The theme for International Youth Day 2020 that falls today is Youth Engagement for Global Action.
While much of the events one associates with Youth Day has to be scrapped globally due to the pandemic, we should celebrate the many positive things that the youth of the world have done when they come together for a common cause.
Before you shrug your shoulders and view them with disdain due to the actions of certain wayward members (out-of-control celebrities, spoilt rich brats and freebie seeking influencers), whether it is forming the backbone of global movements such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, gay rights and refugee rights, or helping the underprivileged during the Covid-19 pandemic, young people are coming together to try to make a difference more than ever before.
We spoke to Heidy Quah, the CEO and founder of Refuge For The Refugees who was featured in Amnesty International’s article “7 Young People Who Took Action And Helped Their Communities During The Covid-19 Pandemic.”
Quah had to endure more than her fair share of harassment and cyber-bullying for the work she did helping refugees at a time when they were struggling to cope with a global pandemic. Nonetheless, nothing will deter this young woman who moves to the beat of her own drum.
Quah said that it has been a very difficult time for everyone and no one is exempted.
“It is not only about how do we get through this but also about how we can support the people around us.”
When the pandemic started, Quah said that she and her friends wanted to feed 500 families first. “As the work went on and we worked closely on the ground we realised that there were so many more people in need and their needs were even more jarring. We went above and beyond to start fundraising and people were very kind to respond to us. We have now fed more than 15,000 families since the MCO started.”
“It actually has been a trying time. It is not just about getting through the pandemic and staying safe. I personally had to shift out of the family house and stay outside for a while at the peak of the pandemic because by parents are in their 60s and I don’t want to risk bringing anything back home to the family. I was serving the community everyday during the pandemic and it was actually difficult.”
Very often youth (in any generation) are perceived as irresponsible or lazy. But we saw only the opposite recently.
“I think we live our lives with some much misconception built around youths. We are quick to judge them for their actions. But when young people come together, incredible things can happen. We see these things constantly. I see it among my peers.
“We have seen social media taking a turn because it is young people who are using these platforms to have conversations on what sexual harassment looks like, to talk about mental health, to talk about current issues in a positive, engaging and intelligent way. So I definitely think we have always underestimated the power of young people. And we need to stop doing that.
“The youth of today are capable of doing so many good things if we allow them the space to grow, and trust them to move in the direction that they think is important.”
“I personally don’t believe in having a day to commemorate someone like women or youth. What is the point of celebrating us on one day and then on other days ignoring us. Give us a platform for our voice, to talk about issues we are passionate about. My thoughts are why celebrate us on one day when you can trust and support us every day.”
Quah said she hopes that as we move forward in a world where The New Normal is the norm, she hopes that society will stop holding youths to the same expectations they had on young people a decade ago.
“Things are going to be different. Trust us to know what we are doing and support us every step of the way.”