By TRISTAN TOH
I WILL go on a personal mission to destroy you, if she does not speak at my event tomorrow.”
That is not something you’d likely hear said to two of Hollywood’s most powerful publicists, especially coming from a 13-year old girl.
But that was exactly what Bosilika An did when the daughter of a famous celebrity decided to pull out from her promotional duty at the last minute.
“Our youth gives us the opportunity to say and do ridiculous things, and get away with it,” said the now 18-year old co-founder of The BASH, an organisation that promotes philanthropy among her peers. “In the end, she gave a speech for only five minutes and promptly left, but that was enough for me.”
More than enough in fact, as the event raised over US$150, 000 (RM459, 000) to benefit teenage patients at a hospital in Hollywood. Her efforts inspired the establishment of similar chapters in San Francisco, Orange County, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, London and Malaysia.
An was part of the line-up of presenters at the recent TEDxYouth@KL 2012 in Kuala Lumpur, a gathering of some 360 students, young professionals and entrepreneurs.
Themed Mountains Are Doable, it was the third iteration of an annual series of conferences served to showcase ordinary individuals who surpassed seemingly impossible odds.
“We as youth have the luxury of being innovative without the true sacrifices that come from failure,” she added. “We don’t have mortgages, or children whose livelihoods are dependent upon our incomes. Our lives won’t end tomorrow if we make major mistakes at 18.
“But we do have the luxury of being able to try all of our ideas, to learn from our mistakes, and to try again until we succeed.”
Su-Zen Low, whose social enterprise CultureRun offers crowd-sourced community workshops of everything from public speaking to cupcake decorating, delved into the issue of vulnerability as a strength instead of weakness.
In keeping with the high value Asian culture places on self-dependency and control, she had previously kept herself emotionally distant for fear of losing her identity.
In turn, she discovered that she has lost so much more, that of her ability to speak honestly and openly about her feelings.
“We sometimes don’t realise how much of a mask we wear, and how much of whom we are that we try to hide,” she said. “So many times we trade our reality for a role, pretending to be someone else we weren’t intended to be, reaching for skill sets and gifts that are not ours to claim.”
Low has since attempted to shed her image of iron will, though she admitted that it is an on-going struggle. Nonetheless, she has found the courage to pursue what her heart desires rather than what she thinks people expect her to be, and she is happier for it.
Art director Alex Au-Yong encouraged the largely young audience to use the gifts they have to give back to the community. In his case, the avid ultra marathon runner completed a gruelling 100km run from Putrajaya to Petaling Jaya in support of the underprivileged children at StART Society.
The campaign raised RM111,000 in donations, an accomplishment made even sweeter by the 100 volunteers and 400 fellow runners who accompanied him at various stages along the way. Au-Yong plans to do the same in the coming year, this time to collect pledges to build homes for impoverished indigenous people.
The rest of the speakers were no slouches either, with the likes of documentary photographer Puah Sze Ning, Teach For Malaysia fellow Liew Suet Li, FrogAsia director Lou Yeoh, techno-preneur Lim Cheng Soon and yoga instructor Ninie Ahmad further fuelling the discussions that followed. In between, comedian Dr Jason Leong and mentalist David Lai gave the audience a healthy dose of laughs while musical trio The Impatient Sisters belted out their unique brand of soul and pop-folk.
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