Participants climbing Gunung Batu, which is about 30m high, for Geotour.
Jesse Angelo Altez (right) and Ahmad Afiq Md Hashim

THIS year sees Asean celebrating its 50th anniversary. It is thus timely to think about the future of the region and about what lies ahead.

Essentially, youth will play an important role in Asean’s future. The 630 million citizens of Asean are young, and having a growing population creates a golden moment in a country’s development journey, promising a powerful demographic dividend.

The Asean Youth Volunteer Programme (AYVP), developed and implemented by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), is a great platform to drive youth volunteerism and community development among working professionals and young people aged between 18 and 30 years from higher education institutions, and youth and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from around the region.

UKM’s University Community Transformation Centre (UCTC) director Associate Professor Datuk Dr Rokiah Omar said: “AYVP’s involvement and achievements in volunteerism and community engagement is now recognised by the Asean Secretariat where AYVP is part of the Asean Work Plan on Youth 2016 - 2020, with emphasis on Sub-goal 4: Strengthen youth involvement and participation in building an Asean Community through volunteerism opportunities and leadership programmes.”

Entering into its fifth year, UKM joined forces with Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) to host the 5th AYVP this year, with the theme “The Development of Asean Youth DRR (disaster risk reduction) Leaders through Volunteerism and Community Engagement.”

Dubbed AYVP Indonesia 2017 which was launched on Aug 1, the programme will be ongoing until Aug 26.

It is supported by the Asean Secretariat, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Malaysia, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Fifty youth volunteers from 10 Asean countries, including 11 participants from Malaysia, are on a four-week knowledge-driven, volunteerism journey with week one and four taking place at the ITB while week two and three engaging with local communities implementing DRR activities in Bandung.

AYVP programme coordinator Alyssa Liew Y.R., 31, said participants first learn about what it means to be an Asean youth, a leader and a volunteer at the same time.

She said they also learn about the best practices of building resilience to disaster in the community.

“With this knowledge, they go to the field in week two and three to understand the needs of the communities of Lembang Village and Cigadung Urban Village, devise an action plan and carry out the plan with the communities.

“In the final week, they learn about how to run their own community project in their own country and bid for the AYVP seed grant to fund their project,” she added.

To inspire them even more, successful proposals will be awarded seed grants with a maximum value of US$2,000 (RM8,600).

UKM as the permanent secretariat received 1,851 online applications this year from all over Asean.

AYVP 2017 facilitator Rifa Khaerunnisa from Indonesia, who is one of 10 facilitators at the programme, said: “Participants attended a series of talks by distinguished speakers from Asean agencies and NGOs on the opening day of the programme recently.

“The speakers are experts in the fields of DRR, leadership and volunteerism, and humanitarian response, among others.

Rifa, who recently graduated from the Biological Science Department of ITB, has been involved in various social services since 2010 including DRR Management (DRRM) efforts in the local communities.

Her interests in DRRM led her to take part and won the national-level competition on disaster education in 2012.

Second year PhD student in Build Environment Iffah Farhana Abu Talib, 30, from Universiti Teknologi MARA, said her participation in AYVP Indonesia 2017 has been an eye-opener so far.

“This is the avenue where I get to gain knowledge and share ideas among participants from Asean countries.

“This is a is a golden opportunity for me because for the past two years I have been doing my research based solely on our Malaysian context. I hope from this programme, I will be able to have different views and ideas on disaster management which is quite a similar topic for my own research.”

Iffah Farhana found out about the programme via social media. She decided to apply because the subject matter is close to her heart.

She was selected after going through two stages of phone interviews and sending out details of herself.

“I believe each country have their different ways of tackling the issue on disaster so the best way to rectify the problem is to learn from each other in a more effective manner.”

Iffah Farhana is not a stranger when it comes to volunteerism as she has been volunteering in non-governmental organisations such as Mercy Malaysia and a school preparedness programme back home in Malaysia last year.

“It is important to create awareness among schoolchildren that when they go home, they will tell their parents and siblings on the importance of disaster literacy,” she added.

For Jesse Angelo Altez, 28, a lecturer at Mindanao State University in the Philippines, he hopes to learn from fellow Asean communities and gain a better understanding of events across the region.

“Together with my countrymen in this programme, we can apply what we have learnt in the Philippines and tell the story of our own especially in Mindanao, apart from sharing cultures and identities among the participants.

“I can’t wait to learn from the Indonesian counterpart on how they cope with the disaster and observe their social network for updates,” said Altez.

He also said building networks via social media is more engaging since everything is moving into digitalisation.

“And being able to participate in this programme and be part of other Asean communities allow us to bring back the knowledge in our home country,” he said.

For Ahmad Afiq Md Hashim, 23, a final-year student in Media Communication from UKM, youth volunteerism should be widely encouraged among younger generation to teach them about sincerity and humanity.

“It teaches us a huge level of confidence and creates the sense of responsibility that not everyone is living in a comfortable life. They may be unfortunate or underprivileged and these are the people that we should reach out to,” he said.

Ahmad Afiq is planning to maximise his month-long stay for the AYVP Indonesia to learn as much as possible on disaster risk reduction. He said as Asean countries, they are not seen separately but collectively when combating the natural disaster.

“It is true that each country has its own method of curbing the issues but we could also learn from one another. I will share my experience here through pictures and videos during class activities and community engagement as much as I can via my social media,” said Ahmad Afiq.

Rizky Muhammad Iqbal, 24, from University of Syiah Kuala in Acheh, said: “I think this programme will allow me to network and get some ideas on how to handle disaster risk reduction issues with the rest of the participants.

“Maybe after the programme, I will send out a proposal to conduct a joint project in every region. This programme will give me the platform to bond with them and create a long-life friendship for the betterment of our own countries,” said Rizky.

The first two AYVP programmes were held in Malaysia and focused on two thematic areas: The Environment and Climate Change, and Protecting Asean’s Heritage.

The latter theme was replicated in Cambodia in 2015 while last year’s AYVP Philippines 2016 tackled DRR.

For next year, AYVP will be organised in Malaysia focusing on Protecting Asean Heritage.

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