By ANGELIN YEOH
IF you’re looking to strive for change and you’re not too sure where to start, then you might want to head to TEDxYouth@KL.
Inspired by a non-profit organization devoted to its motto of finding “Ideas Worth Spreading”, TED began as a four-day conference in California, USA.
In the 25 years since then, the organization has grown to support and make compelling ideas happen through a number of initiatives.
TEDxYouth@KL is aimed at bringing people together to share a TED-like experience.
The independently-organised program will feature TEDTalks videos and several prominent young personalities as live speakers. Furthermore, these elements will be combined to create a platform for discourse and a strong network for like-minded people.
Freelance documentary photographer Puah Sze Ning will be one of the presenters at the event and she will be talking about her experience with the indigenous rights movement.
“I’m very honoured to be invited as a speaker, though I feel quite nervous to speak on stage,” she said.
Puah began advocating the rights of marginalised communities during her internship with the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC).
“I found out that one of the biggest problems faced by indigenous people is the lack of recognition for their rights, particularly land rights as more and more of their ancestral land is being taken and encroached upon without their consent.”
One of the ways Puah advocates her cause is through a unique online venture called Elevyn (pronounced ‘eleven’). In 2008, along with friends Mike Tee and Devan Singaram, she co-founded an online retail website that gives artisans from marginalised communities the opportunity to sell their products to a wider market.
It is not too difficult to get people to be aware of a cause. However, according to Puah, the challenge in advocating a cause is getting people to figure out how they can help.
“Everyone should understand the cause they’re interested in before jumping into it. A lot of times, people try to help without fully understanding the situation and end up giving short term handouts.”
Puah added that merely donating items like cash and food to a certain cause “can create bigger problems in the long run”.
School teacher Liew Suet Li will be joining Puah at TEDxYouth@KL. Liew graduated from a prestigious women’s liberal arts college in Massachusetts, the United States.
In 2011, she decided that after her graduation she would come back to Malaysia and join the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship programme. Liew, for one, is passionate about making a change in the country’s education system.
“I wanted to teach because I’m tired of constantly discussing about the issues of the education system without really knowing the problems. I wanted to be on the ground, experiencing the problems myself and be a practical part of the solution,” she said.
Liew admitted it was not an easy decision to make. Her parents were not particurlarly fond of the idea of their daughter giving up high-paying job prospects in the US, to become a government school teacher.
“(My parents’ reaction) was understandable, since I had no idea what I was getting myself into; plus there was a lot at stake.”
The affable Liew is a now a teacher at a rural secondary school in Negeri Sembilan where she teaches English, Physical Education and Art.
“It has been a very eye-opening experience. I chose the most rural school in the list because I wanted something out of my comfort zone and it is really different from what I’m used to.” She added that teaching in a tight-knitted community is “both challenging and comforting at the same time.”
At TEDxYouth@KL, Liew is excited to talk about her experience as a teacher, and the challenges she faces in her career.
“I will also highlight a few issues on the literacy rate especially for kids in my school. It’s a personal topic that I think will be quite enlightening especially for the younger generation.”
She is also determined to inspire more people to be a part of the solution.
“I just want people to know the situation on the ground for many young students in the country. Most importantly, I hope they will be inspired to do something in their own capacity to contribute to the nation as well.”
The event will also feature yoga instructor Ninie Ahmad, marathon runner and charity campaign organizer Alex Au-Yong, director of FrogAsia Lou Yeoh and tech entrepreneur Lim Cheng Soon as the other presenters. Participants can also look forward to performances by mentalist David Lai, indie music darlings The Impatient Sisters and comedian Dr Jason Leong.