On 29th May 2022, Sunway’s Student Ambassadors dropped a teaser video featuring their new initiative, ACTiON on their social media pages, giving a pleasant surprise to their followers and many students. ACTiON: Cultivating a Giving Generation initiative was presented as a rebranded and revamped version of last year’s #Bangkit by SSA. This new initiative was targeted at those who were innovative and looking forward to giving back to society. It was also presented as a platform to provide impactful solutions and voice out their concerns on issues involving the underprivileged community.
Spanning nearly a month, from the 8th of August 2022 to the 3rd of September 2022, ACTiON was a fun-filled and a food for thought series of events for those passionate about contributing to society. For those who missed the event, fear not, as Echo has taken the liberty to give a breakdown of the whole initiative. Without further ado, let us take a trip down memory lane!
Beginning with the event launch ceremony, which was unveiled a few days before, none other than Datuk Nicol Ann David herself was going to be present as the Keynote Speaker on that day. The event was held on 8th August 2022, from 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm at Jeffrey Cheah Hall 1.
Before entering the auditorium, attendees were handed a gift bag filled with medical products such as a bottle of Vitamin C tablets along with a COVID-19 test kit which were provided by the sponsors of the event. Each attendee was also given a token slip with numbers printed for a lucky draw later in the event.
As an opening of the event, the audience were serenaded by the Sunway Music Club with a cover of Michael Jackson’s popular song ‘Black & White’ which proved to be quite apt for the event, embracing and accepting everyone, regardless of gender, race, colour or religion. Professor Sibrandes Poppema, President and Vice-Chancellor of Sunway University, Prof. Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam, Provost of Sunway University, Prof. Elizabeth Lee, Chief Executive Officer of Sunway Education Group along with former Colombian national player Mariana de Reyes also the co-founder and CEO of the Nicol David Organisation had graced the event as guest of honours with the national squash player.
Prof. Elizabeth Lee proceeded to give her opening speech, expressing her delight at finally being able to hear a live performance after a while since the pandemic. She also expressed her gratitude to Datuk Nicol for taking time out of her busy schedule to attend the event and her hopes for the event to be a successful one. This was followed by a short introduction video about the Nicol David Organisation (NDO), giving a brief understanding of the non-profit organisation to the audience. Then, Datuk Nicol herself took to the stage as the keynote speaker of the event launch.
She talked about breaking the glass ceiling and achieving many unimaginable things that have become a reality today. And while her 15-year-long career had been about her chasing her dreams individually, she now felt that it was time to focus on giving back through the one thing she knew best, sports. The national player realised a long time ago that sports and education go hand in hand in developing future generations. The new programme created by her, and Mariana de Reyes known as Little Legends, provides English and squash classes for children coming from low-income families.
Datuk Nicol David officially launched the event along with Prof. Elizabeth Lee and the President of SSA by cutting the connected red ribbons simultaneously. This was followed by a Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony between the Nicol David Organisation (NDO) and Sunway University. Datuk Nicol and Mariana de Reyes signed the document as representatives of NDO while Professor Sibrandes Poppema and Prof. Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam signed the MOU representing Sunway University. The guests of honour were also presented a token of appreciation by SSA to express their gratitude for gracing the event.
Due to Datuk Nicol David’s unfailing popularity, an impromptu or quite spontaneous fan meeting was also held after the MOU signing ceremony. What had started as an innocent request for a selfie along with the squash player, had ended up with the whole audience lining up for a photo or an autograph with one of Malaysia’s most influential figures.
The second half of the event proceeded with introducing the ACTiON flagship event to the audience present. It addressed the aim of the event and how it could be carried out along with a detailed timeline of the event.
The event launch ended with a lucky draw of which the prizes were sponsored by Sunway Pyramid Ice, Sunway Megalanes and Double U Studio. Most of the attendees were holding their breath at this point as the free entrance for ice skating, free bowling session and free dance classes were enticing prizes to be won. Overall, the beginning of ACTiON had been wrapped up successfully.
Followed by the event launch, on 20th August 2022, SSA introduced it’s next series in ACTiON event, which were conferences conducted with the theme ‘Culture of Giving’. Successful and inspiring guest speakers were invited to this conference to enlighten the audience about some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The conference was also live streamed across SSA’s official Facebook for the online audience.
The conference was split into three sessions: the first one, Action Conference 1: SDGs and Quality Education, followed by, Action Conference 2: Sustainability and Wildlife and lastly, Action Conference 3: Reduced Inequality. Each of the conferences was centred around a particular SDG.
Action Conference 1: SDGs and Quality Education
The first one focused on SDGs in general and the fourth SDG, Quality Education in particular. Ms Shannon Kobran, who currently leads the SDG Academy team within the new Kuala Lumpur office of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), which is hosted by Sunway University, shared her insights on the power of education and how it played an important role in fulfilling the SDGs. She also shared ways to contribute to the future of our people and the world.
Ms Shannon began the conference by asking for a show of hands on who, among the audience, knew what sustainable development meant or could define its importance and can name all 17 SDGs by heart. Unfortunately, not many were able to answer all the questions. Ms Shannon however, praised the audience for taking a step forward to understand more about SDGs by attending the event. She proceeded to give a thorough definition of sustainable development from the former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Ms Shannon’s conference proved to be extremely useful, where she broke down on how each of the SDGs had several targets set and how each of it had its own indicators to signify whether each target had been achieved. Then, she explained how SDG#4: Quality Education is basically a pillar to each one of the SDGs, where without basic education one couldn’t make further efforts to create change.
Ms Shannon stresses on the importance of basic rights to education especially those from the minority groups and poor countries. All 17 of the SDGs are interconnected and interrelated. And as complex it may seem; it all falls on to a matter of perspectives. That you can make a difference. So, to be a part of ACTiON, where innovation and creativity is encouraged to give back to the community, this may be a first step to making the world a better place.
Action Conference 2: Sustainability and Wildlife
The following conference, focused on the 13th SDG goal, Climate Action. For this, ACTiON invited Prof. Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, who has published over 90 articles in International Journal and was featured in BBC, New York Times and National Geographic. The founder of the non-profit organisation, Rimba, which conducted conservation science and presented as a platform for youngsters to conduct research regarding biodiversity and climate action, has been working alongside the State Government of Terengganu to create more awareness on wildlife.
He shared valuable knowledge revolving around the loss of habitat and climate change, to raise public awareness on this issue. Prof. Reuben carried on explaining the effects of climate change and how the loss of habitat also is affecting the loss of wildlife. He talks about endangered species such as tigers and leopards being poached due to the vast land that is now available due to logging. Wild animals such as these, prefer open spaces where they could also hunt for food easily.
The awareness of climate change has considerably increased during the pandemic, be it among the government, the NGOs, the private sectors or the general public itself. However, there hasn’t been enough financial backup from the government. Private sectors instead have stepped up to fund such programmes. Frankly, he says, there has not been much funding for programmes trying to mitigate climate change.
He also encourages youngsters to volunteer or experience working for an NGO, if they are passionate in giving back to the society, to the environment. The younger generation should also minimise the carbon footprint by making choices with their transportation, clothes, food and so on. It is also crucial to find tools to convince the government to protect the world’s carbon sinks, which are the lush forests’ that grow around us.
Action Conference 3: Reduced Inequality.
Lastly, for the third session, 3 speakers were invited by SSA to share topics on income inequality, racial inequality and workplace and societal inequality which represented SDG#10: Reduced Inequalities. They also shared on the implications of these issues towards long-term social and economic development of countries.
The speakers were, Dr Yuka Fujimoto, Professor in Business Management and Associate Dean (Research & Postgraduate), Sunway University Business School (SUBS), Dr Nur Ain Shahrier, Senior Lecturer in Department of Economics & Finance, Sunway University Business School (SUBS) and Mr Imran Rasid, Education Manager, SDG Academy.
When asked what inequality meant to them and why it was such a pressing issue now, Mr Imran, described inequality as something more than poverty. It basically disrupts the power balance of society and can be a threat to democracy. Dr Nur Ain, explains that income inequality is something that has increased due to COVID-19. The demand of those with skills in digital technology has usurped those with mediocre skills or those who were unable to adapt with the change of times. She also talks about the gap between rural and urban areas where the disparity in terms of infrastructure widens.
The speakers also stress the point that to eradicate inequality long-term measures have to be made, not short-term ones. The government has to help those who earn a lower income to obtain adequate education to come out of their poverty trap. Generally, women who are educated tend to care more for their child’s education. However, if the mother isn’t educated a child’s education is not taken into account. As such, women too have a right for education.
They concluded that actions taken to solve inequality in whichever form, have to not be distorted by the politicians or the elites. Instead, as Prof. Yuka explains, to have an altruistic value by putting others first. This is for everyone to have equal resources in life. To quote her, ‘We have wealth globally, it’s just that it’s in the hands of a few’.
Sunway Student Ambassadors’ (SSA) ACTiON: Cultivating a Giving Generation officially kicked off on the 27th of August until the 3rd of September with its Challenge period. Through this journey, the participating teams were tasked to come up with a charity organisation based on the 3 given beneficiaries and its subtopics (Environment, Wildlife, Humanitarian) and were to come up with their first project accordingly.
A total of 10 participating teams across different tertiary education institutions such as Sunway College, Sunway University, Multimedia University and Universiti Malaya joined ACTiON’s challenge. However, to provide the participants with some knowledge to prepare them for their presentations which were held on the last day of the challenge week, SSA had prepared a Challenge Initiation day on the 27th at Audi 7, Sunway College jam-packed with fun and informative activities for the participating teams.
Firstly, the registration of the teams was held to record their attendance. A goodie bag was given to each participant which consisted of ACTiON Crew T-shirts, a test kit and a Sunway ziplock pencil case. The participating teams were:
- Eco Minions
- Save the Empire
- Team CRS
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT)
- Zero to Hero
- The Hot List
- La Quatre
- Deadlock Breaker
As some of the participants were grouped up by SSA’s committee due to them joining either as a solo or duo, the committee decided to conduct an ice-breaking session next. To briefly explain the icebreaking, it was titled as “A Bad Day in Uni” where a picture of one of the committee members would be given to each team. The teams would then come up with the name of the committee, the course they’re studying, their personality and their hobbies. Ultimately, they were tasked to form a story of “A Bad Day in Uni” with their persona, which they presented after their discussions. It was fun for all, as the 10 teams presented their version of their bad day in uni, with a lot of heartbreaks, friendzoning, jurassic-themed love stories, serenades and very late assignment submissions. In the end, team Changemakers received a prize (ACTiON Lanyards) for the best (love) story curated.
Next on the agenda was the Challenge subtopic selection. SSA provided 6 subtopics under each beneficiary, totalling up to 18 subtopics to be chosen by the teams. However, the teams could not choose the same subtopic, and there were limits on how many teams were to be under a certain beneficiary. But to be fair to the participants, SSA implemented a 1st, 2nd, 3rd preference system where each team can list their top 3 subtopics, and their 1st choice would be ultimately prioritised. The selection was set to be on a first-come-first-serve basis via submission on Google Form live on site. After a team discussion amongst the members, they were ready to choose their subtopics! The set-up for the teams is as such:
- The Hot List – Air Pollution
- Eco Minions – Flooding
- Zero to Hero – Plastic Pollution on the Environment
- CRS – Animal Abuse
- Save the Empire – Wildlife Trafficking
- Deadlock Breakers – Effects of Habitat Destruction on Animals
- Changemakers – Urban Poverty
- Ber-ACTiON – Refugee Educational System
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) – Drug Abuse
- La Quatre – Youth Cyberbullying
A challenge briefing was provided to the participants as well. In summary, they were to develop a charity organisation under their subtopic and beneficiary, along with a pilot project under that organisation. The catch was that they were provided with a simulated RM5000 to execute their task and a preferred timeline of one month for the execution. The participants were required to send their slides to the organising committee before the presentation day or risk being penalised.
Moving on to the informative sessions, a general workshop was conducted with the purpose of providing tips and tricks on public speaking and project management which would come in handy with their presentations. The speakers that graced the venue with their knowledge in the field were none other than Mr Danial Rahman, Director of CEO’s office at Sunway Education Group, as well as Ms Arinah Najwa, Senior Analyst at BowerGroupAsia. Through this 1.5hour session, the participants were exposed to various ways to enhance their presentation skills in front of an audience, ways to properly arrange their project timeline and more!
After the great insights provided by the general workshop speakers, lunch break commences! The participants were given an hour to enjoy food provided by SSA, network with other teams and even start discussing with their teams on their presentations.
Moving forward, 3 beneficiary workshops were held concurrently after the lunch break specific for the 3 beneficiaries: Environment, Wildlife and Humanitarian. The teams were sent to different venues according to the subtopics they were assigned to, to listen in on the information provided by the notable speakers. The speakers for each beneficiary are:
- Ms Rina Omar, Programme Director at Free Tree Society
- Ms Christine Lai, Adoption Coordinator at Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB)
- YM Datin Raja Riza, Vice President & Legal Consultant at MERCY Malaysia
The speakers have been extremely helpful in providing insights about climate, animal lives, and mental/psychosocial issues present in Malaysia, along with useful tips/information that could be used for presentations by the teams.
Although the Challenge Initiation ended after the beneficiary workshops were finished, that was only the beginning of the journey of ACTiON. During the week of preparations, the participants were also exposed to an opportunity to talk with mentors from SSA’s partners for the event. They were given a maximum of 1 hour to receive advice from the partners. The mentors were such:
- Dr Zelina Ibrahim, an environmental analyst from the Centre for Environment, Technology & Development Malaysia (CETDEM)
- Ms Aisyah Rashid & Ms Flora George, from Wetlands International
- Mr. Devasharma Gangadaran, CEO of MySkills Foundation
- Coach Amirul, CEO of Yayasan Wiba Prima
- Dr. Dalphine Ong, and Mr Izzul from the Food Aid Foundation.
- Ms Leong Shih Kei, vice president of the Second Chance Animal Society
- Mr Kush, conservation officer of Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT)
Each participating team cherished the advice given by the passionate NGO members, which motivated them to push forward for the upcoming presentation.
Presentation + Award & Closing Ceremony
The ACTiON presentation was held on the 3rd of September at 1:00PM at Lecture Theater 1, 2 and 3 for the 3 different beneficiaries respectively. The participants were given 5 minutes to set up their slides, 15 minutes to present, 5 minutes to answer the questions by the judges, and 5 minutes for judges feedback. To mention, the judges for each beneficiary were as below:
- Environment: Tan Sri Dr Mahadi Mohamad, Ms Maisarah Faiesall, and Ms Keilly Lim Mei Harn, from Green Growth Asia Foundation, Sunway Centre for Planetary Health, and Roots & Shoots Malaysia
- Humanitarian: Dr Jane Gew, Ms. Amalina Davis, and Ms. Kathleeya Richards from Sunway Education Group, Thrive Well, and Teach For Malaysia
- Wildlife: Ms Priyanka, Ms Hawa, and Ms Yugees, from TRAFFIC, Juara Turtle Project, and Wildlife Conservation Society
As iterated previously, each team was to come up with presentations to display the charity organisation they had formed to support their cause, a.k.a their subtopics, along with their first pilot project under their NGO. Each team provided unique, innovative and creative solutions – some even going out of their way to make tangible prototypes, brochures, badges etc., to further show their passion for making their project come to life (albeit the simulated experience).
Without wasting any time, directly after the presentation, comes the Award & Closing Ceremony at 5:00PM in JC2, Sunway University. Many honourable guests such as Professor Elizabeth Lee, CEO of Sunway Education Group, Ms Lee Siok Ping, Director of Student LIFE, partner organisations for the event as well as guests from Sunway Clubs & Societies, friends and family attended the ceremony to witness the announcement of the winners.
However, before the winners were announced, many agendas came before to build up the energy of the guests. The opening performance of Bruno Mars’s “Just the Way You Are” by Nicole and Daniel set the mellow tone of the ceremony. An Event Launch recap was presented as a video to reminisce the 8th of August where the university was graced by Dato Nicol Ann David’s presence.
Following the Event Launch recap was a Closing speech by none other than the Guest of Honour, Professor Elizabeth Lee. She congratulated the teams for their active participation in wanting to give back to the community via innovative ideas and appreciated in the organising committee for their hard work for the past few months in executing this event for the tertiary institutions. Not to forget the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that Sunway follows tightly, she has expressed her gratitude to students who support and want to succeed the goals. Shortly after her speech, a Challenge Initiation recap also in the form of a video was shown to the audience.
Before the most awaited announcement of the winners came by, a lucky draw slash giveaway winner announcement was made! 6 lucky winners walked away with Sunway Ice tickets, Megalanes tickets, or L’amour Herbarium preserved flower lamps worth RM160 each. As this energised the audience, testing their luck, they were more than ready to witness the challenge winners announcement.
The challenge winners were none other than:
- Environment: Eco Minions
- Wildlife: Save the Empire
- Humanitarian: Changemakers
Each winning team received an RM800 cash prize, ACTiON merchandise, Sunway Ice tickets, Megalane tickets, award plaques and Certificates of Achievement. The smiles on the faces of the winners were bright on the stage as they graciously received the prizes on stage presented by Professor Elizabeth Lee and Ms Lee Siok Ping. However, all teams who presented did their absolute best in presenting their groundbreaking ideas to the judges, which everyone has commended.
Before ending the ceremony, a presentation of Token of Appreciation was conducted. Tokens of Appreciation were passed to the judges, mentors, partners, and Guests of Honor for taking the time out of their schedules to attend the ceremony, along with their constant support in SSA’s ACTiON through the past months. To commemorate this event, of course, a group picture was taken with all the attendees. Thus, ACTiON: Cultivating a Giving Generation has ended on a successful note.
Interview with SSA
Echo also had the opportunity to ask a few questions about ACTiON to SSA. Let’s dive into the behind the scenes of this wonderful event!
What was the main inspiration behind ACTiON?
Last year, we had a flagship event called #Bangkit: Rethinking the Malaysian Education Landscape. It had a Conference x Challenge concept, where we had 7 conferences in the line-up all about education in different sectors (Science, Education in the Future, Information Technology, Non-Governmental Organisation and Business), and a challenge which was held throughout the month of August for participating teams to solve the problem statement according to their chosen sectors. However, the education theme does not stick for all years, as the previous committee had the intention of changing themes each year depending on the prevalent social issues.
Moving on to this year, we decided to bring back this concept with a slight revamp. We changed our flagship event name from #Bangkit to ACTiON, with the play-on-words to suggest participants to “Act On” their ideas. Instead of education, we wanted to emphasize on helping one another through tough times, especially as we are slowly returning to the norm of things after last year’s pandemic phase. With the theme “Culture of Giving”, we started ACTiON: Cultivating a Giving Generation, a Conference x Challenge to explore ideas and solutions which could give back to the society through beneficiaries (Humanitarian, Environment and Wildlife).
How long was the whole process of implementing this project?
We began planning for ACTiON at the end of March / early of April after our Scholars 101 event. We had to begin early since this flagship event is considered a big-scale event with many activities lined up. Another reason was due to sponsorships and partnerships, where we will need the time to communicate with external parties to receive support for our project.
Could you give us a short run-through about the behind the scenes?
All 37 of our committee are put into 4 departments (aside from the usual SSA departments) which are Event Management, Logistics, Public Relations and Media & Design. It was pretty hectic for all the departments, but during different timings. We think that Public Relations and Media & Design have been constantly working, as they have to secure partnerships and sponsorships, or curate promotional posts on our social media respectively. For Event Management and Logistics, they were also hectic, but even more so during the execution period as they had to plan the flow of the event, and manage the participants’ affairs. In summary, all committee members have put in their all throughout these past few months to make our event possible, and the event launch was just the first stepping stone. The EXCOs could not appreciate their contribution enough, as we have all had our blood, sweat and tears poured into this project for the community.
What made you guys bring in Nicol David and her organisation Nicol David Organisation?
Aligned with our theme “Culture of Giving”, we wanted to find a keynote speaker who is widely known for their kind-hearts for giving back to the community they have grown up in. We have searched far and wide for this keynote speaker; we even considered Jeffrey Cheah himself. However, a golden opportunity was shown to us as Student LIFE told us that Datuk Nicol will collaborate with Sunway Education Group under Nicol David Organisation. Knowing that NDO is a non-profit organisation that focuses on fostering and aiding the dreams of underprivileged children, we knew we had to take the chance to ask Datuk Nicol herself to join our Event Launch. Fortunately, she could come to the ceremony upon discussions of her availability with her team.
We could not thank her enough for agreeing to be our keynote speaker, and for all the hard work she has put in her past years as a professional squash player for Malaysia, bringing more than just one glory to our nation. She is such an inspiration to many, as she still stays down-to-earth, humble and warm-hearted despite her many achievements, which is evident as she founded NDO along with Marianna Reyes. We sincerely wish her all the best in her future endeavours, and we hope everyone still supports her regardless of her whereabouts.
Any hopes or dreams for ACTiON in the future? Will you be doing this again?
This will be entirely up to our next term’s committee. For those who don’t know, back before the pandemic came about, SSA used to plan Sunway’s Got Talent for years. Due to the many uncertainties and COVID-19 restrictions, we could not bring this back last year and this year. However, if we are given a chance to bring Sunway’s Got Talent back into action next year, there could be a possibility of this event happening again. Though we could also still be continuing ACTiON, or we might go into hiatus (jokes…. Unless). If you are interested in our upcoming events or you’re keen to become our next term’s committee, you may follow us on our Instagram (@sunwayssa), Facebook (Sunway Student Ambassadors) and LinkedIn (Sunway Student Ambassadors) to stay updated!
Echo hopes that there will be more activities and events around the campus to encourage students to do their part in giving back to society. Congratulations to SSA for having organised this event victoriously!
Written by: Poorani, Yuin
Edited by: Maki