Most Southeast Asian countries are still in the developing stage and social problems are rampant in these countries. However, the education systems in the region put so much emphasis on academic performance that they do not give students enough space for building soft skills and nurturing creativity to tackle social issues in their communities. SEALNet introduced YLS in 2013 with a mission to create a platform for high school and early-year college students to gain more soft skills and be exposed to urgent social issues in the region. In the process, they cultivate the necessary mindset and potential approaches to initiate social changes.
Some of the social issues need cross-border collaboration among Southeast Asian countries, and future generations must come together and work closely in various aspects of development strategies. YLS is designed to contribute to such unity by bringing together the youths from different countries with diverse backgrounds.
YLS17’s theme is “Change is you”, and it was held from 30 July to 5 August 2017 at the School of Global Studies of Thammasat University in Thailand. From a pool of over 120 applications, the Summit accepted 23 youth service leaders from eight out of 10 ASEAN members states (with the exception of Singapore and Malaysia) and the United States of America.
In total, 13 project ideas were presented at the Summit, and they were developed into proposals and submitted to SEALNet in November 2017. Four promising projects were chosen as SEALNet Service Projects 2018. The YLS17’s organisers worked closely with the summit participants during the proposal preparation phase to help them articulate and present their ideas. During the execution phase of the selected projects, some SEALNet alumni continued to provide support by providing hands-on mentorship.
In January 2018, the youth leaders of the four selected projects had a three-day retreat in Bali to fine-tune their respective project plans. During the retreat, SEALNet mentors helped the project leaders refine their project plan, prepared them to take action and taught them the relevant project management skills. Through the retreat, project leaders and project mentors established a closer bond, which will benefit long-term collaborations in community leadership.
Seeing people come from different places to make something happen, I was inspired and became motivated.
Subsequent to the retreat, four SEALNet community service projects were executed from July to August 2018. Each of these projects brought together 25 – 40 students to work on innovative solutions to urgent local problems. In total, these projects benefited more than 200 community members across four countries in Southeast Asia. The projects are:
- SEALNet Project Indonesia 2018 / “Better Border, Better Future”, empowering youth in the border area of Indonesia – Malaysia to pursue higher education in Srinanti village, Nunukan, North Kalimantan, Indonesia Targeted at 5-6 graders and high school students, workshops were conducted on career goal setting, profession role play, and higher education preparation. Meanwhile, studentsgher educawere engaged and provided with information on government scholarship schemes.
- SEALNet Project Cambodia 2018 / “Less is More” a waste management project in Siem Reap, Cambodia — The project team collaborated with local partners to provide the beneficiaries with practical knowledge and training in waste management.
- SEALNet Project Philippines 2018 / “Mental Health Awareness” in Cebu, the Philippines — The project educated students on mental health and mental disorders through workshops, discussions with experts and site visits. It empowered the students to organise their own projects in their schools and communities to promote mental health in their neighbourhoods
- SEALNet Project Vietnam 2018 / “Social Emotional Learning – Mindfulness” in Hue, Vietnam — The project promoted Social Emotional Learning to improve the quality of living of young people in Vietnam. Interactive lessons and activities were designed and conducted in secondary schools and high schools in Hue.
To date, YLS has directly and indirectly produced 14 projects and 28 project leaders, and empowered over 350 youth service leaders all over the world. YLS’ programme resonates with The HEAD Foundation’s mission of investing in human capital, which will help drive the development of Asia.
“Joining SEALNet was probably my turning point. I first joined PV15-Saigon as a mentee. I never expected to have learned a lot. Everything from the project changed the way I thought. I was really bad at asking people for help. Now, I get better each time I do it. I’ve learned that I can be myself and be more honest. Seeing people come from different places to make something happen, I was inspired and became motivated. Something in my mind told me, ‘Maybe we think there are things that we can and cannot do. However, as long as you have the spirit and belief, there is always a possibility.’ After that, I decided to join SEALNet as an official member. That was the right decision.
SEALNet never fails to lift me up. This year I was selected as a participant in YLS17. A week with the people in the summit was filled with laughter, tears and cheers. Every time I work with SEALNet is like being welcomed into a cozy home. Who knows? Perhaps once you go in, there is no turning back.
SEALNet is about leadership and services. However, what goes beyond these two components are bonds, love and light. It might sound like an exaggeration; SEALNet and SEALNetters have not changed me but shaped me to grow as a better person who is supportive when my peers are down and celebrates their triumphs.”
Somalyneth Sarboeun – Cambodia
“SEALNet YLS17 definitely succeeded in delivering on two pillars—leadership and service—to participants, especially me. At first, I was sceptical whether this kind of activity can actually change me or help me grow within just one week. And I was absolutely proven wrong. I learnt so many lessons and I was astonished that I actually got to know myself much more than I thought I already did. Another good thing I received was the wonderful support from both fellow participants and mentors. I have never felt such connection before joining this summit and I’m sure YLS is the quintessential summit to be a part of.”
Alifa Shalsabilla Rizkia Qummari – Indonesia