wief2014The World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) invites applications for its 2014 WIEF Young Fellows programme from 18-24 June in Manila.

Who can apply?

  • Fresh graduates, young entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, community workers, researchers, junior professionals, artists, creative change makers who are between the ages of 20 and 30, and have a seed of an idea that they want to develop into a full-grown project.
  • Preference will be given to applicants who can demonstrate how this Programme will directly benefit them, their community and their country.
  • Proficiency in English is required. If you are accepted you will be required to participate fully in the discussions and role-plays in English.

How to apply?

  • Applying is a 2-step process. First, you need to send these details to Said Hamadi at said@wief.org.
  1. completed application form
  2. your CV
  3. letter of recommendation
  4. passport-sized photo
  • Second, if you are selected as a candidate, you are liable to pay a registration fee of USD100 to secure your placement.

Key points to note

  • WIEF Young Fellows 2014 is a subsidized programme for accepted candidates. Participants need to pay only the registration fee and their own return flights. Accommodation and transportation during the programme period, programme materials and basic everyday meals are covered by the organizer.
  • Closing Date of Application: 9 May 2014
  • Confirmation deadline. Applicants will be notified of the outcome of selection latest on 16 May (earlier applicants will be notified earlier.)
  • Proof of participation. If you are selected, you will be given a 2-week deadline to send us proof of your participation, by submitting your confirmed flight itinerary and paying your registration fee. Participants seeking financial support from their own organization and/or other foundations, crowdfunding, or sponsors, need to do so by the given deadline. If you pass this deadline, the organiser will transfer this opportunity to another candidate.
  • Commitment. As an annual programme, we only have spaces for 30 young leaders every year. It is a privilege if you are selected for this programme as you are chosen amongst hundreds of applicants. We expect you to take this opportunity to commit fully to the programme.
  • Cancellations. Please think before you register. Make sure you really can make the time to participate because last minute cancellations result in an opportunity lost to another young leader.

Click here for the WIEF Youth Fellows 2014 programme [in pdf format].

Click for the WIEF Youth Fellows 2014 application form [in word doc].

It was barely a couple of weeks ago when I first heard about FiTree and their plans to organise a couple of Green Iftars during the month of RamaFiTree Posterdan  — on the 15th and 27th July 2013. “OH YES!!! Finally, more Singapore Muslims are actively thinking and doing their bit for the environment.”

Green Iftars may be seen as a novelty in Singapore, but is nevertheless part of a steady trend amongst environmentally-conscious Muslims worldwide attempting to operationalise and mainstream environmental practices in their communities, based on Islamic principles related to the environment.  Last year, a few of us did our own small-scale green iftar.

FiTree’s efforts are commendable given the fact that they’ve recieved great support from Masjid Darul Aman to organise the iftar. In addition to being given the liberty to put up posters and set up their booths virtually anywhere around the mosque, Masjid Darul Aman has also supported FiTree introducing the use of biodegradable cutlery for the event.

Fellow Project ME-er, Ibrahim, and myself rocked up at Masjid Darul Iman at about 6pm. FiTree folks were busy putting the final touches to their posters and two booths – one on the men’s side and another on the women’s side of the mosque. In addition to giving out free bookmarks with various Quranic verses on the environment printed on them, FiTree folks also selling cute little badges for 2 bucks. A tazkirah (sermon) on the importance of the environment in Islam was also delivered prior to the breaking of fast.

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Take a tip!

After breaking fast and Maghrib prayers, Project ME-ers and some members of FiTree had a chat on how the evening went and other broader issues related to Islamic environmentalism. Given that it was the first Green Iftar in a mosque, it was interesting to observe the responses of the congregation. Speaking in Malay was clearly an important factor in relaying the message, particularly to the older men and women in the mosque, and it was great that the FiTree bookmarks had both English and Malay translations of the Quranic verses. Another interesting response from several makciks when given the bookmarks was Do I have to pay for this?”, to which we responded “No Aunty, it’s free”. A few of them placed their new bookmarks in between the pages of their qurans and Islamic books.

This has certainly been a good start for FiTree and part of their learning curve in further advancing FiTree’s efforts to increase envioronmental awareness amongst Muslims. If you would like to participate in their next Green Iftar, do check out their Facebook page.

Makcik buying a FiTree Badge
Makcik buying a FiTree Badge

A slight abberation to what I usually post, but this is such a MUST post!

Shila Amzah from Malaysia wins the Asian Wave 2012 in China with her amazing voice, stage presence and lovely choice of songs from three languages – English, Mandarin and Malay.

Not only is Shila a testament that language is no boundary and music and passion conquers all, she’s truly an inspiration for many of us, especially Muslim youth worldwide.

Congrats Shila! The judges’ reactions are totally EPIC (especially at 14:57)! Haha! You rock!

Best wishes from the concrete island across the causeway 🙂

I was invited to be the Guest of Honour at the 2012 Canossian Awards. This ceremony is an annual event organised by my alma mater – St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School –  to recognise students that have achieved academic excellence for the year. Teachers are also commended for their efforts in support the students. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me to not only be updated with the various improvements made for the school, but also meet some old teachers and sisters that played a part of my growth as a teen.  Below is a text of my speech.

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

Good morning everyone,

First and foremost, I would like to thank SAC for giving me this great honour of attending this year’s Canossian Awards ceremony and addressing you today. It was really a pleasant surprise when Mrs Yip called me one afternoon while I was at work to tell me about this.

I think she was a bit amused by my reaction — “Oh wow, that’s so cool”. It was a nice piece of news amidst the stress and uncertainty in my preparations for PhD; and its very humbling to know that my little steps of progress are being recognised by an institution that has played a significant role as in my teenage years. Thank you, once again.

The theme of today’s event is about aiming high and reaching for the Stars. How everyone has the potential to be a shining star and achieve their goals in life. The concept of individuals as stars is also relevant for the fact that only the bigger shinier stars are visible to the naked eye. Its only when we use a telescope that we are able to see a range of smaller stars in the sky.

Similarly, in life, we often only hear about the success stories of a few, when there are actually many others out there who have had many achievements and more importantly touched the lives of others.

That said, why are some stars more visible than others? Why are the achievements of some individuals recognised more than others?  In my short address to you today, I’ll highlight four  points that I think are important for becoming illuminating stars. I must say that I am far from being a bright guiding North Star at this point of time, but there have nevertheless been lessons through my schooling years and short working period that I think would be relevant to young individuals like yourself.

Point #1: Know Yourself and Your Opportunities

Know what topics interest you, and seek to develop those interests further. Start a hobby – apart from surfing on Facebook. Know what your strengths are and know what you like to do. When I was in secondary school, I only knew I liked talking about politics and current affairs. So I opted for history rather than biology in Sec 3.

Also know your weaknesses and how to overcome them. Like many of you, I hated exams. I also knew that I preferred to be given essay assignments rather than sit for a 2 hour exam. However, given the exam-based systems that we have for O-level and A-level, I just had to suck it up and do my best. Fortunately O-levels went well, although my A-levels was pretty bad- a point which I will get to later.

Also know that in the working world, personality matters more than paper qualifications. This does not mean that academic grades are irrelevant. Rather its a basic requirement. Everyone has a diploma or degree and sometimes even a masters.

Employers want to know what other skills you can bring to their organisation — such as leadership skills, social skills and willingness to work as a team. Developing such skills definitely cannot be done via memorising text books, but rather through the various CCAs that you participate in.

I know you’ve probably heard this before, but its really true. Because when you’re actually trying to create an impressive CV for your first job, you’ll be really happy that you participated in CCAs, or regretting that you didn’t do enough of it in school.

In Sec 1, I was chairman of my class, then moved on to be a prefect and a member of the Student Council. I was also a Girl Guide and subsequently became a patrol leader. At some point in upper secondary, I was also a Peer Support Leader and a School Year Book Committee Member. For me, these experiences allowed me to develop important life skills that I would further enhance through other CCAs during my undergraduate days and other activities that I engage in outside of work.

Point #2: Listen to the little stars around you.

While we can often look up to the bigger stars and achievers highlighted in the mainstream media, oftentimes it doesn’t take much to find inspiration from those around us – especially those older and with more experience than us. This includes your family and your teachers — They would be in the best position to guide and advice you, if you are willing to listen. Such advice may sometimes come across as nagging, but always take a deep breath and bear in mind that what you don’t understand now, will be understood later on.

Aside from family and teachers, little stars can also be random people that you meet in life. For instance, one person I find inspiration from is an elderly janitor that works in NTU.  This lady is a widow in her mid 60s and comes to work earlier than anyone else. She earns maybe about 400 to 600 dollars a month, and has the simplest of lunches – usually some rice topped with a bit of ikan bilis and soy sauce that she brings from home. Yet, despite these challenging circumstances that she faces, she still makes the effort and time to do community service at an old folks home and a neighbourhood mosque. It made me think, if she can do all this, why can’t I? Why is it that we – who have a life much easier than her – still complain of being too busy and not enough time to do anything?

This brings me to my 3rd point –

Point #3: Take Advantage of Adversity.

It is important to note that achievements don’t occur overnight and are part of a long-term process of development. Often those who are successful, have failed at some points in their life. Doing badly in my A-levels, was one of them. I also experienced a rough patch in my third year of University, due to a few personal issues.

The most useful lesson for me during these rough periods was the importance of picking myself up and channelling the energy to other activities. During my University days, I took on responsibilities in at least 4 Committees in Hostel (which are called Colleges in Australia) – specifically the College Year Book committee, Environment Committee, Diversity and Volunteer Committee and Arabic Society. I was also Director/Producer of the College Play, President of a Senior Common Room, was part of an external dance troupe and participated in other random inter-college events. Ironically, this crazy schedule forced me to be more organised with my time. In addition to graduating with a 2nd upper class honours, my CCA efforts had unexpectedly paid off as I was also awarded the Collegian of the Year Award. In retrospect, its interesting how my performance was most mediocre when I was most inactive in Junior College.

The fourth and last point: Communicate Globally and Locally Effectively.

The history of astronomy has demonstrated the importance of stars by all civilisations, thus showing its universal relevance to mankind. Similarly the potential to make your ideas relevant to a wider audience beyond Singapore is immense. Globalisation is such an intrinsic part of our daily life, it would be a shame not to make the best of it. Sharing ideas through social media is an effective tool – if used with a sense of professionalism. For instance, if you would plan to maintain a blog, rather than it being a series of rants and posts beginning with “dear diary this is what I did today”, take the effort to compose thoughtful, clear and constructive commentaries on an issue.

Truth be told, some key opportunities that I received in the past few years was a result of people contacting me because they were interested in my environment-related blog posts. Firstly, it allowed me to get connected with people who understood and shared my ideas (at a time when others around me didn’t understand my ideas). Secondly, it provide a chance for me to present my ideas at international conferences, and from there opening doors to other networks and opportunities.

That said, communicating locally is just as important, so that we are clear on what’s happening in our own backyard. At the end of the day, Singapore is our home and we have a responsibility to this island.

There was a quote I found on Twiiter, that I think sums this up very well – it said:

“The grass isn’t greener on the other side, its greener where you water it. Don’t lust over something that isn’t yours and invest in what is.”

This is, however, the most difficult task to accomplish, but overcoming it will be most rewarding.

So there you have it, 4 points to being a shining star. Having said all that, some of you might be thinking, “Well that’s all very nice, but I’m still not convinced that being a bright shiny star is for me. I don’t even know where to start”.

 My response to this would be to reflect on the vision of SAC.

“To be a passionate learning community, renowned for its spirit of innovation and excellence  , within a culture of compassion.”

  1. Passionate learning community — meaning you’re always hungry to know more about everything and anything
  2. Spirit of innovation & excellence – referring to new ideas, and being the best that you can
  3. Within a culture of compassion  — for me – that the key word: compassion.

Here in Singapore, we’re always told to be #1 in everything. We have various institutions and resources dedicated to education, training and research — all in a bid to support innovation. But most of the time in the working world, what drives innovation is not compassion, but individual gain.

People tend to innovate not for principles but for profit. Or sometimes, they may have started with principles, but strayed away from their original mission.

This is the challenge I pose to you – future stars of St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School.

How will you strike a balance between getting a good job  that you love and enjoy while still giving back to society?

How will you innovate primarily for compassion rather than cost-cutting?

So the next time when you switch on your computer or smartphone —  Instead of immediately logging on to Facebook, take a few minutes to do a google search on a topic or idea that you would like to develop or know more about — and constantly reflect on how it can be relevant to your life and society as a whole. It’s a small start for bigger things to come.

And with that, thank you and I’d be happy to leave my contact details with the teachers if anyone you want to have a chat about your ideas on being a star.

I wish you all good luck and God Bless 🙂

Bayer –  in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – is organising its annual Bayer Young Environmental Envoy Program. Calls for 2012 application have already started.

What initially started out as a  local project in Thailand in 1998, the program has been extended to 17 other countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Call for applications from Malaysia and Singapore are now open. For the remaining countries, do stay tuned and visit the Bayer website or their Facebook page for more updates.

Hear what one of the BYEEs from the Philippines have had to say about the programme.

A big shout out to Arwa Aburawa and others from The Green Prophet for interviewing me on my thoughts on the environmental challenges in Southeast Asia and the role that women play in it. What an honour it is to be featured along side other awesome green Muslims like Ibrahim Abdul Matin, Kristiane Backer and the ever-so adorable Jeddawis from Naqaa Enterprise.

It’s also great how some of us green Muslims have progressively connected with one another – both online and offline – and sometimes in instances we least expect! The first of these instances was when I met Nadia Janjua, one of the founders of DC Green Muslims, while participating in the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum in Kuala Lumpur in 2010. That was cool 🙂

This is only the beginning and I look forward to a day when all us Green Muslims worldwide get to meet up for some great chats of cups of tea and vegetarian potluck, InshaAllah 🙂

To read the interview, please click here.

Screenshot from MuzlimBuzz.sg

How awesome is that? I got interviewed by NTUMS’s Eleven and MuzlimBuzz.sg!

Thanks very much folks, for listening to my two cents worth on the need to increase environmental awareness and action amongst Muslims.

It is my hope that such messages will in time be shared further and ultimately reach a critical mass for a truly environmentally conscious Ummah, inshaAllah 🙂

If you haven’t checked out the interviews yet, click here for the Muzlimbuzz article  and here for the Eleven article.

What a nice way to start the weekend! Got tagged in this Facebook post by a friend.

The newspaper article in question was in Singapore’s Straits Times sometime in early Feb 2011. The article was essentially a feature on me and the stuff that I’ve been doing professionally and on the side (albeit just little stuff).

To the junior college student that wrote the article review, thank you. Your appreciation for the work I do is definitely a source of motivation for me to do more. I look forward to seeing the exciting things that you are doing or potentially will do in the future. Just remember:

Sedikit-dikit, lama-lama menjadi bukit 🙂

So I was flipping through the papers while  on the way to work one morning, reached the forum section and decided to tweet something.

http://twitter.com/#!/TheGreenBush/status/5424394478292992

Letters featured in the forum section basically talked about how there was still a lack of initiative amongst people in the heartland to actually go green, despite introducing initiatives such as recycling bins, and even providing yellow (though ironically plastic) bags to each household to place their recyclable materials in, after which would be picked up.

I must say that there is some truth to this, as it made me reflect on an incident that happened a few days earlier.

http://twitter.com/#!/TheGreenBush/status/3978182977916928

So OK,  lady at coffee shop #1 doesn’t really get the point about BYO. Initially it seemed to be a cost issue. She said my cup was bigger than theirs. Fair enough, I don’t mind paying for the upsize. But yet, she still insisted filling a plastic cup, before I could transfer it to my reusable cup. Like lady, could you just try to think out of the box, for once? I said, “Well thanks, but no thanks” and left, as other people in the queue gave a (somewhat typical) curious-cum- “oh my god she did something out of the norm” look.

Fortunately….

http://twitter.com/#!/TheGreenBush/status/3978889558757376

So yay, I got my teh si peng siew dai, and now I don’t even have to repeat my order because lady in coffee shop #2 knows exactly what I want when she sees me approaching with my reusable starbucks cup with a candy cane looking straw (one of them Xmas specials). Lady #2 doesn’t smile much, but she’s cool…. and overtime I’m sure she will 🙂

What seems to be clear from this little social experiment is that convincing people of going green will take a long time. Various environmental groups like ECO-Singapore have been making on-going efforts in trying to raise environmental awareness in the heartlands. However, like in any community development programme, the fruits of such labour would only be seen in the medium to long term.

That said, going green is more than just telling someone to use a BYO cup or recycle. Half of it boils down to EQ and effective social skills of understanding the other party’s needs and concerns. Communicating is not a one way street. Environmentalists need to understand that they have to do more than just tell people “Hey Go Green! Look at me I’m doing it, why aren’t you?”. Environmentalists must also open their ears and address responses (whether pessimistic or just reality) such as “Why should I? How does it address the current problems (like bread and butter issues) that I face?”. Answering these concerns with clarity and building trust for long lasting communication would be necessary.

Let’s hope environmentalists take these 2 cents into account at Cancun.