Yvonne at the ASEAN Youth Initiative Conference
Yvonne Teo Yee Voon, 22, a lively and talkative young lady majoring in Psychology in the American Degree Program is one of the up and coming youth leaders of Malaysia. Energetic and ambitious, Yvonne was once a person who had little confidence and balked at the idea of public speaking and at giving presentations during lesson time.
In this interview, she shares with us the story of her transformation from a person who had little confidence in herself into an energetic and ambitious youth leader in her college and in the Asian community.
Tell us about your transformation journey.
I attended my first programme, Young Money Master which was organized by the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), a programme by the United States government.
It was held two years ago in Kuala Lumpur and I applied for a scholarship and was accepted. It was at this programme that I discovered the leadership skills that have always been in me, and it was at this platform where I gained my confidence.
The Asia Pacific Youth Exchange was the programme where I discovered the unconscious wants and needs in my life.
I now have the confidence to source for funding from external sources so that I can attend these conferences overseas. It is not easy asking for funding for such conferences, or for research for that matter. At these conferences, I have the opportunity to speak to many youth and share with them my experiences. I have also presented papers and proposals to senior members of various organisations such as those from the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, and from governments.
I am also excited to be able to work with similar passionate people from all over Asia on projects which are close to our hearts such as sustainable development and environmental conservation. These are the things I never thought I would be able to do in my lifetime.
The conference has taught me many soft skills, and has changed my entire perspective on life and what I really want.
Yvonne and friends at the Asia Pacific Social Protection Conference
What were the changes in your perspective on life?
I discovered my capabilities at this conference, and I am extremely grateful to Dr Paul Chan and HELP CAT for their financial support and encouragement for allowing me to attend this particular conference and many others.
I was given a new life!
A lot of people think that my opportunities came along because of luck, and although luck sometimes does play a role, if you don’t make the first move, you won’t gain the luck from your surroundings. There are many opportunities out there, and you should always give it a try, even though you might think you won’t make it. There is nothing you can’t do, it is whether you want it to happen or not. If you want to achieve something, you need to try, and not give up. I’ve been rejected before by some big wigs when I was asking for funding and pitching ideas to them, and they have rejected me before, but I did not allow these rejections to stop me from doing what I want to do in life.Do not give up on yourself even though the people around you look down on you, because you’re the only person who can help yourself.
I was a negative person in the past, but now I am extremely positive and passionate about what I am doing. I find that spending my time doing what I like, which is attending these conferences and working on projects close to my heart has helped me find my purpose in life.
In the past, I thought I would just complete my degree, get married and find a stable job, and have kids. I never dreamt that I could be a leader, let alone a youth leader attending various conferences around the region and being a positive influence. Now I know I can be a lot more than what I thought I could be.
Yvonne and participants at the asean china youth leadership summit
Did find that you had to work harder to achieve your new dreams?
I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) , which is a disability, and I want to tell those who have disabilities, and who are not academically outstanding, that if I can transform myself, so can they! I gained no favor from anybody since young, because of my rebellious attitude caused by the ADHD. I did not know why people disliked me and it caused me to have low self-esteem.
I found out that I have ADHD when I was pursuing my psychology degree in HELPCAT, and it helped me to understand more about myself. I found out some truths about myself, and as a result of this I also use what I have learned about myself to help my tuition students, as most of them have disabilities too.
Due to my disability, I have to work harder and achieve more. I want to prove to people that I can achieve my goals and dreams in life. I want to influence and encourage other people to expand their abilities, and not to look down on themselves, this is why I want to attend more conferences . We shouldn’t listen to people who tell us that we can’t make their dreams come true.I am not a straight As student, but I want to tell others, especially those who are not academically outstanding, that there is a lot more talent in them than they think, and they need to discover it.
Yvonne and participants at the Asia Pacific Social Protection Conference
Tell us about one your experience at one of the conferences where you had to work with other people from around Asia Pacific.
I was chosen to be the Malaysian representative at the Asia Pacific Youth Exchange in Manila in January 2016. During the one week immersion programme, my team chose water and sanitation as our main project and proposal. We went to one of the barangay in Santa Rosa, and we were shocked and sad to see the conditions the children had to live in.My group found the project challenging initially because of communication issues, we came from different countries from around Asia Pacific, and not all members were fluent in English. We finally managed to form a deeper bond and learned to communicate more effectively. We changed our proposal overnight after brain storming ideas, and am glad to say that we emerged in the top 5. We had to sell the proposal to the Asian Development Bank and the Philippines Government.I hope to go back to Santa Rosa to check on the progress of the project on sanitation and water for the village.
Yvonne with team mates at the ASEAN Youth Initiative Conference
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Some of my friends that I have made at the conferences, and myself have established the Global Responsible Community, a non-governmental organisation to create a responsible, sharing and caring global social movement. The purpose of this NGO is to encourage people to refuse, reduce, reuse, recreate, rotten and recycle, what we call the 6Rs. The idea for this NGO came about from what we learned about the 21 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations.Currently we have more than 8 countries involved in the team. Each national board will have their own vision and mission on what SDG they would like to be involved with.
Yvonne and team members at the ASEAN Youth Initiative Forum
How do you juggle your time between your studies and attending these conferences?
I have a very hectic schedule as you can see, but no matter how busy I am, I will still find time to pursue my own happiness. Some people think there is no reason for pursuing something they love in life because they think they are always busy. There is no such thing as being too busy, but it is a matter of priority and time management. I prioritized the happiness of myself, and in doing something that can make me happy such as attending conferences, which is where I acquire my positive vibes from. I also enjoy exercising, and I do sing and dance in public as a way of expressing myself. I have been performing since I was a young child. I am now in my final year majoring in psychology and I have to be very disciplined in my time management, as I am also attending conferences almost every other month. Besides these, I am also teaching tuition to earn money to finance my studies.My parents were once poor . During those difficult years, I witnessed the hard work my father put in at the factory. His diligence made a deep imprint on my heart, and it serves as a reminder to me that I can be a better person, I can make a living myself by working as a tuition teacher, and pay my own college fees to reduce the burden on my family. This is the reason that motivates me to work hard.
Besides attending conferences and classes, are you doing anything else to improve yourself?
I am also active in social work, and when possible I will attend training programmes, such as financial, management and HR skills, to improve myself.
I have also signed up for some online classes on Leaders of Learning, an online e-learning portal by Harvard University Edx. I was the first scholarship recipient in the world for the Leaders of Learning e-learning portal.
To be able to study at Harvard University, or one of the top universities has always been my dream. People laugh at me when I talk about this, but you know, things start when you dream big and achieve it in bits. There are people who criticize you and look down on you, but those whom I love and who love me back, never look down on me, but encourage me.
Criticism and negativity should not prevent you from reaching the finishing line, but it gives us an opportunity to challenge some people-pleasing tendencies. Always think positive and always keep in mind the greatness inside you, the thing that has driven you to make a start.
Yvonne has already been interviewed by various newspapers in Malaysia and China, and we have no doubt that we will hear more of her in the future as she continues to make an positive change in the people that come in touch with her.
Yvonne won the Most Initiative Delegate at the ASEAN Youth Initiative Conference
Certificate of Participation at the Asia Pacific Social Protection Conference for Yvonne Teo