In early August, I was fortunate to be one of 11 BUiLD participants representing UTS at the University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Malaysia. The symposium brought together over 300 students from all over the world to hear from speakers, experience work in the field and to meet and network.
All of us have taken so much away from our brief (and humid!) week in Melaka. It’s exciting to anticipate what lies ahead as we bring home new lessons and inspirations to act upon!
We heard from a range of speakers throughout the week – from an aid worker in the Philippines to a Nobel Peace Prize nominee active in North Korea to a bubbly Australian working in Cambodia. Each speaker offered a new lesson, a new perspective and new inspiration for us to be global change-makers. Yet all had one common belief: ending extreme poverty is absolutely possible in our lifetime. This is our generation’s responsibility and it would be a crime against humanity to ignore the huge opportunity we have to effect change.
Our favourite speaker was our fellow Aussie – the brutally honest yet inspiring Geraldine Cox, who is now ‘mum’ to over 300 orphaned and neglected Cambodian children in her Sunrise Children’s Villages. Some are disabled, some bear the scars of the Vietnam War and some are mentally traumatised from a life spent in prostitution from early childhood. Geraldine’s stories were harrowing, yet tempered by uplifting news of positive developments occurring in Cambodia. She particularly encouraged us each to find our own passion and focus our energy in this area. Many of us have bought her book Home Is Where the Heart Is, which should be read by everyone!
Another highlight was performing in Show Buzz – where 10 groups each performed a seven-minute routine about things learnt during the week. Every team was very creative and it must have been difficult for the judges to choose the winner! Working with 30 students from different backgrounds and speaking different languages proved a fun challenge and an incredibly rewarding experience.
The most popular part of the week was the “experiential learning component”, with each team visiting a project in Melaka. Some groups danced with kids in a home for disabled children, some flew kites with orphans on the beach, and some accompanied them to water parks and the zoo. It was by far the most rewarding aspect of our trip, and opened our eyes to possibilities ahead!
Wonderful friends were made from 27 different countries worldwide. We will stay in touch, share resources and see where our amazing experience at the Symposium takes us. Thanks to UTS International and Beyond UTS for giving us such a wonderful opportunity!
Below are some highlights from a few of the UTS students
“The week was an experience that is hard to describe. Meeting lifelong friends from over 27 nations. Hearing talks from inspirational speakers who are leaders in their own fields. Flying kites with local orphans who've been through more than many of us have been. One week, so many amazing moments.” – Chris Jones
“My highlight was taking Muslim orphans to the water park, hearing from Tim Peters (Nobel Peace Prize nominee) and meeting friends from all over the world.” – Struan Todd.
“It was an amazing and inspirational experience I will never forget. We heard from wonderful people making a real difference in the world, and made lasting friendships with students who shared the same interest and desire to leave their mark on this earth.” – Sarah Nguyen
“Being around like-minded people, who really have the desire to do something significant in their lives to make this world a better place was a highlight for me. Hearing from people who have done what I dream to do also fuelled my passion for the underprivileged. 1.4 billion people live in poverty – this gives us all 1.4 billion reasons to do something - to make a change.” – Stephanie Dobbin