29 Oct 2018
OYW is a global platform for young leaders to connect and be empowered to lead the world to a better future. Each one of us is making or have the desire to make a positive impact in the society. This platform allows us to learn from one another’s experiences and ask ourselves “What more can I do to make this world a better place?”. It may be the big names that got us to this event but it is the small names that spark off something special. Times are changing. We now have the ability to make our views heard and our opinions count.
At World Forum The Hague, where speeches, plenary sessions, workshops and exhibitions were held.
One of the key highlights of OYW is the Opening Ceremony. This was held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, a historic place symbolizing peace and justice. It was an honour to have Queen Maxima of The Netherlands and Mayor Pauline Krikke of The Hague present to grace the event. The most memorable moment was the Flag Bearing Ceremony where delegates from 193 countries proudly waved their country’s flag. The crowd cheered in unison when delegates from North and South Korea joined hands while waving their nation’s flag. This reminded us to put aside our differences and come together as one. As together, we are stronger.
At Peace Palace in The Hague for OYW Opening Ceremony, with fellow Singapore delegates.
Another key highlight for me was the Community Dinner. Delegates were split up into 32 groups, each assigned to a different organization and dinner location. I was assigned to Resto VanHarte, an organization aimed at combating social isolation and promoting quality of life in the neighbourhood. By providing healthy and affordable dinner in a school or community center, with the help of volunteers and donors. Some of these volunteers were children. Besides having the opportunity to connect with other delegates over good food and music, I met a local resident and a dear friend named Add Flipse – an old man who was physically challenged and was hard of hearing. We had a warm conversation and he absolutely enjoyed himself. So did I. It was such a heart-warming and meaningful experience. Looking back, it only takes a simple action like enjoying a meal together to contribute to social inclusion.
Community Dinner at Resto VanHarte, with fellow delegates and a local resident.
If there is one thing in common among all the speakers, it is to have a voice. To hold firmly to their beliefs and stand up for what is right. Often in our daily lives and at work, we may choose to remain silent when faced with unjust situations. Either because of self-doubt or we simply want to avoid confrontation. However, silence breeds unjust behavior. I pledge to stand up for what I believe in. To speak up and call out unethical behavior, even if the stance may at times be unpopular. And to hold my family, friends, colleagues and managers to the same level of ethical standard.
Personally, I was deeply inspired by Rakesh Kapoor (CEO of RB) who shared the “More than a toilet” campaign. Before the session, it was announced that toilets at the summit will not be available for use. It immediately caught our attention. I later found out that 1 in 3 people around the world do not have access to a toilet. Rakesh Kapoor went on to highlight that not having access to a toilet can have alarming effects on people’s health, safety and education. Nearly 1 million people are killed by water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases each year. Women living without the access to a toilet are twice as likely to experience sexual violence when defecating in the open. And children can spend hours each day find a place to go when that time can be spent at school. I began to realize how much I have taken basic sanitation for granted and learnt to appreciate the importance a basic necessity such as toilets can have in our lives.
Rakesh Kapoor (CEO of RB) sharing the story of a woman in India living without the access to a toilet.
My message for today’s youths is to be a changemaker. Challenge the status quo and be willing to take risks. The world will not be a better place if we keep doing things the same way. This takes courage. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
The most important learning that OYW has shown me is the power of connectedness. In such a global platform with like-minded young leaders gathered together, the energy is extraordinary and anything is achievable. As Kofi Annan once said, “Alone you can go fast. Together you can go far.” Each one of us may be doing something small in our own community but together, these efforts add up and go a long way in making this world a much better place to live in.
Together with CAW delegates from all around the world.
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