Natasha Venner-Pack

alltherage@thestar.com.my

WE Malaysians love to lepak in coffee shops, talking – and complaining – about the state of the country and how it sucks.

The Organisation for National Empowerment (ONE) came into being during one such coffee session, but the young people behind it are actually doing something to make a difference.

“I think there’s a culture of complaining instead of getting up and saying ‘this is my vision and this is how I’ll achieve it’,” said Hannah Kam, a 24-year-old lawyer, one of the founding members of ONE.

Kam hopes for ONE to be a platform that encourages Malaysian youth to become more proactive instead of blaming others for the country’s problems.

“I don’t think it’s constructive, and I feel cynicism is often misplaced in our country,” said Kam, who is taking a year off work to focus on the cause.

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Founding member Rais said he’s thankful for his well-to-do background, but that he hopes to give someone else the same opportunity through ONE.

Fellow founding member Danni Rais, 29, who works in business development at Berjaya, realised most Malaysians have no idea how to achieve what they want, something he believes is ingrained in our children early on.

“For example, education. You have to go deep into the system to see how children at a young age interact with their peers and the impact it has as they develop,” said Danni.
“We realise the magnitude of the task ahead. It’s not as simple as simply asking Malaysians to be united.”

Great minds think alike

While they post articles regularly on their website and are active on social media, the group knows it’s not enough to engage the youth.

Which is why they decided to organise a forum, Our Future 2057, as their inaugural event, where 100 youths will come together and brainstorm their ideas for a better Malaysia.

They will discuss five big issues – economy, unity, democracy/politics, women and education.

“We want to give them a platform to discuss and debate with like-minded people. From there, we’ll write a charter,” said accountant Sufiyan Abas, 25, another founding member.

“We want everyone to come together to shape this charter. It’s important to have people with different and opposing ideas involved.”

Change doesn’t come easily, which is why Kam said they are working towards making everything coming together in 2057, a century after Merdeka.

“It’s a symbol of the future we want to shape for our country. We know there’s a lot more work needed before ONE is seen as making a difference, but we hope with solid groundwork and consistency this will happen.”

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Kam said the culture of complaining and cynicism is not constructive, and is misplaced in our country.

After the forum, the members say they plan to study all the ideas and views compiled and see how they want to proceed, but one thing they definitely want to do is continue working with other NGOs.

“NGOs do a lot of work at ground level, and that’s where empowerment starts.

“While we’ll continue writing articles, it’s important that we’re not seen as merely a lobbying group or think-tank,” said Danni, adding that ONE has already worked with NGOs like Small Changes and Projek Kalsom.

Home sweet home

While most of the founding ONE members have had opportunities to live and work comfortably overseas, they’ve decided to stay back to help build a better Malaysia.

“The most valuable national resource is not oil, gold or timber, but human potential,” said founding member James Tan, 24, who’s also a property developer and pilot.

“We define our future through our actions and those actions echo through time.”

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(From left – right): Tan, Rais, Kam and Abas, the founding members of ONE.

Having returning to Malaysia and set up ONE, the founding members – and their 20-person committee – hope the forum will be the first big step forward in empowering young people to make a difference.

“We’ve developed this trait of complacency, but things are no longer working. We need a step in a different direction, one that we can keep working on leading up to 2057,” said Danni.

For more information on ONE, go to oneonline.my. You can also sign up for Our Future 2057 at 2057.oneonline.my. The forum will be held on Feb 20 at Impact Hub KL.

 

 

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