19 Oct 2016
When I was first selected to attend the One Young World Summit, I was excited. I knew it was going to be a rare opportunity for me to meet so many like-minded youth leaders who were raring to do whatever was within our power to change the world, and I was excited as to what potential it might unlock for us. But never in my mind did I imagine what the Summit was to be!
Over the course of three short days, we heard from almost a hundred different people, each with a different story to tell. Each had a heartfelt story, driven either by desperation or compassion, yet filled with so much hope and love. One delegate speaker from Micronesia spoke about the need to combat climate change through real action because the lives of her fellow countrymen depended on it. Another shared about her impetus to start a self-defence school to teach women to protect themselves, and the real challenges she faced even in trying to do so. Each of these was a story of people who had enough of waiting for change to happen, and had taken real steps to doing something about a situation that was just not right. Hearing the stories of these people who might have been younger than me and yet have made so much more of a difference in the lives of those around them made me reflect hard on what I’ve been doing with the abundance I have been blessed with.
I too, was once a young person filled with dreams about changing the world. Two years ago, I went to Bangladesh to learn the Grameen model of microfinancing with the intention of helping the poor break out of poverty. I joined a three-week training programme and spent ten days in the village learning both the bank staff as well as the borrowers. Yet when I came back, my conclusion was simply – this cannot be done in Singapore. Singaporeans are too risk-averse to want to start small businesses; a small loan would not allow anyone to start a business; the regulations in Singapore are too stringent for this to be feasible. Perhaps it was a sign of being jaded, or perhaps it was just my unwillingness to face the obstacles which I would most certainly face in trying to replicate the model in Singapore. Whatever the reason, all the assumptions I had made that led me to my conclusion were challenged by Professor Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, sharing with us the story of how the microfinancing model was successfully replicated in a developed and first world country – America. I guess I had lost my childlike ability to imagine, to dream.
Coming back to Singapore, I was recharged with a sense of mission, a duty to love, and a passion to serve. Is it still scary to think about the things that I want to do? Of course! But as a good friend that I made in the Summit told me, “If you want to do something great, you’re going to need to not only accept, but embrace, obstacles.” So to all the naysayers and the cynics, I say, “Bring it on!”
- Guest Post from Wesley Lye, ISCA Representative at One Young World 2016
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