Gen Y are proving that they are anything but self-centred. In conjunction with the United Nation's upcoming International Youth Day celebration, Sunday Star speaks to young Malaysians about going out into their communities to make a difference.
ARE our technology-savvy Gen-Y getting too obsessed with the social media and showing less concern for their surroundings?
Not true, says Sarawakian youth Awang Muhamad Nasuha Awang Nazarudin.
“We want to be involved in the communities we belong to and help make the world a better place too, and social media creates the best platform for these projects,” the 23-year-old quips.
When Awang started a Twitter and YouTube-driven project called “Kultur Estrada Pop-Up Gig 2014” to promote cash-strapped local talents, it made him realise the hardship they go through to get people to listen to their songs.
“This gave me the idea for a new way of organising ‘pop-up gigs’ or mini concerts that can be held anywhere, and at any time,” he shares.
Having previously been part of Universiti Teknologi Petronas’ social enterprise projects, he witnessed first-hand how poor households benefited by learning to create small businesses from volunteers like himself.
“There’s no racial segregation in volunteer projects. And it’s a great way to meet new people,” he enthuses.
Teoh Chon Giap, 21, from Petaling Jaya, agrees. “I’ve met many Gen-Y volunteers and hope more will join in the fun.”
Having organised visits to the needy and underprivileged, blood donation drives, recycling projects and scouting activities, he lends a hand whenever possible.
Volunteering has widened his perspective and made him more understanding and disciplined, says Teoh, naming last year’s youth-empowering TEDxYouth@KL project as a major achievement.
“An important lesson I’ve learnt through volunteering is that for us to receive joy and self-fulfilment, we must first give with a genuine heart.”
He feels that the negative perception of youngsters today being more interested in themselves rather than helping others is unfair.
“Parents, mentors, academic and religious teachers all play a role in encouraging the young to volunteer.”
Teoh also believes strongly that volunteerism is one of the most effective ways to address racism.
“When you have a group of people with a common vision and passion to benefit others, they connect and bond better.
“Working with different races has never hindered me. It’s fun learning about each other’s culture,” he says.
Nor Hidayah Muhd Asri relies on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to run the “Telekung People” project, which focuses on keeping mosques, and the telekung (prayer attire) there, clean.
“Sometimes we don’t realise that God has given us more than others so that we can share our blessings. I’ve learned to help without expecting anything back and not give up even when criticised,” the 22-year-old from Muar, Johor, shares.
“Through ‘Telekung People’, we explain to curious non-Muslims why cleanliness is so important to us. This encourages better understanding among the races.”
To Mohamad Hanafie Kari, 23, from Kemaman, Terengganu, voluntary work is about motivating people to love the less fortunate.
“We share what little we have to make others happy. When you help someone, they feel good but you’ll feel even better,” he says.
Describing community work as “life-changing”, he volunteers at an orphanage because it makes his life complete.
Mohamad Hanafie, however, feels that young Malaysians are not as keen on volunteering as their counterparts in other countries.
When asked to help, they will ask whether food, transportation or t-shirts are provided. Some even want to know if their good deeds will be highlighted in the newspapers, he laments.
Expressing his admiration for the “strong caring spirit” of Japanese youths, he shares his experience at a volunteer camp in Kyojima, Tokyo, last year.
“My friend Shuun worked part-time so that he could earn enough to join the camp and help his community. Like him, the other Japanese youths never complained about working hard under the scorching sun.
“There is another young man who even saves his allowance to donate it to the poor. It’s very different here,” he sighs.
And Mohamad Hanafie definitely knows what he’s talking about. A year ago, he struggled to find volunteers for the “Green Grow Project by Vgseeds”, a programme he initiated to get kids to eat and grow their favourite vegetables while promoting a greener environment.
He visited orphanages weekly to help monitor the crops, conduct seminars and spend time with the children there.
Having helped his mother tend to their backyard crops, the agrotechnology student tried to rally coursemates to teach orphans in Kuala Terengganu simple planting methods.
The harvested vegetables were either sold or cooked, indirectly saving the homes operational costs.
“At first, my friends laughed at the ‘kampung idea’ but it didn’t break my spirit.
“I always say: if you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. Slowly, when they saw the result of the project, my friends started coming to the orphanages with me,” he shares.
The Universiti Malaysia Terengganu graduate treasures his bond with the orphans and seeing the hope and happiness in their eyes makes it all worthwhile, he says.
“These kids inspire me. What I’ve learnt from them no textbook or school could ever teach.”
Unity is not just the government's job
Drawing them in through social media