Today marks the completion of my 6-week journey in the US.
Dreams do come true. I've always been attracted to America. I recall obsessively reading the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama. Before I sleep, I would (still) watch aggressive progressive TV show The Young Turks. I remember dreaming about Washington, DC after every episode of House Of Cards and here I am.
The fellowship is about understanding "Governance and Society" in the US. As a political science major and geek, this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! We visited various institutions and met with lawmakers, business leaders and community organisers.
But there are a number of Americans who fundamentally changed my perception of the US. The people in Minnesota showed the true definition of Minnesota Nice - and I'd like to thank:
Kevin Winge - My kind and generous host who took me into YouthCARE when you knew it would be difficult. You taught me how to treat people the way you want to be treated regardless of their background. You and your husband Kevin (Kevin²) inspire me.
Mike Opat - Thank you for being our de facto host in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From the incinerator visit to the unforgettable baseball game, you gave us a 5-star treatment in Minneapolis and we can't thank you enough. I've learned so much from seeing you in action. You and Kim are the best!
Lisa Goodman - You and Sadie gave such a warm welcome you to your home. Your hospitality challenged what many Malaysians think of Jewish people. I will forever cherish the neighbourhood garage sale and the beautiful dinner by Kim W. Havey and Mike.
Brenda Elmer - Thank you for opening your doors to your family and treating us as one of your own; your hospitality is legendary and I hope you come down to Malaysia one day!
Kou Xiong - Thank you for showing me and Heng the other side of Minneapolis and Minnesota. I have a newfound deep appreciation for Hmong culture. It was fun hanging out with you and Britney.
To American Council of Young Political Leaders(ACYPL) who made this fellowship happen:
Kaylee Boalt - You are a superstar. From the day you emailed us the offer for the fellowship to the last time you sent us to the airport, you've always had a smile on your face. Your optimism and warmth made our experience in the US worth it. Thank you for putting in the long hours and putting up with our whims and fancies. We learned more about leadership from you as you put it into action.
Pete DeAnna - You are such a cool cat. Thank you for picking us from the airport on our first day. I truly enjoy our frank conversations on US, politics and life. Thank you for bringing us around in DC! I'm sorry my Southern accent is not up to mark but will work on it once I crack a cold one with the boys when I get home.
Elliot Bell-Krasner - Your intelligence and insights are legendary. I remember you answering my burning questions on the role of the US President as the Commander-in-chief. Your passion for politics inspires and excites me every time we talk.
Many thanks to the ACYPL staff for welcoming us and organising the well-run Congress.
To #ProFellows, these 6 weeks with you have been the best. Though we come from different countries, I've always enjoyed our time together. We came to the US as fellows and we leave the US as companions. To my Team Minneapolis homies Tan Kim Heng, Soe Sandy, Ric Nanthaphon - it has been a wonderful 4 weeks with you.
Coming here was not easy, having to leave my beloved wife Dayang Anne behind for 6 weeks. Not being by her side as she goes through a rough patch, especially recovering from a surgery. Thank you for allowing me to go on this trip, sayang. It wouldn't have been possible without my extremely supportive parents - Mohzani Wahab and mum. Thank you for everything. Not forgetting comrade Pradeeban Letsumanasingam who held the fort in the office; thank you Johnathan, Hazel and Ashran for approving the longest leave of my life.
For all the people I missed out, sorry but thank you for making this trip truly an amazing one!
Grateful to be selected for American Council of Young Political Leaders(ACYPL) Professional Fellowship Program (PFP) this spring for 6 weeks in the US.
I've always wanted to learn about America's political system. I distinctively remember being inspired by Barack Obama's campaign in 2008 as an 18-year impressionable young person. I recall obsessively watching the progressive The Young Turks show on YouTube for opinions on political affairs. More recently, I was captivated by Frank Underwood's shadowy manoeuvring in the nation's capital to become president in the House of Cards.
And here I am...
Looking forward to learning about civic engagement -- how everyday American citizens engage in the political process to champion their issues and shape policy. I'm even more fortunate to be placed in #Minnesota - a state known for their active citizenry. Minnesotans are known for their record-breaking high voter turnout election after election. Looking forward to learning from and sharing with my host YouthCARE in Minneapolis. I already have a preview of America's vibrant NGO and entrepreneurship scene and I'm excited to bring back what I learn to Malaysia.
Thanks, Kaylee Boalt, Pete DeAnna and Elliot Bell-Krasner from ACYPL for making this happen. Thanks, U.S. Department of State for funding this program. Thanks, fellow Fellows - excited for the next 6 weeks! Let's do this!
Follow my American adventure on my Twitter - @Zaim90
#ACYPL #YSEALI #ProFellows #ExchangeOurWorld
I read with great interest an article on #ForwardTogether by the Organisation for National Empowerment (ONE). I wholeheartedly agree with their call for the electorate to “vote for a party which you believe can take us ahead.” At a time of uncertainty, there is a need to understand the civic deficit involving young people, its consequences, and what we can do to address it.
Civic crisis among young people in Malaysia
The controversy surrounding the #UndiRosak movement is a reflection of the civic health in Malaysia. Young Malaysians are increasingly frustrated about the excessive political bickering among politicians from both sides of the divide while others have been turned off by politics. A recent Merdeka Centre poll commissioned by Watan (youth voter registration NGO) found 71% of young voters felt they have no influence on government. It is no surprise, then, that 65% of all unregistered voters are between 21 and 30 years old — a whopping 2.5 million. While I respect the proponents of #UndiRosak and their legitimate grievances, I disagree with their approach. Spoiling one’s vote, even to send a message to the politicians, is ineffective.
Lack of youth participation and vicious cycle of neglect
The reality is politicians respond to voters. When young people are disillusioned, they stay out of the political process. As a result, they don’t vote in elections in large numbers (or if they do, they spoil their votes). In turn, political parties make little effort to engage young people as there is little incentive to gain their votes. This creates a vicious cycle of neglect of young people. The consequences can be detrimental for the youth. In the United States, only half of the young eligible electorate participated in the last presidential election, culminating in the rise of President Donald Trump. In the Brexit referendum, close to half of young British voters chose to stay at home. In extreme cases, political parties have discounted young people altogether. In the Netherlands, the 50PLUS party caters solely to pensioners and doubled their votes and representatives recently due to the lack of youth participation. Young voters cannot afford to risk our country’s future as we will be living in it, not our older counterparts.
The young can make a difference through the ballot box
We should not underestimate our power as young voters because we have the numbers. In the last general election, it was estimated that first-time voters (including yours truly) made up one-fifth of the 13.3 million eligible voters. The young are a powerful voting bloc, and we can influence the outcome of the election. Our collective power can pressure politicians from both sides to address youth issues such as affordable housing, cost of living, and career opportunities. It is easy for us to feel detached and confused from the national political discourse, dominated by old personalities. Therefore, during the election, it is crucial that we focus on our local community. Personally, I make a decision between the competing candidates based on their personality and track record, not their political parties. It is crucial we carefully select our state assemblyperson (ADUN) and member of parliament (MP) for they will be responsible for our community. Whoever it is, when you are at the ballot box, make a decision — don’t waste it.
Despite the pessimism towards politics, we must remember our actions will have repercussions on our generation and future generations. Our country may not be a perfect democracy but it works. We have the room and space to make a difference as citizens. At times of uncertainty, we can appreciate responsible and balanced calls such as from ONE on #ForwardTogether for voters to make objective and well-informed decisions. In the words of American feminist Gloria Steinem, “Voting isn’t the most we can do. But it is the least.”
You can find this article on Free Malaysia Today at http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/02/24/moving-malaysia-forwardtogether/
New year, new idea!
Your favourite school, Nation Building School is back with an initiative to help unemployed youth!
Over 55,000 young graduates in Malaysia are unemployed due to many reasons -- skills mismatch, poor command of English, lack of working experience.
We plan to do something about this stubbornly high youth unemployment!
NBS is launching #CareerClinic to help 200 unemployed university graduates through 6 series of workshops in 6 locations in Klang Valley this year!
We can't do this alone. We need your help!
Here's how you can help our project in our 1st phase:
1. Sign up at Actyvate Malaysia (crowd-pledging platform) at http://actyvate.my
2. Go to our project page and LIKE it at http://actyvate.my/project/career-clinic
Let's do something for our fellow young Malaysians! Thank you in advance!
We came, we saw, we became All-Star on LinkedIn!
Thus far, 10 of the 50 attendants have attained All-Star rating on LinkedIn starting from scratch at Beginner. The majority are Intermediate and will soon be All-Star.
With All-Star rating, you’re 40x more likely to receive opportunities on LinkedIn. I was surprised not many are familiar with LinkedIn which is pretty much Facebook for professionals.
We had this workshop on Monday 27 Nov in Department of Geology, University of Malaya.
Thank you my Guru Yaya Norazman, American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) University of Malaya Student Chapter and Science Society University of Malaya.
Here's my deck on for your enjoyment:
I had the honour of speaking at the 15th IAVE Asia Pacific Regional Volunteer Conference (IAVEAP) 2017 by Yayasan Salam and the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE). IAVEAP was held from 22nd to 26th November 2017 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. It was divided into two events: Asia Pacific Regional Volunteer Conference and Asia Pacific Youth Volunteer Conference. I was invited to speak at the latter.
Yayasan Salam wanted me to speak at the panel on Technology and Social Innovation. I decided to talk about gamification in volunteerism.
You can find my presentation slides as follows:
Last Saturday, 18th November 2017, the Deputy Prime Minister YAB Dato' Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi officiated the Actyvate at iM4U Sentral in Puchong, Malaysia. I'm extremely grateful to be selected as one of the 12 Actyvators for Actyvate - a game-changer for young Malaysians!
#ActyvateMY gives you the chance to turn your ideas into projects. It is a crowdpledging platform for any youth to start a project or support one.
With this platform, it gives you a step-by-step guide on HOW to start a project. Something I wish I had when I started this journey 7 years ago.
Actyvate helps you with:
1. Framing your idea for the community (ideation)
2. Getting your idea supported by the community (validation)
3. Raising funds from the community (crowdfunding)
4. Start your community project (action)
5. Tell your supporters on your project's progress
Actyvate is all about the community.
What's even better is the institutional backing by key youth organisations such as 1Malaysia For Youth (iM4U), Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), Ministry of Youth and Sports (KBS), Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), Malaysian Youth Council (MBM), National Service Training Department (JLKN) and Ministry of Finance (MoF).
It doesn't get any realer than this. This is a game-changer.
I've started a project to help upskill unemployed youth with Nation Building School.
What's your idea? Or if you don't have one yet, check the projects on activate.my and support them!
Sign up on Actyvate.my and actyvate your dreams!!!
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank MaGIC CEO Ashran Dato' Ghazi and iM4U CEO Rudy Malik for placing your faith in me. I am truly humbled and honoured. I would like to thank all the 11 Actyvators for welcoming us into your fold. Our work has only began, and I'm already excited to actyvate as many young Malaysians as possible!
Me being an Actyvator wouldn't have been possible without the Nation Building School team, especially Marques Jeevan, Pixie Fee, Nafis Nazri, Marcus Lim, Dzulhilmy Mohammad. Let's change the world!
I'm happy to announce I'll be part of Actyvate Malaysia - a national platform to support youth initiatives through collective power.
Prime Minister Najib Razak will be launching Actyvate this Saturday 18 Nov 5ppm-11pm at iM4U Sentral. Do come if you're free!
I genuinely believe this is going to be a game-changer for us young people to support community projects and in turn, be supported for ours. It'll be a platform for us to share ideas and collaborate with youths all across the country. With a number of youth organisations involved, we can turn this into a youth movement.
Nation Building School is excited to contribute to this platform!
Ripples of small changes makes a might blue ocean!
Kudos to Rudy Malik (CEO, 1Malaysia For Youth) & Ashran Ghazi (CEO, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre) for wholeheartedly turning this into a reality. Many thanks to National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS), Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), National Service Training Department (JLKN) and Malaysian Youth Council (MBM) for joining forces to drive #ActyvateMY.
To know more about Actyvate, please visit http://actyvate.my/.
10th International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF)
I was invited by the organiser of the International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF) to moderate one of their 3 main forums during the 10th KLEFF last week! I've been following KLEFF for many years now. It's a pleasant surprise to be involved in it!
The youth forum was a unique one for me. It consisted of 6 speakers of diverse backgrounds and lasted for 4 hours!
The forum's theme was “Youth for Leadership in Sustainable Development Goals Forum.”
The speakers were