By Wesley Lye, ISCA, Singapore. John Landau, the world famous producer of the movies Avatar and Titanic, said “Every scene (in a movie) begins with a call to action”. And indeed, that was what the One Young World Summit was for me.
I first started volunteering eighteen years ago, when I was a mere ten years old. Back then, my school had a volunteer tutor programme that students who did well academically could sign up for. My first experience in volunteering was thus to mentor a student only two years younger than me. While I did not think much of that experience then, I think that was perhaps when the seed to want to help others was planted in my heart.
Over the years, I have been involved in many different forms of community service. I’ve volunteered regularly at children’s homes and homes for the intellectually disabled, participated in and organised fund-raisers, home visits, overseas community service trips and so on. Yet, I always wanted to do more. It often frustrated me that more people didn’t feel the same way I did, and wasted spent far too much time playing Pokemon Go or surfing Instagram than they did trying to help other people, or create art or music, or solve real problems.
Being at the Summit, I for once felt reassured, hopeful, even encouraged. Gathered at this conference was 1,300 delegates from 196 countries, each with a passion for something greater than themselves, each with a heart-warming story to tell, each with a lesson to teach me. Many of these fellow delegates were younger than I, and yet had done so much more wonderful things than I could ever imagine. And I can only leave each conversation thinking – what else can I do when I get back home?
Yet, one of the lessons I learnt at the conference was that while I could do a lot, WE could do so much more. If I believed that each individual had the power to make a difference in the world we live in, then perhaps what needs to be done is to unleash that potential in every person! Carl-Henric Svanberg, Chairman of BP and Volvo, asked during the Summit, “Can you gather 100,000 people around a single idea and get everyone to move together in the same direction?” As youth leaders, I think this is what we need to do – inspire more people to take action!
But rather than doing it on my own, from ground zero, I also realised from the Summit that leveraging the resources, knowledge, expertise, and networks of existing global businesses may be able to create even greater social impact! Having worked as an auditor in one of the Big Four audit firms, I have had the opportunity to experience how a few thousand staff can be mobilised for a social cause, be it in general or skills-based volunteering. Yet, I think a lot more can still be done.
As an audit firm, perhaps one of the greatest advantages we have is the network of clients that we have which cut right across any industry you can think of. We are in a position to see problems that affect society from many angles, and can bring partners together to solve these issues by tapping on each one’s expertise. We have the knowledge to help jumpstart social businesses and ensure the sustainability of their plans. We have the ability to break down barriers and open up opportunities for education and employment. So much more can be done – and I am indeed thankful that we have a leadership team that is willing to listen to the ideas of its younger staff and actively looking for ways to truly solve important problems in society.
We are all members of the community we live in. Like it or not, we are responsible for this community that we belong to. To those of you who are still thinking about whether you should get off your phone and start making real change, I’ll say, “What are you waiting for?” And if any of you do get the chance to attend the One Young World Summit in the years to come, grab it! Be inspired, get motivated, and be the change that you want to see!