Features

Published: Sunday December 30, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday June 3, 2013 MYT 4:46:22 AM

Inspiration from you(th)

SOME people say youth is wasted on the young. Well, they obviously didn’t read these stories that appeared in R.AGE over the past year:

Wild ambition

The last time R.AGE spoke to animal conservationist Paul Henry, 27, it was the day before he flew off to some remote jungle in Borneo to study an animal species everyone had thought was extinct (details of which he isn’t at liberty to divulge).

He was to do his work without a salary, and would have to spend most of his time camping alone in the jungle, hours away from modern civilisation. The time frame for the study? Two to 10 years.

“I don’t think it’s a big commitment. I have the chance to study a species that has never been studied before!” he said back in March 2012.

Of all the wonderful stories he told us of his time working in the jungles of Malaysia, perhaps the most inspiring quote was this, when he recalled how he came to be so passionate about conservation: “Have you held a baby turtle before? Once you’ve held one in your hands, you’ll know why we do turtle conservation. That was the moment I decided to get involved.”

Rise of the YouTubers

Vlogging and posting short films on YouTube have been around for years now, but 2012 has been the year when the “YouTube-ing” phenomenon really broke out in Malaysia.

It’s almost a genre of its own now, with no real conventions or rules to it – apart from the fact that they are produced by amateur filmmakers (known as “YouTubers”) just for kicks.

Led by the dynamic duo behind JinnyBoyTV, Jin Lim and Reuben Kang, the YouTuber community has really flourished this year with others like DanKhoo Productions, Joseph Germani, GRIM FILM and The Ming Thing all starting to get huge followings on their channels.

When we interviewed some of them for a story back in April, Jin revealed the secrets to their success so far: “Most of our videos are inspired by everyday life, things that actually happened to us. You don’t need a million dollars (to produce a viral hit) – all you need is a good story people can relate to.”

Journey for charity

Who knew that risking your life, trippin’ across India and shaving your head could help you raise nearly RM50,000 for charity? Well, freelance photographer Geh Chee Minh did.

The 28-year-old organised two simple yet inspired charity projects, proving that anything is possible for this generation of enterprising, digital media-savvy Malaysian youth.

Armed with clever social media marketing and his camera, Geh set out on “The Rickshaw Run” (a 3,500km tuk-tuk adventure across India) with two friends from Singapore. Their photos, publicity materials and social media updates raised over RM25,000.

He also organised “Making The Cut”, where he again used social media to drum up support for a cause close to his heart – cancer.

Geh shaved his waist-long hair (which he’s had for about 10 years) for the campaign, earning RM22,000 for the Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF).

Olympic glory

The youth of Malaysia really couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring champion than Pandelela Rinong. R.AGE was able to score a few precious interview minutes with the Olympic bronze medallist the week after she returned from London, and it was an absolute pleasure.

Not only was she incredibly down-to-earth, but she also had a really wicked – and very Malaysian – sense of humour.

But when she wasn’t messing around or doing the Gangnam Style dance, she had some pretty inspiring words to share.

“Even if you have just a one per cent chance, that one per cent could decide whether you win or lose in life. Agi idup agi ngelaban,” said the Bidayuh lass in Iban. “It means as long as you’re alive, you can still fight.”

Overcoming depression

In September, R.AGE spoke to Jasmine Chua, 25, who opened up about her struggles with depression as a child.

Chua turned to binge-eating and self-harm all before the age of 10, and could not get herself to open up to anyone. She even said she felt “proud” for being able to hide her problems from her parents. When she entered university, Chua finally sought help from a clinical psychologist. The road to overcoming depression was rocky, but Chua eventually recovered. “I realised that ‘normal’ doesn’t mean an absence of bad days, but it means getting on with life despite the circumstances. Right now, I can enjoy the people around me, do the things I enjoy, and lift up those who are in need. That’s recovery.”

These days, Chua helps youth struggling with depression by writing stories for StarTwo detailing her own road to recovery.

“The purpose of me writing is to let people know that it’s okay to talk about depression,” she said.

Success with shorts

It has been quite a year for Quek Shio Chuan, 26. The filmmaker has spent the past year going to various international film festivals collecting accolades for his BMW Shorties-winning entry, Guang.

Most recently in September, Guang was named “Best Short Film” at the prestigious Alto Vicentino Film Festival in Santorso, Italy. He also made history by being the first Asian to win at the festival.

Guang had also received awards at the 4th Who Likes Short Shorts? Film Fesitval in the United States and the 10th In The Palace Film Festival in Bulgaria.

Quek said Guang is a short film inspired by a subject that is very much close to home. “The film is loosely based on my older brother who is autistic. I wanted the audience to see what living with autism is really like and hopefully, they’ll have more of an awareness about it.”

Sheltering the future - December 2012

In 2010, Che Rozi Azrul Che Aziz attended a reunion at the orphanage he grew up in as a child. Only five others turned up.

What Azrul found out after that reunion was even more disturbing – only a handful of those who had left the orphanage had “made it”. The rest were all struggling to either find decent jobs or integrate themselves into society.

With the support of the Welfare Department, Azrul, now 27, set up JKEB Malaysia, a network providing support for young people who used to live in shelter homes.

Those who sign up as members with JKEB receive access to a private Facebook group, where they can get information on training programmes and counselling sessions.

“A lot of them utilise the Facebook group to vent their frustrations, or provide each other moral support during tough times. It has become a support group for people like us.”

Giving back

Three years ago, Ezra Mohd Akbar, 24, gave up a lucrative career as an IT programmer to devote himself completely to fighting the HIV/AIDS scourge.

In an interview for R.AGE’s 2012 World AIDS Day pullout, the HIV/AIDS advocate said he hopes to reduce the stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV (PLHIV), as well as empowering the PLHIV themselves.

“It takes two to tango. If we’re only focusing on PLHIV, they might feel empowered but the community might not be able to accept them, so we have to engage both parties,” he said.

The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day was “Getting to Zero” – getting to zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths in the future.

Their vision might sound unrealistic to some, but Ezra is confident that with all the programmes and campaigns by the government, NGOs and even young people themselves, it is not impossible to “get to zero”.

“We might take a very long time to reach that level. It requires a lot of hard work, but why should we stop when it starts to get harder? The point is getting there.”

Pitching in

Professional dancer Samantha Tan, 27, was the focus of a story in R.AGE about crowd-funding.

The talented Tan had been accepted to the prestigious Actors Studio Drama School in New York, United States; but unfortunately, she didn’t even have the money to buy her plane ticket, let alone pay for the three-year course.

That’s when Tan decided to start her own crowd-funding website, a relatively new trend where someone asks the public for “donations”. Of course, you have to make a compelling case for yourself (or even offer something in return, say a free CD after you successfully crowd-fund your debut album) to get people to donate.

Tan’s crowd-funding efforts, along with money from her online bake sales, helped her achieve her dream of studying at the Actors Studio. She would go on to perform at the London 2012 Olympics.

“I cannot tell you how unbelievably touched I still am with all the support I received. Even those that could not give money played such a huge and crucial role in spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter. It is incredibly heartening to know that so many people believed in what I was doing.”

Staying on top

While it takes a lot of effort to get to the top, it takes even more determination to stay there. That is the biggest lesson the Cyrens learned throughout their Cheer 2012 experience.

The cheerleading team from SM Sri Kuala Lumpur in Subang Jaya, Selangor, were under tremendous pressure to maintain their winning streak at the national inter-school cheerleading competition this year.

They were already Cheer 2010 and Cheer 2011 champions, and even created history when their sister team the Rayvens won second place last year – making them the first school to occupy the top two positions.

“We really wanted to win the trophy three times in a row. Everybody was motivating us to do better and to keep up our good work. It’s not easy to stay on top,” said Cyrens 2012 captain Amanda Lim, 17.

The girls practised for over 10 months, working on their tough routine and polishing their performance along the way. It was hard work, but the girls won the competition this year with a near-perfect routine, establishing themselves as one of the greatest Cheer teams in the history of the competition.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Youth, Yearender R.AGE Inspiring

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