E-AYVP 2020 Igniting the Spirit of Youth Volunteerism in the Pursuit of a Sustainable Tomorrow

By Wafaa Wajihah Mohammad Rosmadini, AUN Intern

In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, ASEAN ran the ASEAN Volunteer Programme (AVP) in Myanmar to support reconstruction in three villages in the Irrawaddy Delta. Overall, 40 volunteers from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand participated in seven projects that were implemented with five civil society partners. This successful one-off initiative indicated the need for a more sustainable programme or facility that could efficiently and effectively coordinate and manage the deployment of ASEAN volunteers for regional community development. The proposal to develop the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme was later presented by the Minister of Youth and Sports Malaysia during the Seventh ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Youth (AMMY VII) on October 20, 2011 in Hanoi and was subsequently endorsed.

The ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program (AYVP) has dedicated much of its efforts and resources as a platform to create opportunities in knowledge-driven volunteerism, support the exchange of learning experiences, develop capacity, enhance cross-cultural understanding and forge a sense of regional identity while making a sustainable difference to communities across ASEAN. The programme was set to be held physically in the Philippines on the 1st-27th August 2020 but due to the covid-19 pandemic, the programme had to be conducted virtually through Zoom with the physical version tentatively set to be conducted in August 2021. 2020 was the 8th year for AYVP but the first time that it was being done virtually on the onset of the pandemic.

The E-AYVP lasted for two weeks with two designated sessions:
  • 9th - 13th November: RapidFire Chat sessions
  • 16th - 20th November: Masterclasses

1st Week (9th - 13th November): RapidFire Chat sessions

Monday, 9th November 2020

The Rapidfire chat session was officially launched by Prof Datuk Dr Rokiah Haji Omar. 2020 was the 8th year for AYVP but the first time that it was being done virtually on the onset of the pandemic. She expressed her gratitude for the overwhelming responses throughout the region which has garnered more than 5000 applications in total both from ASEAN and the ASEAN +3 regions. However, after a careful and thorough evaluation, only 475 candidates had been shortlisted. Datuk Dr Rokiah then restated the AYVP’s main objective in drive youth volunteerism and community development that involve young people with a targeted demographic age between 18 and 30 (youth from higher education, colleges and working professionals) across ASEAN, providing a dedicated youth volunteerism platform that will facilitate multi-disciplinary, knowledge-driven and/or post-disaster recovery volunteerism projects across the region as well as support the development of a generation of ASEAN youth instilled with strong minds, solidarity, and kindness to contribute to the development of communities in the region.

The first session was initiated with a talk on ASEAN Unity in Cultural Diversity by Dr Nasruddin Yunos. He started his session with the introduction ASEAN, its history, aims & purpose. He then emphasised ASEAN’s vision ‘one community, one identity’ and its significance in the pursuit for unity now more than ever before as “population is increasing, challenges are also increasing”. He also focused on the importance of acknowledging the different dimensions within ASEAN’s diverse community such as the material and non-material cultures, languages, religions and beliefs, customs and traditions as well as the need to foster relationships in diversity. Dr Nasruddin also deviated his talk to the idea of ‘ASEAN’s official religion’ and that instead of having just one, ASEAN encapsulates the idea of a multi-religion platform that practices inclusivity and cooperation. Therefore, he called on the participants and the global community to respect, be more open and sensitive towards each other’s religious and cultural differences by embracing diversity and come together as one ASEAN community.

The next talk of the day was delivered by Assoc. Prof Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad on Communication in crisis and challenging situations part 1 to educate the participants for them to be able to understand the crisis of communication in order to execute a crisis of communication plan that best suits specific crisis management. Some of the Crisis communication plans are:

1. Preparing a set of guidelines to prepare for emergencies
2. Including steps to take when the crisis first emerge
3. How to communicate with the public & how to prevent the issue from occurring again
4. Interpreting who was responsible for the crisis
5. Identifying how issues will affect the stakeholder’s relationship with the organisation

He also utilised theories and various models to help the participants to better understand the importance of communication in managing crisis through the Image repair theory and Situational crisis communication theory with references made to the past international crisis such as the disappearance of Malaysia’s MH370 aircraft and New Zealand’s mass shooting. He also mentioned perceptive and interpretive issues within the engagement of public communication especially with the rise of misinformation. Pre-crisis and post-crisis procedures of crisis communication were also thoroughly explained by illustrating their key concepts and steps in the case of crisis communication by the education sector throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, 11th November 2020

Datuk Dr Habibah Binti Abdul Rahim started the session for the day with a talk on Change Makers: The role of Educators and pedagogies. She made a brief description of the current situation and how the pandemic has affected Higher educational institutions as well as other tertiary-level institutions such as learning loss and equality gaps. The pandemic has changed the dimensions of today’s educational delivery from the traditional physical format to virtual. Therefore, Dr Habibah also outlined the challenges in adapting to alternatives to F2F learning strategy such as access to remote learning and delivering instructions remotely. She then proposed a few sets of solutions to these issues through effective technology mitigation and adaptational utilisation as well as parents and teachers cooperation in home-based learning. She then called on the global community especially higher educational institutions to acknowledge that successful switching of different education pedagogies is imperative especially in the 4.0 Industrial Revolution.

The next session on Communication in Crisis and challenging situation part 2 by Ts. Dr Muhammad Helmi Norman. He emphasised that each stakeholder has their role in surviving in the new normal of learning so it is imperative for educators to make learning more meaningful. However, on the onset of the pandemic, Educational institutions have been forced to consider a hybridisation of teaching and classroom delivery by incorporating both face to face and virtual learning/teaching. Both have their respective challenges such as the need for safe physical space, digital content, technological facilities and skills. Thus, Dr Muhammad Helmi introduced the recipe to teach in the Digital Age of the Pandemic with the following key ingredients:

1. Mindset shift (using virtual space)
2. Technology and space
3. Digital literacy

The crucial ‘spices’ needed:

Spice 1: Technology for Online Learning - all the gadgets for good audio/lighting
Spice 2: Skills for online learning - reskill and upskill with webinars and social media communities such as Facebook upskilling community
Spice 3: New Online knowledge - Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) & Open online community/courses

He then delivered some closing remarks with a call to the global community to collaborate and address the need to look at reskill/upskill current skills in order to ‘learn how to teach’ for a more sustainable future.

Wednesday, 11th November 2020

The session on Thursday was initiated with a talk by the Ambassador of Finland to Malaysia, His Excellency Mr Sami Leino. His excellency shared the success story of education in Finland. He highlighted that Finland has adopted “Free, equal and high education quality for all” slogan as its basic foundation in education as a result of continuous development and the implementation of the concept of “Collaboration NOT Competition” which constitutes the practice of free education and highly trained staffs. He also highlighted some of the values and characteristic of the Finnish education whereby it puts trust, equality and the importance of joy in learning and students welfare as one of its main priorities by providing free for all at all education level and eliminating standardised tests or rankings of schools, students and teachers.

His excellency further outlined the important elements of education that can and should be applied to every education system worldwide such as:

  • Highly trained teachers are respected professionals which means all teachers are Master students
  • Early childhood education and Care supports children's development and learning
  • High-standard comprehensive schools to provide equal educational opportunities for all
  • General upper secondary education provides students with extensive general knowledge, vocational education and training that offers individual paths to working life

His excellency then reiterated Finland’s vision and future goal becoming a destination for world-class Innovation and research by 2030 that provides high-quality education. He called on the international community to maintain continuous efforts in order to ensure the quality of the education system now and the future and that current reforms should address education at all levels.

The proceeding talk on the New paradigms of volunteering was delivered by the Honourable Dato’ Zuraidah Atan which she started with introducing the concept of volunteerism and the principles of volunteering. She emphasised that volunteering is a matter of choice, an unpaid activity not for any form of salary, pension or allowance that respects the rights dignity and culture of others. Volunteers’ rights, responsibilities and integrity as well as the various benefits that volunteering offers were also addressed throughout the session. Dato’ Zuraidah also made a profound statement; “ never romanticize volunteer efforts” whereby she emphasised that it is hard work that requires discipline, shouldering serious responsibilities and accountability, NOT the delusion of being a knight giving hope in the dark. She further stated that volunteer efforts must be impactful to the community in order to find solutions to difficult situations as “you cannot change the world overnight, start in small steps”. She also advised that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) should be a reference point for volunteering or starting a project and illustrated the importance of purpose volunteering through her share of experiences in volunteering projects such as delay 4life Malaysia, Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa (YSS-ASEAN), fundraising, IATSS forum and Pitas project in Sabah. She ended the session with an inspiring statement for the participants,

“A collaboration starts with a conversation, learn to live or work with difficult people. If you cannot change the people, change the way you see them”.

2nd Week (16th - 20th November): Masterclasses

Monday, 16th November 2020

The Masterclass week started with a talk by an invited speaker from the ASEAN Secretariat, His excellency Kung Phoak, the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN-ASCC with his topic, ASEAN community in post-pandemic Covid-19. He first described how the ASEAN Secretariat responded to Covid-19 Brief description of how ASEAN secretariat respond to covid-19 through ensuring affordable and equitable health facilities for all, vaccine as Center of discussion during the ASEAN summit, working closely with partners, setting out key initiatives such as Regional ASEAN covid-19 response fund, National policies, ASEAN CDC In order to build best measures, resilience and prepare for shocks as well as ensure high-quality Healthcare supply and top-notch primary medical assistance for both existing and newly covered patients. His excellency deviated the focus of the talk on issues as the consequences of the pandemic concerning:

1. Education: Long-time learning losses, education equity, equality and efficiency
2. Youth employment: More than one-in-six stopped working, exacerbated the existing problem, lost working hours, vulnerable to shut down, mental health and psychology of young people affected

Thus, he then presented the strategies and areas for improvement and collaboration that ASEAN members should focus on such as Ministerial collaboration, the ASEAN Foundation and Rockefeller support, efforts towards a stronger and inclusive post-covid-19, rapid assessment for support as well as media and information sector to ensure timely sharing of covid-19 news or info and resolve fake news on covid-19. The talk also highlighted the relevance of adapting to the ASEAN comprehensive pandemic framework for safe and efficient exit strategies, reopening recovery, long-term resilience and accelerate digital transformation. His excellency also addressed how the ASEAN work plan on ‘Youth 2021-2025’ will be more relevant and imperative now more than ever as a road-map to guide and enhance resilient of the education system, promote enhancement of digital literacy, technology and transformative/transferable skills (including basic skills on literacy and numeracy) especially in redesigning an education system that aligns with the future of work. The session also brought up the need to review the ASEAN Youth Development priorities:

1. Education
2. Health & wellbeing
3. Employment & opportunity
4. Participation & engagement
5. ASEAN awareness, values & identity

His excellency ended his talk with an inspiring reminder that “Covid-19 has posed unprecedented challenges but it gives us opportunities for a more resilient ASEAN to help build back better. Therefore, the future of ASEAN should be caring, inclusive, and supportive especially for vulnerable groups”.

The launch of the E-AYVP was then officiated by Yang Berhormat (YB) Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Malaysia. He delivered his opening speech with a reference to E-AYVP’s journey since its establishment and its past and upcoming hosts; Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines in 2021. He reiterated E-AYVP’s purpose of encouraging regional identity and cross-cultural cooperation in ASEAN. The YB also commended the community of the AYVP secretariat for their efforts in managing and organising the programme and congratulated the participants for being part of virtual AYVP 2020. Dato Imran then continued the session by reiterating that with the ASEAN Cultural 2035 as the aspiration for the programme, it was the first time that the programme had received participants from the ASEAN +3 totaling with more than 5000 applications despite it being held virtually. The session ended with a group photo with all the AYVP participants.

Tuesday, 17th November 2020

The honourable Prof. Dato’ Dr Norazah Mohd Nordin delivered her talk on Reshape Children’s future: New Norms in teaching children by addressing some of the key issues faced in teaching children such as the digital divide, utilising technological infrastructure and the difficulty of talking to a child about Covid-19. She then presented and discussed the ways of addressing these problems with the use of Digital technology and blended learning and application or development of future skills such as STEM, Interdisciplinary knowledge, Cognitive Flexibility and Digital literacy & computational thinking. Dr Norazah called on educators of the future that the role educators play is no longer just as a ‘teacher’ but analysts, planners, collaborators and curriculum experts and synthesizers for a more sustainable educational environment. Some of the initiatives or projects being done locally are the ‘UKM E-Kelas’ in collaboration with Maxis and UKM UCTC where Materials used on the platform are made by teachers and masters students as well as the project ‘Delima’ which is a digital education and learning initiative in Malaysia in collaboration with Microsoft. She ended her session with a call for the ASEAN community and beyond to extend the teaching-learning principle beyond classroom walls by fostering more people-driven learning that takes into consideration the social and emotional wellbeing of its students. Thus, shifting the contemporary teaching culture to an engaging ‘learning culture’.

Next, the afternoon session continued with a forum on Leave no one behind in post-pandemic covid-19 lead by four invited speakers from UNICEF Malaysia. The first quarter of the forum was delivered by Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar where he shared his story when he was in a very risky and dangerous peace-keeping mission in the Soviet Union working with UNHCR in 1998. Despite the struggles and risks, he stood his ground and remained motivated throughout as he believed that “Everybody has one right, the right for education, the access to education”. Dr Rashed emphasised the importance of upholding rights and equality for all members of any community as rights should not be hierarchical and that nobody should have higher or more rights than others. He called on the global community to work together to support and forge partnerships for equal rights for all. He believes that “The power volunteerism of young people is the best power a community can have”.

Next, Ms Azlina Kamal continued the forum on the topic; reimagining education & leaving no one behind, inspired by Foucalt’s “Not everything is bad but everything is dangerous”, everything has risks, therefore, there will always be something to do. This is illustrated in the struggles and pursuit of education. She stated that for every child, there is an inalienable right to education as it is a legal and moral entitlement. She further explained that children go to school not just for education but also for other social services such as protection and free meals. Ms Azlina reiterated UNICEF’s focus on building back a better, stronger and more inclusive society by addressing gaps and urgent issues by identifying the means to reach and include marginalised children, ways to measure the effectiveness of any solutions, the specific approaches work and scaling them up and finally strengthen the existing system for sustainability. She ended her talk with a message that states volunteerism is ‘NOT A CHARITY’ and quoted Dalai Lama’s “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.

A sharing session on volunteering engagement programme was then conducted by Muhd Zhariff bin Afandi of his past experiences in volunteering. He started his session by introducing UNICEF Malaysia, its mission, aims and scope of work in child protection, education, mental health, nutrition, gender and climate change. He also shared his experience as an officer in UNICEF with disabilities and that his disability did not hinder him from pursuing his passion, which is helping others.

The sharing session then continued by Mr Chua Tatt Qin Desmond who is a UNICEF Volunteer Translator and one of the youngest active volunteers. He also shared some of his volunteering projects:

  • Kajang Old Folk’s home
  • Taman Tugu Rega
  • M.A.D
  • #kitaconnect in collaboration with UNICEF

In his closing remarks, he Invited the participants to engage in more youth participation in volunteering projects with UNICEF in mobilising communities where youth play huge roles in spreading awareness making positive changes.

Thursday, 19th November 2020

Ms Rodora Turalde-Babaran delivered the first half of the masterclass on STEM education in ASEAN: Challenges & Developments. She started the talk with an introduction about herself and her role in the ASEAN Secretariat in supporting ASEAN sectoral roles to carry out the mandate, facilitate work plans and mobilise bodies on projects. She reiterated that in today’s fast-changing world, the demand for upgrading pre-existing skills to accommodate the 21st century has become more apparent especially with ASEAN being the fastest digital economy today. The 21st-century transversal skills include digital skills, communication, teamwork, critical thinking, skills that are capable of transitioning to multiple work sectors and adaptable to the changing technology and work environment. Ms Rodora further illustrated the impacts of Covid-19 on youth, the workplace and learning with the reduction of working hours, worldwide closure posing a threat to life-long learning and development, youths left behind due to digital illiteracy and the possibility that by 2030, 800 million youth will end up unmarketable worldwide. Therefore she emphasised on the need to have reciprocal support from the government to bridge gaps between the digital haves and have nots. Thus, she recommended the integration and application of STEM (Science, technology, engineering and Mathematics) Education because science and technology are important in ASEAN’s greater efforts to create awareness for STEM in order to foster advanced digital innovations and a sustainable economy. However, Ms Rodora also reminded that youth need to also integrate multi-disciplinary practices and attain a wider range of skills (including contemporary arts education) to become more well-rounded, flexible, resilient and marketable.

The other half of Thursday masterclass session was led by His Royal Highness Tunku Zain al-Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz, Royal Fellow at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia with his topic, Leaders of the future: Engage Youth for SDG action. His Royal Highness made a brief introduction of himself and shared a few reminiscences of his past achievements in the peace-keeping field and community engagement initiatives. He called on the civil society, NGO, businesses to ensure that those who are in need get the aid or help they deserve. He brought the attention to the UN SDG’s no 17 on multilateral connectivity and network thus, reiterated that ASEAN remains as an important platform in addressing national differences, engaging mutual interests and practice objective diplomacy. He made a few propositions and recommendations for governments to make more improved legal framework, ensure key issues never die out and persistently remind the importance of addressing those problems. In conclusion, His Royal highness believes that the pandemic poses as a silver lining and a point of reference for everyone to become more efficient, organised and focused in the long run.

“It doesn’t matter what government you are, it’s about how we achieve a sense of togetherness and a shared future”

20th November 2020

Upon the completion of the AUN USR&S Webinar, the masterclass session resumed with Prof. Datuk Dr Rokiah Haji Omar’s talk on Indigenous people of the educational settlement and the problems they faced in terms educational access due to rise of school dropouts, geographical access and early parent-child separation. The talk was more of a success-story sharing session of her peace-keeping mission addressing major education problems amongst ‘orang asli’ or indigenous children. The idea of the project was to bring the ‘school’ to them. She and her team received 1.5M MYR in support of the project and it took her 1 year to complete it. It was not an easy task as she had to come up with strategic and effective approaches to help execute the project such as:

  • Conducting needs assignment & asset mapping
  • Building trust through community service & engagement
  • Fostering community leadership
  • Incorporating the 3’M’ into the project curriculum - Mengira (counting), Mebaca (reading), Menulis (writing)
  • A 360 approach to empower community to support children’s education, health sanitation and socio-economy
  • Create awareness on the importance of education

Throughout the project, she and her team had faced a couple of challenges especially with access that had forced them to travel a long distance to reach the village, attaining people’s trust as alot of people come and go so there had been no comprehensive agreement and connection and the time it took to get their(villager’s approval and cooperation). Prof Datuk Dr Rokiah concluded her session by urging collaborations and partnerships to be input equally from the community in order to help the community.

The final masterclass session was conducted to commemorate the United Nations Volunteer (UNV)’s 50th year anniversary in 2021. This session was delivered by Ms Shalina Miah with her talk on Evolutionary Competency of Youth Volunteer Leaders. She started the session with a brief outline of UNV’s background, history and also progress. By the end of 2020, the UNV has welcomed 13,186 online volunteers, 35 UN partners and a total of 154 countries of assignment. The UNV has promoted volunteering, helping mobilise youths to develop skills with the recent assignment being the UN Youth Volunteer intervention in Pakistan Education citizens 2019 and mobilising volunteers support for the covid-19 response. The UNV invests in further capacity for volunteers and expects youths to give the necessary competences and personal attributes to become a part of UNV. She also listed some of the significant contributions by the volunteers in a form of projects and partnerships:

  • Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change
  • UNAMA - Women volunteers
  • UNDP - ‘Strengthening electoral’
  • UNV-CISCO Partnership
  • UNDP Youth Co:Lab

However, Ms Shalina also acknowledged the challenges faced by youths especially during the pandemic from the disruption in education and transition to online learning, employment deficit of young people underlining their career prospects to the mental wellbeing of youths. These challenges must be well addressed and resolved as the future of the community lies in the present of the youth. She reminded that “We only have 10 years left to achieve the SDGs” and called upon the international community to strengthen and obtain shared identity in order to ‘renew commitments’ together. She also commended and applauded teachers, educators and youth volunteers for their tireless contributions and continued commitments.

After a long two-week of intensive masterclasses, the E-AYVP finally came to an end. The closing ceremony for the E-AYVP of 2020 had commenced at 16:00 (Bangkok Time). The ceremony started with a commentary review by two of the E-AYVP participants from Malaysia and China followed by a closing speech by the honourable Prof Dato’ Dr Imran Ho Abdullah. In his speech, he urged all the participants to continue to network and create local groups to address various contemporary humanitarian issues. He reinstated that “UKM will continue to support any project in the future”. He thanked and commended the organising team, UKM secretariat and UCTC for their amazing dedication and commitments throughout the whole programme as well as the E-AYVP participants for successfully committing to the rigorous programme. The session ended with a virtual group photo session with participants showcasing their country flags.