Southeast Asian Youth Network (SEAYN): Fostering Youth Engagement and Innovation

The Southeast Asia Youth Network (SEAYN) is an inspiring platform endorsed by the Red Cross and Red Crescent leadership of the Southeast Asia National Societies. It was created to enable youth to interact, generate new ideas, and advance youth engagement in the region. SEAYN serves as a crucial link, providing opportunities for young people to connect and strengthen their humanitarian actions by sharing best practices with peers within and beyond the movement, on a global scale. As a sub-network of the Asia Pacific Youth Network (APYN), SEAYN connects youth leaders from across the Asia Pacific region, ensuring equal participation of National Societies Youth Focal Staff, Youth Leaders/Volunteers, and supporting members. Each SEA National Society supports SEAYN by nominating one NS Youth Focal staff, one Youth Leader/Volunteer, and three supporting members.

SEAYN is a regional organization comprising eleven National Societies: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. Bonifacio Abi, CVTL Youth President, attended the week-long meeting with Sildonia da Silva Pereira CVTL Youth Officer. “I recently attended a SEAYN meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, (27/4 -3/5/2024 and the experience was incredibly enriching. The event spanned several days, each packed with activities designed to build skills, foster connections, and develop innovative solutions to humanitarian challenges”, said Boni.

The workshop kicked off with introductions and fun icebreakers, helping us get to know each other. We established clear guidelines and communication techniques to create a safe and inclusive space for everyone. The day focused on self-awareness, exploring how to build healthy relationships with our selves and others. We learned strategies for positive behavior changes and effective problem-solving skills through interactive exercises and discussions. These activities provided valuable tools for active listening, asking insightful questions, and achieving our goals. The day concluded with time for reflection, solidifying the key takeaways from the workshop.

 The second day was dedicated to preparing for an exciting outdoor activity. We started with energizing activities and then looked into the details of the Red Cross Red Crescent Youth Network (RCYN) Hack Lab, exploring SEAYN’s potential involvement. We brainstormed ideas and collaboratively designed the outdoor activity, ensuring its success. After presenting our Activity Plan, we finalized outstanding details and revised the SEAYN Terms of Reference (TOR) to ensure everyone was aligned. The day concluded with a potential handover of the event to SEAYN, empowering us to take the lead.

Boni said the topics we discussed during the workshop included: good communications, finding a balance between loving yourself and love for others. We divided into groups, engaging in conversations focusing on self-care as the foundation for giving to others. Setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and expressing love were key points in achieving a harmonious balance that benefits both ourselves and those around us. Throughout the workshop, we also engaged in environmental activities, such as trash collection, reinforcing our commitment to community and environmental health.

Southeast Asia Hack Lab

Boni talked about another part of the week-long event which was the RCYN Hack Lab.  Jointly organized by the Thai Red Cross Youth and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Hack Lab aimed to bring together young people from across Southeast Asia to develop innovative solutions to humanitarian challenges. We were divided into teams and given challenges to address, such as improving disaster preparedness and response; promoting mental health and well-being; and using technology to make communities more sustainable. Each team developed examples of their solutions and presented them to a panel of judges, with the winning team awarded a prize to further develop their solution. In addition to the “hack-a-thon”, the Hack Lab included workshops and training sessions on topics like design thinking, social entrepreneurship, and innovation. The event provided ample networking opportunities with other young people from the region.

While in Thailand, Boni said had an opportunity to visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok. This breathtaking complex, the official residence of Thai kings for over 140 years, features a cluster of buildings with elaborate spires and colorful decorations, all gleaming with gold. The most sacred site within the Palace grounds is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which enshrines a highly revered Buddha statue carved from jade. The entire building is a masterpiece of decoration, with mosaics and intricate carvings. Several grand throne halls, used for royal ceremonies and audiences, add to the palace’s grandeur. Visitors are required to dress modestly, with shoulders and knees covered.

Building Connections

The Red Cross event brought together a diverse group of passionate individuals, including staff, volunteer leaders, and volunteers from across Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Timor-Leste) and beyond (China, Italy). Over 100 young people from Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries added their youthful energy to the mix. The Hack Lab fostered collaboration, focusing on teamwork and building connections while finding solutions to important problems. “It was so fantastic, as I made new friends and reconnected with an old friend from a previous Youth Exchange program in Tokyo in 2018, ”said Boni.

Reflections on the Workshop

The workshop ignited my enthusiasm, offering the opportunity to meet people from diverse countries with a wide range of potential. We exchanged ideas, fostering a sense of belonging among this diverse group, and felt a sense of shared purpose and accomplishment in addressing important issues. The experience brought social happiness and satisfaction as I made new friends and strengthened bonds with old ones.

Inspiration and Future Directions

This program was incredibly inspiring, offering the prospect of gaining new knowledge and practical skills. Improving my communication skills and engaging in critical thinking for creative problem-solving was highly stimulating. Mastering these skills will boost my confidence and enable me to contribute to others. While I don’t have a complete understanding of SEAYN’s future direction, based on its vision and mission, the organization is about empowering young people from the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) in Southeast Asia to enhance service quality, advance youth involvement in humanitarian action, and unify the voices of Southeast Asian youth. SEAYN also aims to foster collaboration by promoting a culture of friendship and mutual support among National Societies to share best practices.

Sharing the Experience

“I am committed to sharing the key learnings from this meeting with other CVTL volunteers. This will ensure everyone is informed about what I learned in Thailand and anything else relevant to CVTL youth volunteer work. My involvement with SEAYN has been a transformative experience, filled with learning, inspiration, and new connections. It has empowered me to contribute to my community and beyond, fostering a spirit of collaboration and innovation among the youth in Southeast Asia,” concluded Boni.

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