“In your young heart lies the power to change the world.”
“In your young heart lies the power to change the world.” These were the words of Mr Suresh Bartlett, National Director of World Vision Sri Lanka, at Vision Youth: Making Our Mark organised by World Vision Singapore on 17 January 2015.
The inaugural Youth Summit took place at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Over 200 youths were drawn in by the opportunity to meet and learn from five humanitarian leaders. These included Mr Suresh Bartlett, National Director of World Vision Sri Lanka, to Dr Tan Lai Yong, a Singaporean doctor who spent many years in Yunnan, China, helping the poor, and more. It was an eye-opening and engaging experience, and a morning well spent.
Personally, the session gave me a fresh take on what it means to be a leader of change. Now, I shall distil three lessons that I have learnt. If we follow these steps closely, we can all shape a better world around us.
Firstly, don’t be afraid to start. When asked about traits that make a humanitarian leader, Mr Suresh Bartlett said, “He doesn’t need special expertise. Just a heart to care and the courage to start.” The humanitarian world may seem large and unfamiliar, but don’t be daunted – small efforts by you can make the greatest impact.
“Start small, and build your plan along the way,” Mr Bartlett advised. Things to do could be as simple as posting on Facebook about child trafficking, donating to the World Buddies Programme or singing for a good cause. Find one option that you like best, and tell yourself “I’ll start today”.
Secondly, give others a chance. Dr Tan Chi Chiu, Chairman of the Singapore Management University Lien Centre for Social Innovation has led countless teams to disaster zones around the world. When selecting doctors for each mission, he doesn’t always choose the most experienced.
“As a leader, you need to know that experience comes with opportunity. I always select a few inexperienced doctors, so that they can hone their skills and gain experience.”
As leaders, we should always create opportunities to grow our people. When we allow the most experienced person to join a project, it is more likely to produce a good result. However, leadership isn’t just about producing results. Leadership is also about producing people. When we give opportunities to fresh-faced members, we strengthen our pool of talent in the long-term.
Thirdly, put your feet on the ground. The humanitarian world is full of organisations that work from air-conditioned offices, not poverty-stricken villages. The result? Humanitarian projects that are short-term and ineffective.
Mr Michael Klemm, Associate Director of the NUS International Relations Office, mentioned, “In every project, go down to the community, ask around and find out what they need. If they are starving, don’t buy them blankets.” Before any humanitarian project, find out about the needs, habit and culture of the community you want to help. Otherwise, our desire to help can do more harm than good.
On the whole, I truly enjoyed the inaugural Youth Summit, as it engaged me on a personal level. It may only have lasted a morning, but I left with three lessons, a smile and a renewed sense of purpose.