Yesterday afternoon was spent at the National Young Leaders’ Day 2014 Event, and I can’t begin to describe how absolutely heartwarming it was to be back at this event once more. This year marks the third year I have found myself back at the event, and I realise each time I’ve returned in quite a different position, learning very different things.
Two years back, I had found myself in the seat beside a handful of other RGS girls along with Ms. Cheong, who had brought us to the event just to be there, listening. And the special thing about this event, is that the intimacy of the stories never fails to tug at your heartstrings at one point or the other, and make you question the things larger than yourself. Two years ago was the first time I experienced that. Sitting in the comfortable red seats of Kallang Theatre, I listened as Mr. Chris Varney, the Youth Ambassador of World Vision Australia shared his story about driving through the streets of developing countries and giving out freshwater. This story gave me the extra push I needed to begin thinking about what I really wanted and could possibly do about the third world problems– and in the subsequent years, I found myself Sponsoring a Child with the class (even to today) and founding the Room to Read RGS Chapter (alongside my very capable team I am immensely grateful for).
Then just last year, I was back at the Kallang Theatre with a bunch of newfound, extremely precious friends who’re almost like family- the National Young Leaders’ Award finalists, sitting on chairs on stage this time, teeth chattering and butterflies in our stomachs as we passed around the mic and talked about our stories. The sharing end was a nice place to be, and I’ll never forget the way Shawn and Ivy took care of us alongside the amazing Halogen staff I will continue to respect for their work for a long time from now. This year, I got back to sitting at the soft seats and watching the NYLA2014 Finalists sit on those same seats sharing their stories, I subsconsiously smiled throughout their presentations and basked in the inspiration they filled the theatre with completely.
Just like how the five of us were last year, listening to each of the finalists’ videos and to the answers from the Q&A sharing session, I couldn’t help but think about how the finalists often have more in common than different: all five of them (1) had a heart for service and their community, best put in the words of one of the finalists, Devesh, believing that “the best contribution comes when your heart leads your body”, (2) each of them strongly upheld the value of humility, as Ray put it, “continuously searching to understand the potential of their peers”, and the one that shone most brightly as they stood collectively on stage was that (3) they all had an undying strength to pursue what they wanted to, as Thida put it “if (she goes) on today fearing what will happen tomorrow, (she’d) never be able to (her) best today”.
And so this year’s NYLD theme was ‘X the Line’, encouraging youths to break through their personal boundaries and realising that our personal dreams and aspirations could be an inspiration to others. As the CEO of Halogen Foundation, Sean Kong puts it– “when you achieve something extraordinary, you inspire others to do the same”. He compared this to how doctors once said that to finish 1.6km of running in 4 minutes was physically impossible as the heat generated was too great for the body to take, the moment one runner finally broke that record after 1950s, that paved that way for other record-breakers. And being in a theatre of such an inspiring idea, with relatable peers like the National Young Leaders’ Award finalists, I’m inadvertently encouraged once more to, leave the world a little better than I found it and take courage from Ray’s belief that “you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”.
Thanks for an afternoon of inspiration!
P.S. Do find out about the NYLA2014 finalists here and read their inspiring stories before voting for the one that resonates best with you!