“This is not a moment; it is a movement. We represent a mission bigger than ourselves, and we must fully utilise the platform we have today to build a better tomorrow,” said Ms Qyira Yusri. The Malaysian Fellow was speaking at the AYF 2023 closing ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam.
She added: “The AYF has been a unique experience for many of us and it has been a privilege to get to know every single Fellow in the programme. There are countless challenges ahead but with our collective strength and resilience, I am confident that we can make a positive impact and a create a more equitable future for our communities.”
The AYF is a leadership development programme that aims to grow and connect emerging young leaders with a focus on public, private, and people sector collaboration. It is co-organised annually by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and the National Youth Council (NYC) Singapore.
From 28 October to 4 November 2023, the fifth run of the programme took 40 youth leaders from 10 ASEAN states to Singapore and Hanoi. They engaged in a series of dialogues and panel discussions based on the theme of Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship: “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”.
Fellows spoke with prominent thought leaders who shared diverse perspectives on topics relevant to youths in ASEAN today. The topics included opportunities and challenges in ASEAN, building resilient youths as future leaders, and regional cooperation to drive regional growth.
In Hanoi, Fellows had discussions with Mr Nguyen Tuong Lam, Permanent Vice Chairman of the National Committee on Youth of Vietnam (NCYV). He noted that youths were an important catalyst to boost digital literacy in society.
Mr Nguyen said: “Digital transformation and technological advancement are taking place rapidly, and it requires youths like yourselves to adapt quickly to stay relevant. As you become more digitally savvy, you can help to facilitate digital transformation among the wider population.”
The Fellows also visited Know One, Teach One (KOTO), a social enterprise that helps at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam through its hospitality training programme.
Mr Antony Simon, an Indonesian Fellow said: “I learnt so much from KOTO about how social entrepreneurship requires compassion and consistency to bring a long-lasting impact to society. Instead of just providing free meals to its beneficiaries, it empowered them with self-worth and dignity.”
In Singapore, Ms Patricia Quek, Head, UBS Global Wealth Management Singapore and Malaysia challenged Fellows at a panel discussion to step out of their comfort zones.
She said: “Have a clear idea in mind and drive it forward boldly. Look for like-minded people who can work alongside you, and mentors beyond your immediate sphere of activity who can give you valuable advice and help you grow.”
The AYF programme included visits to organisations at the forefront of social innovation, specifically in healthcare, food security, sustainability, and digital transformation. In Singapore, the visits included:
- Centre for Healthcare Innovation, which seeks to drive healthcare transformation through collaborative innovations and thought leadership;
- ComCrop, Singapore’s first commercial rooftop farming company; and
- Sustainable Living Lab (SL2), a sustainability consultancy and innovation lab which leverages technology as a tool for sustainability.
Mr Sokhim Yav, a Cambodian Fellow said: “The AYF provided insights into the significant roles that Singapore plays to support and drive ASEAN forward. As a regional hub for trade, finance, and diplomacy, Singapore has facilitated regional cooperation and integration. Understanding Singapore's role in ASEAN enabled me to appreciate how the country collaborates with other nations to drive the region's progress.”
Ms Tin Htar Lwin, a Fellow from Myanmar, appreciated that digital transformation was one crucial area that can grow in Myanmar. She said: “The visit to SL2 reminded me how important digital technology is to improving lives. It is essential to equip ourselves with the relevant skills and knowledge to be ready for the future.”
Across the week-long programme, AYF 2023 provided Fellows with opportunities to build friendships and strengthen cross-cultural understanding. Through conversations and team bonding activities, they learnt the importance of trust and collaboration among ASEAN states to drive regional progress.
Mr Souliyo Vongdala, a Laotian Fellow said: “Through AYF, I saw that when we set aside our differences and focus on regional collaboration, we can achieve a lot more together as one ASEAN. This has broadened my perspectives on how to be a better leader in my community.”
Ms Nur Syahirah Chua Md Firdaus Chua, a Fellow from Brunei, said: “The highlight of AYF for me is the new friendships formed and a greater understanding of the different cultures across the region. ASEAN diversity is our unique strength. As we get to know and learn from one another, we are also building trust between our respective countries.”