Sunday Interview: Platform for youth to make a difference

AUDREY VIJAINDREN


IN conjunction with SAY IGNITE 2017 on April 1, the Raja Muda of Selangor Tengku Amir Shah speaks to Audrey Vijaindren about
his aspirations for youths


Question: What have you been up to since your return from the United Kingdom?

Answer: I came back from the UK last May from being in the military and I am still attached with the Royal Malay Regiment. Since coming home, I have been busy setting up and executing the Selangor Youth Community (SAY).

I’ve lived abroad for 10 years. I miss home, including the great food here. There are Malaysians all over the world and they learn so much from mingling with the locals abroad. The youths need to get out of their comfort zones, but must never forget that we are Malaysians, first and foremost.

Q: Tell us about the birth of SAY?

A: Back in 2014, after graduating from the University of Leeds in the UK, I had an idea of starting a wellness centre. It was a combination of sports and a gymnasium to promote a healthy lifestyle. It began with that small idea which exposed me to other information. The Boston Consulting Group helped me expand the idea as part of their CSR (corporate social responsibility) by engaging with youths in Selangor through surveys and focus group sessions.

In Selangor, 63 per cent of the population is below the age of 35. We are a young population.

Selangor is the most diverse state in Malaysia when we look at its ethnicity and background — youths coming from urban, semi-urban and rural areas — as a large number of them migrated from other states looking for opportunities in the Klang Valley.

I discovered there was a huge interest among youths in arts and culture, music, sports and entrepreneurship.

There is a tremendous opportunity for youths of various backgrounds and a wide range of interests to co-exist with one another.

This is my hope, this is my vision. For Selangor to thrive, celebrate the differences of one another, the new generation of youths will need to be at the forefront of this.

The youths are not only our hope for the future and the leaders of tomorrow, but they can be the leaders of today, to realise the hope of the present.

This is why I initiated SAY.

I believe SAY will provide the spark to unite their passion and spirit in creating a dynamic and connected community.

I envision a vibrant and self-motivated youth community in Selangor, churning out talents who can take the world by storm, be it in business, sports or entertainment. I want us to be the role model for other states and even other countries.

Q: Can you share more about SAY’s initiatives?

A: SAY is a platform for youths from all backgrounds and races, from the grassroots community to the ones who are more established, to come together, help one another to achieve progress.

It acts as the catalyst and facilitator for future programmes and initiatives that can bring a positive impact to the community.

SAY works closely and facilitates the communication between three important parties — the government, corporate sector and the youths themselves.

Youths are full of energy and ideas. The corporate sector will have the resources and expertise, while the government plays an important role through its policies to create an environment where the youths can flourish.

SAY is a platform for me to engage with the community, particularly the youths. It is my ultimate focus and priority at this point of time.

Through this, I will find ways and ideas on how to make the youth community in Selangor thrive.

We are starting small, but with a big heart, putting in a lot of effort, plus cooperation with all parties, including the corporate and government sectors, I believe we can achieve something big together in the medium to long-term future.

Q: Can you elaborate on SAY’s 3Cs concept (connectivity, capacity-building and collaboration)?

A: SAY’s mission is to facilitate the 3Cs, namely connectivity, capacity-building and collaboration, among youths in Selangor, and to provide a platform to connect them with development opportunities.

This will then be aligned with the state’s Smart Selangor initiative and the Federal Government-led Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) that aims to transform Malaysia into a nation of calibre, with a new mindset.

We see both the Selangor government and the Federal Government having great initiatives, but unfortunately, they aren’t aligned. I believe, through SAY, I can help facilitate this communication and alignment.

Q: What are some of the limitations that youths face today?

A: In today’s digital age where everyone is connected (in the social media), we have to learn to understand and edit (false information) because spreading information holds a responsibility. You could end up spreading fake news.

My advice to them is to always be careful and always do your homework and background checks. Also, there should be the need to always learn, progress and give back to your nation.

Q: Can you explain some of SAY’s planned activities?

A: SAY IGNITE 2017 will be the first of its kind. The plan is for us to do this every year — to celebrate the youths, namely those who have been championing causes and the unsung heroes.

We hope to have motivational talks where we share their experiences, their expertise and training, and learn what it takes to get to where they are now.

We want to share ideas and enable youths to impart their knowledge and ideas to students in schools. We want youths to engage other youths in positive and similar ideas and activities.

SAY IGNITE 2017, to be held on April 1, is one of the many initiatives planned and organised by SAY to foster interest and increase youths’ participation in community-based activities covering arts and culture, entertainment, entrepre- neurship, sports and health.

SAY IGNITE 2017 will have activities in these four focus areas. We aim to help unearth talent at the grassroots level and provide a platform where youths can convey their ideas and give their input on issues related to their generation.

The programmes will include workshops, motivational talks and a talent competition among the many diverse activities.

The workshops and talks will be conducted by SAY’s strategic partners from the private and public sectors, while the talent competition, aptly named “Selangor Youth (SAY) Ada Gaya”, is loosely based on the Britain’s Got Talent television programme.

Contestants have to be between 18 and 35, either born, residing or working in Selangor and they will be required to submit video entries. The best 10 entries will perform at the semi-final stage and the top three will be selected to perform at SAY IGNITE 2017.

In addition, SAY has taken a giant step towards creating a new set of entrepreneurs and leaders through a memorandum of understanding with Hijrah Selangor, a state programme to provide financial assistance to budding entrepreneurs.

The partnership will help to further improve and enhance the disbursements of micro-credits to youths in Selangor, and provide them with opportunities to succeed in their business endeavours.

Q: What do you hope from this programme?

A: Firstly, my hope is that youths will get involved in healthier and more constructive activities, which will benefit them.

SAY is one of the many platforms to do this, and I hope we will become the catalyst for many other programmes and activities to come. I would like to see other states pick up the concept and get the private sector involved.

As a nation, we have developed so far and the private sector has become so big. Therefore, everyone has to take ownership and be in charge and engage with the youths and share their aspirations.

Selangor achieved the status of Negeri Maju in 2005, way before other states did. But the key question is: what is the next step for us? What is our next vision?

I dream that one day Selangor folk would have a common purpose and cause. A purpose that everyone believes in and is willing to put in the necessary efforts to realise it.

That dream should never be mine alone but something that all Selangor folk have and can contribute to. I want to hear directly from the youths, learn from the grassroots and champions of the community to explore how we can work together to charter our new goals and achieve them together as one.

Q: You have been a bit vocal about the Football Association of Selangor (FAS). What are your thoughts on this?

A: We all know that sports is perhaps the strongest uniting factor not just in our country, but all over the world.

Our nation, particularly the younger generation, is becoming more and more passionate about sports and it gives me and my father great satisfaction to see people from different races and all walks of life supporting our state team in the stadium.

I am not involved directly with FAS and don’t have any plans to be. I happen to be the most influential Selangor supporter who is voicing out constructive criticism for the betterment of our beloved team.

The comments I made on social media were done after engaging with various stakeholders, from the supporters to my father himself.

That being said, I have engaged with the leadership of FAS. I am happy to play a role behind the scenes.

While I understand their situation, I strongly emphasised the need to improve the situation in a wholesome manner. This includes the development part of our sport, including grassroots level, youth and community football.

This is the investment that we need to make in terms of resources and efforts. Wholesome changes must be made and I do hope that the leadership of FAS can carry this out for the sustainability and betterment of football in Selangor for the sake of the fans, the main stakeholders.

I will not hesitate to take the current FAS leadership to task if there are no changes as promised.

Remember that the fans are the most important element in any team and without them, we are nothing.

Through SAY, we organised a tournament called Selangor Champions League last year where we combined all the champions of the various social football leagues in the Klang Valley to play in one prestigious competition.

It was very well received. So, this year, we have expanded it and started an initiative called “Football Selangor”, where our ambition is to elevate the status of football in the state through empowering the community and working closely with partners, particularly the private sector.

Do keep a lookout for the development of this exciting initiative.