What does a former beauty queen, a lecturer, an activist, a singer-songwriter and an entrepreneur have in common?

They are all passionate about the work that they do, and they shared their experiences at the TEDxYouth@KL conference, held recently in Kuala Lumpur.

TEDx (technology, entertainment and design) are independently-organised conferences by local communities across the world. While TEDxYouth maintain the same ideas and beliefs of TEDx, they are hosted by and for young people.

Themed “We Have A Dream”, TEDxYouth@KL drew an enthusiastic crowd last weekend who came to listen to the speakers share their extraordinary experiences.

The event brought participants together with industry players, youth leaders, social media influencers and other interesting personalities.

This year’s list of presenters proved to be no slouches. True to TED’s nature of sparking deep discussions among participants, the talks got off to a rousing start with Teach For Malaysia founder Keeran Sivarajah expounding upon his organisation’s mission to end education inequity.

Deborah Henry (left) explaining her refugee school idea to interested participants.

This was sparked by a childhood memory where he encountered a boy begging for money on the streets of Chennai in India. The notion that a person’s origins and circumstances determines one’s life, left a lasting impression on Keeran.

“All of us may not have equal talent, but all of us deserve equal opportunities to develop our talents,” he said.

Willie Poh, a lecturer at Multimedia Universiy Cyberjaya, was also present to engage the audience.

Criticising the local education system for encouraging rote memorisation, he called for larger emphasis on student participation and critical thinking.
Willie made effective use of the example of the controversy surrounding the teaching of Maths and Science in English, where it is often the adults’ voices that are heard instead of the students’ themselves.

Pang Khee Teik, one of the organisers behind the banned Seksualiti Merdeka festival, was also one of the speakers.

“The limit to my freedom is when I try to limit yours, and the limit to your freedom is when you try to limit mine,” said Khee Teik, explaining that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community merely wants the right to exist as equal members of society.

He also talked about how people should conquer their fear of the unknown and to break the cycle of hate.

Another notable speaker was Deborah Henry. The Miss Universe Malaysia 2011 gave participants a glimpse into the lives of Somalian refugees in the country.

Describing them as Malaysia’s “invisible people”, she argued that it is far better to have them learn and develop valuable skillsets during their stay here than being repatriated without gaining anything.

Deborah achieves this via her refugee school which organises youth growth initatives such as sports, workshops and tuition.

Other presenters include Groupon Malaysia CEO Joel Neoh who talked about his journey to success, aspiring car designer James Yap, Filipino activist Anna Karina Jardin and award-winning musician Reza Salleh.

Keeran Sivarajah at the TEDX Youth @KL

There is more to TEDxYouth@KL than just its presenters. It is also a platform for participants to network with like-minded peers and discuss possible opportunities for future collaboration.

It was impossible to move around the waiting lounge at the venue without stumbling into an exchange of contact cards and impromptu business meetings.

Overall, TEDxYouth@KL was quite a success, although there were some grouses among attendees.

One of the complaints was that a few of the presenters did not prepare their speeches. This made for some awkward moments where they struggled to create points of discussion in order to reach the 18-minute time limit.

Let’s hope the organisers of TEDxYouth@KL will take this into account and present better perspectives and content at future events.

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