Last Friday, on August 29th 2014, Global Peace Foundation Malaysia hosted the first ever Peace Chat Series at the headquarter office. Peace Chat is a casual and easy-going chat session with young changemakers of Malaysia. It serves as a platform for audiences to discover the reasons behind their amazing work for the betterment of society, the challenges and obstacles faced, and how their efforts are contributing to unity and peace-building in the community.
Peace Chat believes in a two-way interaction for maximum impact and aims to have the attendees and guest speakers actively interacting with each other during the whole 2-hours session, where the sharing goes in circle. With Archana as the emcee and Dr Teh Su Thye, CEO of GPF Malaysia, and a few staffs as the moderators, the audiences were lead to know that they were more than welcomed to ask questions directly to the speakers during the sharing session.
With the theme of “The Rising Heroes of the Social Sector”, the two guest speakers (or guest chatters, as we’d lovingly call them) were invited to grace our first monthly activity were the inspiring Chew Jern Ken and the hardcore singer-youth motivator Khairuddin Aziz.
Jern Ken, a young social changemaker who is not more than 20 years old, started his journey in making a difference in the society by joining the Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita as the Assistant Producer after completing his SPM. Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita (Our Houses of Worship Project) is a non-profit community mapping project by young Malaysians that promotes the understanding of different faiths in Malaysia. Their team came from different ethnicities and faiths, and despite their differences, they believe in a society that embraces diversity.
Other than bringing people together via interfaith understanding and racial harmony through creative ways, Jern Ken is also part of the team that independently run powerful talks devoted to spreading ideas from technology, entertainment, design, science, business to global issues – none other than the rapidly-growing popular TEDxKL and TEDxYouthKL.
Unlike any youth his age, even though he was advised by his parents to continue his studies in the tertiary level, Jern Ken took that leap of faith and talked his way into his parents. He reasoned out with them and with their understanding and support, he took a gap year and got involved in many social initiatives. Crediting his older brother who has also been actively involved in similar activities, he mentioned that his interest in this path was made possible thanks to his brother’s influences.
His experiences as a high school exchange student for a year to the United States of America have greatly changed his perspectives on a lot of things, particularly on racial and interfaiths understanding including on effective social engagements and initiatives. The knowledge and values gained from his experiences had spurred him to take actions and start doing things to manifest them into something useful for his own countrymen back home. For instance, during his time as an exchange student, after seeing how proper planning and collaboration of physiotherapy with town planning can actually helped improve the community, he is now aspired to be a physiotherapist that would impact the community in similar ways – an ambitious and noble goal from someone in his peak of teen years at that time.
When asked if there were any challenges as someone so young to go out and organising many things for the society, he did not deny the fact that he is still financially-dependant on his parents and seeing his friends going further with their studies do make him wonder about his decisions sometimes. Confident with what life has to offer him at this moment though, he is taking it all in a stride and learning as much as he could along the way.
Khairuddin Aziz, or more commonly known as Khai or Ein, started his way in the most unconventional way: via hardcore music (yes, you read that right). He is the founder and manager of Drug Free Youth Association (DFYA), a non-profit committed to positively influence children and teenagers to live a straight-edge life. Growing up, Khai was actively involved with underground hardcore scene. As anyone in the scene knows, different groups (mainstream punk, metal, hardcore, black metal, and skinhead, for example) promote different things to their followers. Most pronounced is that they highlight differences and creating gaps among these groups.
Khai – an avid hardcore music lover who formed his own band (Second Combat) in his early teen years and were influenced by a movement in Europe that promotes straight-edge lifestyle (drug- and alcohol-free) – would go to underground concerts and shows with his band promoting that movement along with the ideology that all groups should stand united instead of divided. This was when Internet, Google and smartphones were obsolete, and they were only 16 years old.
United Front was born and aimed to bring these groups together by enjoying and appreciating the music scene they’re in. They continued to be proactive, going around the world to meet and performed with hardcore bands they grew up listening to and emulating from. Drug Free Youth Association came in full force not too long after he came back from touring and started noticing that the age group of drug and alcohol abuses among school-going youth are getting younger and younger. Reaching out to youth mattered so much to him that he started knocking on headmasters’ and principles’ doors convincing them to allow him addressing this issue.
According to Khai, DFYA uses music as a tool to reach out to youth and educating them about the importance of staying off drugs and alcohols, in a cooler and more appealing way. After several years, they now have created about 150 bands, and most if not all, are straight-edge bands (they don’t smoke, drink and take drugs). These bands would be given the spaces and opportunities to perform and go on tours, where a number of them have toured in Japan, Philippines, and Korea, to name a few.
Other than that, he also shows these youth on how they should be living their lives: that they should be free of substances and help the society. He’d frequently bring them to help collect and distribute goods and food items to those in need: orphanages, old folks home, homeless communities, low income households, and even their own backyards. This, he believes, will help impact the youth in more profound ways while still allowing them to have fun as any children and teenagers should. Hence, comes in the music or entertainment part.
Everyone in the room was so engrossed in the chat session that 2 hours flew by unnoticed, as they learned of each other’s experiences and journeys in making a change in the society. It was a small group but nonethless very impactful and powerful as we got to know more of these real, every day super heroes walking amongst us and creating ripple effects of positive changes as they go about their lives.
Global Peace Foundation believes that audiences and speakers have gained valuable insights from this intimate and easy-going chat session and hope that this will be the seed for them to start going out there and live with a purpose that can help elevate humanity and promote unity in the world, in their own special and unique ways.