking for a good university or college? Don’t put too much stock on ratings. Do your own research, and you’re more likely to find the choice that’s best for you – and save a lot of money, time, effort, and heartache.

Relevant Reading:

Young Malaysian Entrepreneurs eBook – Where are the WOMEN?

Daniel and I are sorting through the nominations for the Young Malaysians Entrepreneurs eBook, and there’s a glaring omission:

Where are the WOMEN?

We have about a gazillion male nominations, but less than a handful of female nominations. We are sure that there are wonderful young Malaysian females out there being enterprising – we just want to know where you are.

We would be very happy if you visit one of our site which is Female Whizzinator.

Go and nominate some women now!

Entrepreneurship and Languages – two blogs for you

If you’d like some entrepreneurial inspiration, or would like to learn Japanese in double-quick time, here are two blogs you may want to subscribe to:

1) Australia-based HatchThat is filled with interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs from a wide range of industries. They cover all sorts of interests – from sexual and reproductive health to DJs and party planning. They are always on the lookout for other entrepreneurs to interview – maybe some of you from this list would be interested!

2) A lot of young Malaysians are into anime and manga, and consequently are trying to learn the Japanese language. What if I told you that you could learn enough Japanese in 18 months to not only be really fluent, but also be able to understand technical documents and ultimately be hired in software engineering? Impossible? Young African man Khatzumoto has done exactly that.

On his blog, All Japanese All The Time, Khatzumoto explains his method for learning total Japanese in such a short time – essentially being totally immersed in the culture (surrounding yourself with Japanese media, doing fun things in Japanese, etc), aiming to understand rather than memorize, as well as some smart use of flashcards. He is currently using the same system to learn Chinese, and shows you how to use this system to learn any language – no matter how old or young you are.

If you have any other interesting blogs, please share them with us!

The List of Youth Speakers and Inspiring Young People to Invite to Your Conference or Event

In response to tech conference Tokion‘s lack of women speakers, women bloggers everywhere banded together to create a list of women speakers for any conference, hosted at Personism. The ever-growing list contains hundreds of inspiring women in design, the arts, entrepreneurship, activism, non-profits, business, and everything else that would certainly be an asset for any conference or gathering of minds.

There’s another group of people often missing at these conferences though: young people. Sure, there is no end to youth conferences, but look at the big ones like TED or ideaCity – how many of the participants are under 30? IdeaFestival is testing out a “IF Kids” section, which was apparently quite successful in the 2007 festival, but might be a little condescending to young adults who aren’t actually kids but who aren’t quite old enough to blend in with the other adults. And even if those big events were more inclusive socially, many deserving young people won’t be able to afford them. Tickets are upwards of US$500 a piece, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to get them before they sell out. Factor in travel, visas, accommodation, and all other costs and you see a very pricey proposition that turns away many young people from otherwise being the biggest contributors.

What young people need are more opportunities to be represented, more exposure to wider groups of people (and not just their peers). Young people should be taking the stage more often in those big events, they should be the ones being listened to by big minds such as Al Gore or Richard Branson. It’s their voice that should be heard, particularly since all the big chances will be handled by us anyway.

Inspired by Personism’s list, I am now creating:

The List of Youth Speakers and Inspiring Young People to Invite to Your Conference or Event

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you want to be on this list, or know anyone (below 30) who should be here, leave me a comment with their name, country, the field they’re involved in, and a brief description. Please also include a link to a website or webpage about them. It doesn’t have to be their personal/business website – a profile or a news article works too, just as long as it has information (and preferably contact details too) about themselves.

Don’t be afraid to self-promote! So many of us deserve better but are too shy or modest to ask for it. I will scan the list for scammers and spammers though.

You may notice that (at least in the early versions) this list is skewed towards a certain geographical area. This is partly because I’m from that area so I know more people there, but also because people in non-Western countries tend to be underrepresented in big events like these. See the diversity of countries as a good thing – you’ll get a very varied set of backgrounds and opinions, information and knowledge will cross borders, and everyone benefits.

List last updated: 26 Jan 2008

NAME COUNTRY FIELD DESCRIPTION
Tiara Shafiq Malaysia / Bangladesh / Australia Youth, Alternative Education Maintainer of youth/alternative education blog EducateDeviate
Suzanne Lee Malaysia Photography Self-made professional photographer and traveller
Poh Si Teng Malaysia / USA Journalism Co-founder of Malaysia youth socio-political magazine theCICAK
Tharum Bun Cambodia IT, Communications Blogger on ITCs
Khailee Ng Malaysia Entrepreneurship Co-Founder of theCICAK and various web ventures
Daniel CerVentus Lim Malaysia Entrepreneurship Maintainer of Malaysian entrepreneurship blog Ideapreneur
David Askaripour USA Entrepreneurship Founder of youth entrepreneurship portal Mind Petal, web entrepreneur
Brett Farmiloe USA Passion Went on the “Pursue the Passion” roadtrip to interview leading people about their passions in life
Hayley Angell Australia Passion, Empowerment Life coach and speaker on youth empowerment
Jessica Kiely Australia Youth, Career Development Founder of FRANK Team, a company that empowers youth through speakers and newsletters on career development
Adam Smith Australia Youth, Education COO of Education Foundation Australia
Bec Heinrich Australia Youth, Education, Leadership CEO and Founder of Rising Generations
Tom Dawkins Australia Youth, Media Founder of youth media portal VibeWire
Simon Moss Australia Youth, International Development, Education, Poverty COO of youth-run development organization The Oaktree Foundation
Hugh Evans Australia Youth, International Development, Education, Poverty Founder of youth-run development organization The Oaktree Foundation
Jennifer Corriero Canada Youth, International Development Founder of TakingITGlobal
Effa Desa Malaysia Film, Activism Founder of Filmmakers Anonymous, organizes film festivals in Malaysia
Renee Dillon Australia Art, Crafts Organizes workshops for budding artisans
Victor Gan Australia Photography, Film Self-trained photographer and filmmaker
Craig Kielburger USA Children’s Rights, Activism Co-founded Free the Children at 12 years old
Aaron Gill Malaysia Web, IT IT entrepreneur
Michelle Gunaselan Malaysia Activism Writer at TELL magazine, co-founder of voter education initiative VoteED
Cally Highfield United Kingdom Art Artist, illustrator, and novelist of Rose Petal Tea
Hwa Yang Jerng Malaysia Philosophy Interested in Machine intelligence, Cultural phenomenology, History of ideas, Bridging/unifying the liberal arts, science, engineering, and commerce
Kenny Koay Australia Entrepreneurship Founder of j2k, a mobile phone plan distributor that provides employment opportunities for international students in Melbourne
Trisha Okubo USA Entrepreneurship, Media, E-Commerce, Fashion Founder of Omiru: Style for All, a style website dedicated to real style for real people. Style expert featured in Lucky Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Disruptive Innovator at eBay, currently focusing on social commerce projects
Kidchan Malaysia Arts, Graphic Design Self-made artist; interesting observations about Malaysia
Darren Lee Malaysia Internet Technology, New Media, Web2.0/Social Networking Founder of Intrivent Global, Internet Technology Evangelist, New Media Specialist in the field of Web 2.0/Social Networking
Bryce Ives Australia Youth, Media, Arts First General Manager of SYN Melbourne, Australia’s largest youth media project. Crrently the online producer of the ABC’s Heywire
Nikki Brooker United Kingdom / Australia Youth, Politics, Peace First young person in the UK involved with campaigning to establish the UK Youth Parliament, then a trustee and co-ordinated the London Region. Also involved in Peace One Day
Reynato Reodica Australia Youth Policy, Youth Rights Executive officer of the Youth Action Policy Association, peak body for all youth workers and young people in NSW Australia
Brandon Bear Australia Youth Health, Sexual Health Working in sexual health and drug and alcohol health promotion in the field of harm minimisation for 5 years
Joshua Rayan Malaysia / Singapore / Australia / Indonesia Media, Communications Founder of Words Wizards, a creative communications agency that has become a branding specialist for many corporates
Yvonne Foong Malaysia Health, Neurofibromatosis Advocate for neurofibromatosis awareness, writer
Carol Chew Malaysia Politics, Youth National chairperson for Beliawanis, the young women’s arm of Malaysian political party MCA
Joel Clark Australia Youth Empowerment, Leadership, Poverty, Education Founder of nonprofit organisation, Community Spirit Tours, and wide-covering youth advocate with a number of organisations
Josh Lim Malaysia Media, Advertising Founder of blog advertising company Advertlets
Adelyn Lim Malaysia Children, Health, Cancer Founder of children’s cancer organization ROLF Kids
Joel Neoh Malaysia Youth, Entrepreneurship Winner of The Firm and founder of YouthMalaysia
Jennifer L. Pozner USA Women, Media, Writing, News Founder of Women in Media & News, a women’s media analysis, education and advocacy organization dedicated to increasing women’s presence and power in the public debate
Christine HappySlip USA / The Philippines (?) Media, Video, Web Creator of one-woman YouTube show HappySlip
Zadi Diaz USA Media, Web, Production Co-founder of online production company Smashface Productions
Alicia Curtis Australia Youth, Leadership, Mentoring Assists schools and businesses harness the leadership potential of their young people
Donnie Maclurcan Australia Politics, Community, Social Entrepreneurship Founder of Australian community project Project Australia
Miriam Lyons Australia Youth Policy, Festivals Director of Center for Policy Development, director for various festivals in Australia
Matt Noffs Australia Youth, Drug & Alcohol Dependency Development Manager at the Ted Noffs Foundation
Billie Jean Edwards Australia Youth, Indigenous Issues Young Indigenous leader
Joey Le Australia Cultural Awareness, Personal and Professional Development, Leadership, Mental Health for Young People, Youth Health Issues Former Chair of NSW Youth Advisory Council. Currently working as a medical doctor with an interest in psychiatry and adolescent health
Danielle Begg Australia Social Policy, Youth Activism, Psychology Co-established youth advocacy group Australian Teens Advocating Change (ATAC), aimed to promote multiculturalism, the prevention of substance abuse and a positive image of youth in the media through community service announcements and nation wide tours
Jimmy Kyle Australia Youth Empowerment, Indigenous Youth Program manager of Koori Connect, which engages indigenous young people on a range of cultural activities and events aimed at improving community connection, school retention and providing vocational learning opportunities
Sarah Chunys OAM Australia Mental Illnesses, Youth Health Motivational speaker on the subject of adversity/getting through tough times and mental health issues including suicide
Josh Shipp USA Youth Empowerment High-rated youth speaker, CosmoGIRL columnist, has a TV show in development
Peter Draw Singapore Art, Drawing, Children, Happiness Social Cartoonist
Xavier Clarke Australia Indigenous Youth, Social Issues AFL star and co-founder of Indigenous youth support group Unity Foundation
Linh Do Australia Youth, Environment Youth founder of Change A Million Light Bulbs and Change&Switch
David Toovey Australia Youth, Social Justice Current director of the Oaktree Foundation

Don’t forget to list your recommendations!

World AIDS Day – Take Action Now

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. Even though this day has been commemorated for many, many years, there is still no cure, there is still much work to be done.

Get Educated: Pelf of The Giving Hands has an excellent post all about the basics of HIV/AIDS. Considering the amount of misinformation out there, it is still important that we know the facts and that we educate each other about the facts. MTV’s Staying Alive campaign is also chock-ful of information about health, testing, and advocacy, as well as ways to act that are fun and interesting.

Get Involved: The Malaysia AIDS Council regularly organizes events and activities to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to help those affected by the disease. The “Volunteering” section on their site isn’t up at the moment, but pay attention to local media and events and do get in touch. If you prefer to go international, volunteer organization i-to-i has opportunities to work with AIDS-affected communities in Mombasa and Nairobi, Kenya. World Vision has resources for Christian college students, while online handmade goods store Etsy is collecting donations of gifts for Housing Works, America’s largest minority-run organization working with HIV/AIDS.

Get Connected: Youth activism portal TakingItGlobal has set up the HIV/AIDS Guide to Action Network, a collection of resources on youth working with HIV/AIDS awareness, advocacy, and care. They have also teamed up with some youth organizations to create the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, which aims to empower youth leaders working with HIV/AIDS issues in their community. UNICEF also has a resource page on HIV/AIDS aimed on collecting opinions, experiences, and knowledge from world youth.

If you have any more resources for youth and HIV/AIDS, please post them in the comments. Thank you.

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KaosPilots: Now This Is Learning

Imagine a business school where all your assignments are real-life projects from real clients. Imagine spending your second year in a different country working on community projects. Imagine your final exam being a sustainable project for change.

For the KaosPilots, this is reality.

I’ll just quote the post I made on MetaFilter about them:

The KaosPilots, deemed “the world’s most adventurous alternative business school“, teaches social entrepreneurship and leadership through real-life situations.

Part of their education involves international outposts in Vancouver, Buenos Aires, and Bahia, working on projects related to business, community, and sustainability. The final exam is an operational project of your own.

Many former students go on to the private sector or create projects and jobs of their own (though creative industries and non-profits are very common).

They have been nominated for design awards, are considered as worldchanging, and have published a book about their methods. New web technologies are highly utilized by both students and board members alike.

The KaosPilots have been based in Aarhus, Denmark for 15 years, but there are also schools running (or about to start) in Sweden, Norway, and The Netherlands, with more coming in other continents.

The KaosPilots are my new obsession. They are EXACTLY what I have been looking for education-wise. I’ve been looking for ways to actually learn how to run projects and gain first-hand experience, and while I was hoping to get that in QUT, I’ve been getting more theory than anything else. This actually makes things RELEVANT – your work actually matters, and your passion is rewarded. Their core values aren’t gooblyspeak, they’re six simple but powerful aims: real world, balance, being streetwise, being playful, risk taking and compassion.

I’ve applied for the Stockholm (Sweden) program, which starts next year. This would be a major change as it means I drop out of university and I have to work out how to support myself in Sweden for about three years. It also costs a LOT, and I’m not sure I can afford it. But the sheer value of the education I receive would be priceless. That’s if I can handle how hardcore it is, anyway. There will be a 2-day workshop in Stockholm in November for those shortlisted, so I’ll know pretty soon if I make it.

I know the people over at the Stockholm KaosPilots have seen this blog, and may still be reading it – HELLO! I’ll also be meeting one current KaosPilot, Kamilla, at the Youth Enterprise Symposium this weekend, and I’ll have tea with Michael Doneman, a KaosPilots board member and founder of Edgeware who also happens to be a postgrad in my faculty. How convenient. I can’t wait to pick their brains and find out what they’re all about.

Do you have any more information on the KaosPilots? Please share them to me, because they’re awesome and I want to know more. Otherwise, watch this video to see how awesome they are: (you might need to amp up the volume on your computer, as the video’s volume is very soft)

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Thinking About Studying Medicine? Read This First.

For some honestly bizarre reason (which I have yet to discover), Malaysians are particularly kiasu about young people going to medical school. The biggest drama with JPA scholarships revolve around medicine. There is a bigger demand for spaces in medicine than anything else. Students who are the slightest bit brilliant or intelligent are pushed into medicine, regardless of their passions and skills. Apparently Medicine is the “holy grail” of Malaysian higher education: if you’re not studying to be a doctor, you’re stupid.

But do any of these people – the students and those that push them – really realize what it means to be a doctor? Do any of these people really know what medical practice involves?

It’s not just about grades or intelligence. It’s not about dissecting frogs. It’s not about tests.

It’s about sacrificing whole chunks of your life for the sake of someone else’s. It’s about having someone’s life – and death – in your hands. It’s about dealing with wheezy old people and mucusy babies in the middle of the night when you haven’t slept for a week. It’s about not crying too much when a child dies. It’s about being on call 24/7, knowing that even in the middle of a much-needed romantic interlude with your dream partner, your pager could go off because someone somewhere is having a medical emergency. It’s about life.

On Ask Metafilter today there is a question about being cut out for medical school. The person in question isn’t necessarily quick-witted or bright; however, he more than makes up for it in persistence and effort. He loves medicine to death and has worked with sick people, but comes from a liberal arts background. Can he still make it in medicine?

skepticallypleased gives an answer that is practically REQUIRED READING, though the rest of the thread is necessary too. If you are considering going to medical school for any reason, ESPECIALLY if it’s due to societal pressure, READ THIS FIRST.

Wow, loaded question. It’s funny I saw this one early but I’m about to ask another question. And, it’s not just medical school you have to worry about but residency and practice too so I’ll hit on it.

I’m almost like the person you mention although I tend to do well in school and upon standardized tests. I was liberal artsy and well, after some post bac classes, the MCAT, and lots of applying to grad school again am I am now a doctor and, barring the winning of the lottery, won’t be able to retire till I am 75.

I HAVE TO KEEP THIS SHORT FOR MY OWN SANITY.

Only go to medical school if:

1. YOU WANT TO HELP SICK PEOPLE GET BETTER. That’s the only thing that will help you get through the long, painful hours learning material that you will soon forget and is very dry and rote, sadly. (And, that’s the first two years of medical school).

(As for the next two, you have different challenges). If you actually feel good about sticking your finger up a 80 year old’s behind to see if she’s bleeding at a 3:30 AM admission in the ER when instead you could have been sleeping, you’ll like being a doctor.

In short, it’s not going to be about the money. At least not for your 20’s and 30’s anyway. Plus, if medicine has taught me anything, tomorrow is not guaranteed. You give up other things as well. On a side note, I luckily wined, dined and married the woman I love before medical school and, when I had more normal hours as lawyer. I could never fathom having developing the relationship I did with my wife while in medical school. I got to know her ambitions, got to know her family, and we really did a lot of stuff together. In medical school, that life is not so feasible. It’s simply because unlike any most other work, you have to keep reading when you come home (after a couple hours of lecturing or in dissecting the cadaver).
(I probably need to take MeFi off my favorites).

Most of your day is spent filling out stupid paperwork stupid lawyers demand of us, navigating the bureuracy of the hospital, reading labs, and just making sure your patients are getting better. Honestly, it’s tasks that nurses and PAs with some experience do just as well as doctors. The place we separate ourselves from them is our “fund of knowledge” and that requires a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of dedication if you want to do it well.

The sad secret about medicine is that the imaging and treatments are so good, that you can be a lazy doctor but also a fine doctor. Read this excellent piece by a doctor who has a brain power far above mine and you’ll understand what it takes:

Sorry to ramble but to sum up: At least for 7+ years medicine is going to require your all (that’s when the last of many, many tests you will take end). And, it’s hard to maintaing deep relationships, be well rounded, and sort of follow the other pursuits your liberal artsy mind is going to care about also. It’s not just crap like knowing the Classics either. If you wanted to guarantee a loss in a current events trivia tournament, field a team of doctors.

And the latter is not a knock on the profession at all. Honestly, under the knife or when I am truly sick, the last thing I want to be going through my doctor’s brain is a Hamlet soliloquy. I want her to know the best evidence based medicine possible and have the best technical and manual skills possible. Some of my classmates fit this bill and I would humbly and readily trust their opinion over mine anyday.

How can I live with myself then? Well, I’m a lot slower and I hope superior reasoning skills will help me in the end. In short, I can’t name 4-5 leading causes of a left to right heart shunt off the top of my brain, but I’ll probably recongize it on a physical exam or an EKG and it will be diagnosed more accurately on an echocardiogram. (The ability of 21st century imaging to make mediocre doctors like me excellent is a topic for another debate. But, again, read Gawande’s piece and you’ll see where, well some doctoring is actually needed.).

2. Ok, enough of my baggage. Back to your question. Is medical school “doable” Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. and Yes.
It honestly does not take much intelligence in memorizing a lot of stuff and spit the right answer back on a multiple choice test. I would say you need about a 115 IQ to be a doctor. If you’re slow at accumulating lots of information, then, well, you’re butt is going to be on the desk chair longer than most people. If you bad at science, well, then, your butt is going to be on the desk chair longer than most people, but you’ll get it. You’ll pull through. And, it seems like you have the intelligence and drive to do it. And, really, that’s all it takes. A friend of mine in medical school got a horribly low MCAT score (I’m talking really, really bad I’m shocked she was in an American medical school bad.) And, she had a liberal arts background from a prestigious school also. But, she wanted to be a Plastic Surgeon (a very tough specialty to get into) and she essentially worked real hard at it for a four years and got into a plastic surgery residency.

I’m not worried about you as you seem to have a true passion for helping people and want to be a doctor.

I’d be more worried about your discipline. Science is not harder than the liberal arts. It just requires a lot more discipline. You have to understand things from the ground up but, strangely, you can’t just reason how we got there. I hope you the reason you are not a good science student is that it’s not because you hate science either. That’s no good in medicine. You have to be both a scientist and a humanist and I feel you have to like both too.

As far as getting into medical school. If your science grades are bad, it will be tough. You might have to retake them again or hope you rock your MCAT. Even then, you can go to a foreign medical school and just work your way into medicine here as you are an American citizen. (Some of the foreign schools are not even requiring a Bachelor’s degree! But, if you can pass the liscensing tests they make you eligible for, you can be a doctor here! (Not a competitive specialty of course, but a doctor nonetheless — perhaps even in Psychiatry which might be good for someone who is not too too excited about the so-called “hard” sciences.

Ok, I hope I helped you out a bit. Medicine sucks a lot, but I’m not going to be a doctor that convinces you out of it. I still have a ridiculous amount of pride when people ask what I do and I say I’m a doctor. And, in those rare times that I feel I influenced patient care past what the mechanized delivery of algorithmic medicine gives a person these days (surgeons might not have this feeling as much, but that field has its own drawbacks), it feels REALLY GOOD to be a doctor.

And, well, medicine has its share of nasty politics (something I find incomprhensible because you see how fragile life can be everyday), it definitely has a decent amount of bad attitudes (although I’d bet perecentage wise less than other professions) and, sadly, the work is basically repetitive. I can’t remember more than 4-5 patient’s names from over 75 I saw last month. You do do a lot of the same stuff until something new comes along, but that something new is probably not something you invented or pushed along anyways and it builds off the previous stuff in the first place. Talking to patients is not repetitive but you rarely have time for really getting to do that. (I guess you would in Psychiatry and you know the conversations are going to be different…..:))

I really feel anyone can be a doctor if they work at it. How good of a doctor and how much time they will have for other pursuits is questionable and you’ll need intelligence to help you out there. (I can guarantee you my friend who became a Plastic Surgeon has never read a blog of any kind, but someone like Gawande, well, people blog about him).

Still, medicine is a lot more social than other professions. And, really, no patient is the same. And the desire to be well rounded can be carved out later in life or at level that you can be individually at peace with and things.

So, in short, if your friend can simply stay disciplined for a decent amount of time and get organized and work hard, he’ll be a great doctor and he’ll like it. Plus, being a doctor only opens more doors than it will ever close for you. He won’t have to practice medicine at all — he can work for a drug corp, teach, research, etc. So, it’s a big world and most people find their way in it.

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Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 3 – Hip Hop MDG Campaign Part II

Charles Fisher, who founded the Hip Hop Youth Summit, came up to me a few minutes ago and told me he read this blog. Huh, I’m being read by celebrities (sort of). My sister thought I was skeptical of the Hip Hop MDGs Campaign, based on how I wrote the article about the first presentation. I actually thought it was a really cool idea – it’s about time that pop culture became more socially aware. There were some claims that seemed a bit out there (like how celebrities were going to come to our country to record PSAs with us – nice idea, not sure if it’ll ever happen) but overall it’s a great initiative. I’m just not a fan of hip-hop in general, though, so I wasn’t as engaged as I could have been. If it was the Darren Hayes MDGs Campaign on the other hand…

I’m really really tired today so I’ll keep all liveblogs today short.

Charles talked a LOT about their plans for the campaign – and seriously, there’s plenty planned. Raffles, competitions, training, scholarships, seminars…anything you can imagine really! In return, we would be representatives of the youths in our community, be marketing and promotional consultants, we would advise them on how the campaign can move forward, and we would hold them accountable. When I asked him about his plans and whether he can make them real (because seriously they sounded very lofty), he told me that I can use my blog to hold him accountable – if he doesn’t make any progress by next year I have every right to report on it! He’s even called me Blog Lady, haha! Someone else brought up how hip-hip music now tends to objectify women and how the values doesn’t match up. Charles replied that hip-hop is changing and it’s up to us to let them know what they want to see – Dr Valdov shared some support. He then showed off an upcoming fashion trend, Spinwear – basically turning your T-shirt around! Heh.

It will be interesting to see how this Hip Hop MDGs Campaign plays out. I suppose this isn’t the first time a subculture went all out to make a difference, but how many of them have been successful? Maybe this one can start a positive trend of its own.

One minute till the next panel…

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 2 – Women’s Voice Be Heard

I came in a bit late and was greeted with a young girl telling a story about life, the universe, and the power of women. WOW. WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. If only more speakers had her passion, her grace, her power. Standing ovation. WOW.

She’s followed by Grandmother Sara Smith, an Indigenous Elder from the Mohawk tribe. She talks closely about our part in the world, our Earth Walk, and our responsibilities in the world. The power of women to create and manifest is still available, we just need to remember. It’s actually quite moving and not really something I can put into words, but suffice to say that for us to make change in the world, we have to remember who we are and where we come from.

Next up is Amelia Kinahoi-Siamomua, Acting Director at CARE. She starts of by saying we are POWERFUL – a theme that seems to be running in this panel. She runs a video for their “I Am Powerful” campaign, which features women around the world and the various roles and powers they have. The concept behind that campaign is that no matter what or where, every woman has the power to change their world – and CARE is there to help them do it. She relates stories of how women were at the periphery of HIV/AIDS and are now at the center; are now in peacekeeping forces even when they didn’t have full rights. The point is, women are no longer just bystanders in making change. They ARE change agents, and they need all the support they can get.

Next is Angela Mason, from World Vision, a former actress who now makes award-winning documentaries on women and children. She is also a speaker on “hope in impossible places”. WHOA she’s loud. And she got us to do a massage chain! Yay! Her speech was very compelling and fascinating – I didn’t actually type anything in between because I was quite taken by it. She told us stories of her trips with World Vision, about how people were so HAPPY because they had water, about this Ugandan woman who had a booming business making envelopes for people to keep medicines in (so much so that she couldn’t keep up), about people who were happy for the smallest things. Sure puts some things into perspective.

This panel ends off with another song. Stay tuned for more of the UN Youth Assembly.

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 2 – Education = Peace and Development

The next panel is about education – huzzah! Obviously something I was looking forward to. The first speaker is Dr. Cream Wright, Chief of Education at UNICEF. He talks about how it is important to give children a basic education – that doesn’t necessarily mean building more nurseries, but giving children the opportunity to learn enough to function in life. Again it’s mostly factual and statistical, which I kind of blocked out of my head. (well I am tired…)

Next up is Esther Hyneman, part of Women for Afghan Women. While she sets up, one delegate asks about governments that don’t fully support educated people. That question gets put on hold while Esther starts. She describes her organization as one that helps empower Afghan women on claiming their human rights. Over 90% of Afghan women are illiterate. She groups everything into three ideas: think about women, go at the grassroots level, ans start strong. Again, I didn’t really pay much attention (it was mainly what their program does).

The final speaker is Andy Cunningham, cofounder of WISER, an initiative to build a girls’ boarding school in Muhuru Bay in Kenya. “Oyo orore!” He gets us to get up and DANCE. At least that’s gotten me a bit awake. In their tribal language, “Oyo orore” is hello, “iva nade” is how are you, “arimabear” is I’m fine. Or something like that. They even gave him a stool to stand on when making his speech…even though he’s over 6 foot tall. Heh.

WISER is 95% youth run. It’s been in Muhuru Bay 5 years, but only started fundraising 7 months ago – and already they have half a million dollars. Andy quotes Bono saying that the world lacks storytellers, and adds on that the world lacks people listening to storytellers. He notes that while Kenya is making strides to universal primary schooling, women do not get secondary education. They also become the “first harvest” – forced marriages for dowry. They’ve also been abused and molested, and no girl has graduated high school. The situation is really quite dire.

He shows us a young woman who is the first woman in Muhuru Bay to graduate from college (she went to a private school outside the area). She has shown great initiative by coming back and helping her people – none of the men who went on to college ever returned. The community and WISER have come together to help support young women like her to go on and get educated.

Andy gives a plan for how you want to make a difference in the world. First, you need a business plan. Not just a mission and vision, but also a good business plan with an executive summary. Next, make a website for your cause. Also use YouTube to put up a promotional video for your cause. If you’re still in university, get them to support you by having a class for your cause. Universities tend to be non-profit, so they can sponsor you and get tax help too. Also have innovative fundraising methods. Some of their campaigns are the WISER 100 Club and a Furnish A School campaign, and they concentrated on the top 5 places for grants – they got 4. Their priorities are students, teachers, curriculum, community center, health, utilities, architecture, intersession programming, recruitment, and volunteering. While not all of these tips are important or appropriate for every venture in every country (especially in Malaysia where not all universities are non-profit and non-profit status is tricky), it is still very useful to hear about how a fellow youth-related initiative got the ball rolling. It’s interesting to see that they are also going beyond books and now concentrating on movies and multimedia – I still feel books are crucially important (you don’t need as much technology to read) but we should also diversify our methods to reach out. When having sanitary pads can mean having access to education for a month and a half…every little bit counts.

They seem really organised and have sorted out all sorts of plans for people to get involved. It’s great to see a young person making a MASSIVE impact, in a world where young people don’t get enough respect. It’s certainly very inspiring and I’m already racing with ideas for my own projects!

Model UN is next!