Anisah Shukry

When Danni Rais, 28, and Hannah Kam, 24, met up with their friends in 2014, their conversation eventually (and inevitably) turned to how unhappy they were with the state of the country.

But complaining about the country for an hour or so over teh tarik was not the solution, the group of young professionals decided on that day.

“We realised that Malaysia at the moment seemed to have a culture of too much complaining without being proactive about changing or seeking to change what we don’t like,” Kam told The Malaysian Insider.

“Rather than us just sitting down here and talking about why we were unhappy, we decided ‘let’s get up and do something’. And we thought the best way to do that was to form an NGO, an organised group.”
It took two years and a few hiccups, but the group was finally able to register itself as the Organisation for National Empowerment (ONE) with the Registrar of Societies (RoS).

It now has more than 60 members, a website and a Facebook page and even bagged a DiGi WWWoW Award last November.

Amid the myriad of NGOs and youth movements out there, ONE stands out because it is a platform for youth to share their views on what they want for Malaysia, said Danni, who, like Kam, identifies himself simply as “ONE’s founding member”.

“We’re also different because we’re positive. We are a very positive, apolitical group. We’re not criticising for the sake of criticising, we’re not rebels just complaining about everything. We want to share and engage and be constructive,” he said with a grin.

“We will compile as many views as we can from the youth on what this country should be doing, and create an official charter within three to six months.”

And the group is not shying away from “controversial topics”, such as affirmative action or vernacular schools.

It plans to publish its findings in its website, as well as collaborate with other groups and engage with society in any way it can, including through volunteering, forming support groups and raising funds.

ONE’s “inaugural event” ( in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, on February 20 will see participants divided into five different clusters: politics and democracy, unity, education, economics and women empowerment.

Each will brainstorm on its chosen topic until a consensus is reached and incorporated into its charter.

ONE also plans to head to other states to hold similar brainstorming sessions and engage with NGOs with rural roots.

But getting outsiders to believe in the cause has been tough, said Kam, who just passed her Bar exam last year and now taking a gap year to focus on ONE.

“Everyone is just wallowing in the culture of cynicism. The drive to be proactive about our nation is lacking among most youth.”

Danni, a deputy general manager in business development, agreed.

“I have friends who go for soup kitchens, which is great! But when I invite them to participate in ONE and be a part of nation-building, they just say, ‘what’s the point? Nothing’s going to change. I’m better off just feeding the homeless’.

“When you have that mindset, we’re already failed before we even tried,” he said.

Despite both having studied abroad, Danni and Kam said they would rather stay in Malaysia and help her reach her true potential than move out of the country.

“Malaysia is my home and I’m not going to leave it. I am a Malaysian, and I want it to be as vibrant as it can be,” said Kam.

Danni said there was no point searching for greener pastures abroad when he could grow his own grass here himself.

“Besides,” he said in jest, “you won’t find nasi lemak overseas.”