~ written by Shazreen, a young entrepreneur who runs her own Event Management Company and is part of the Youth Network of the National Youth Council
On 22nd January 2017, together with two other Singaporeans, I embarked on a life-changing experience to Bangkok, Thailand. We were given the opportunity to attend the ASEAN Youth Workshop on Social Entrepreneurs where we learnt more about social entrepreneurship and the concepts of creating impactful businesses. This was organised by The Department of Children and Youth of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security in Thailand.
Donned in formal clothing for our first photo
Throughout the five days there, we learnt about different social businesses and enterprises. It was definitely insightful and it opened my eyes to see what youths are able to achieve if they put their mind to it. Despite being away from home and out of my comfort zone, it was strange that I never once felt any fear or apprehension. I’d probably give some credit to my fellow Singaporean delegates, Daniel Lim and Sullivan Wong, who were there for me throughout the programme. But on top of that, the new friendships gained during my trip here definitely made me feel at home.
Friendships were formed from the first evening, when we were asked to meet at the ballroom for dinner. After registrations, the organisers gave us a period of time to mingle around with the different delegates. I recalled interacting with a few of them and it was then when it hit me – the kindness of one doesn’t end at a country’s borders. It transcends them.
The following day was also nothing short of a fun and interactive session. We had ice-breakers and got to learn more about the backgrounds of the different delegates. I must say that those I’ve met were passionate and driven, having the desire to make the world a better place. What’s more? We even got to share our experiences, cultures, thoughts and dreams, weave them together and come up with feasible business ideas in hope that we might achieve them together in future.
We also attended a few sessions to understand more about the topic of social businesses and enterprises. These sessions included forums, talks and group discussions – all of which culminated with business presentations and idea pitching. We broke up into teams to brainstorm business ideas while finding ways to alleviate societal issues we identified with. It was a pretty exhilarating experience!
Forums, Discussions and Presentations
One of the sessions I thought was useful to a young entrepreneur like me was the interactive forum we had at the University of the Thai Chamber and Commerce (UTCC). We got to discuss and learn from real-life success stories, and gain insights in navigating the world of social businesses together with the local university students. I definitely felt more equipped after this session.
During the Interactive Forum held at the UTCC
We also had a memorable visit to a social enterprise, 60+ Bakery operated by the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD). Seeing a social enterprise being this successful despite its challenges was a reminder and inspiration to me – we can achieve anything that we put our minds to. The experience was so good I found myself wishing that we had more time to visit other such establishments.
While we were at 60+ Bakery
We ended the trip with a blast, having a cultural night to celebrate the last day of the programme. We also put up a performance that represented our country’s culture and history. As a Singaporean, I found it challenging to decide what to showcase (especially when Singapore has such a rich heritage of culture from our diverse ancestry). We finally decided that the best way was to talk about ‘Home’, where despite diversity we are still united and cohesive.
At the cultural night
The ASEAN Youth Workshop on Social Entrepreneurs led me to rediscover ASEAN with other like-minded youths across the seas. It definitely made me feel proud to be a Singaporean. Looking back, the biggest takeaway for me was the friendships forged. I found myself so overwhelmed by the kindness and warmth of the delegates from various countries. Kindness truly transcends boundaries. I’m happy to say that this programme, along with the many inspiring people I’ve met, has helped increase my self-confidence and drive to make a difference to my community.