Girl's mission to spread volunteerism

MALAYSIA - Gossip, friendly chatter and of course selfies float through the never-ending realm of cyberspace, earning the rapt attention of youths nationwide (and in some cases, a spot in the English dictionary).

A popular social media tool, Twitter stands out as its simplicity of using just 140 characters per message makes it the most preferred platform to share one's thoughts.

Events and programmes for the younger generation in Malaysia are organised by many parties but often, these organisers are hampered at the lack of attendance by youth, not because of their lack of interest, but because they didn't manage to spread the word by traditional media such as posters and flyers.

That's where YouthMalaysia comes in - a Twitter account by the handle @YouthMalaysia helps promote events, talks and programmes for youth as well as promote the spirit of volunteerism.

Set up by Sharifah Hani Yasmin Syed Abdullah, an A-Level student, the account forms the much-needed bridge between Malaysian youth and beneficial activities they would otherwise be unaware of.

How it began

"The idea is actually quite simple. I attended the Adun Muda Selangor Programme last December and the people I met there had attended so many interesting events. I wondered why I didn't know about those events," said the 20-year-old.

Her thoughts led her to take action and days later, the concept and foundation behind YouthMalaysia was born.

However, a tweet can so easily be lost in a sea of messages scrolled down the timeline so why not create a Facebook group instead?

Sharifah Yasmin initially thought of that but eventually decided against it.

"In secondary school, I created a Facebook group to collect donations for an orphanage I was volunteering at, but interest quickly dropped as most people were involved with many groups."

She prefers the simple design of Twitter, especially since she noticed that concise information would attract more attention.

Within the first month of its conception in December, YouthMalaysia garnered over a thousand followers in search of interesting events or programmes that they could volunteer at.

Among the events promoted was the iSlam event in early January headlined by popular YouTuber Aiman Azlan and British journalist Harry Fear, and the National Aspirations Leadership Symposium in February which boasted local speakers such as Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Information on orphanages, shelters, soup kitchens and learning centres around Malaysia are also posted regularly.

Youth to the fore

The power of youth is an untapped goldmine if only one can amass the spirit of volunteerism within.

Youth, those who fall between the ages of 18 and 30, more often than not have ample free time and less responsibilities than their elders, paving the way for them to be actively engaged in these sort of activities.

However, volunteerism in Malaysia is still lacking the push that it needs.

Sharifah Yasmin hopes that YouthMalaysia will be a platform for social change to cultivate volunteerism as a culture.

"Places such as little-known orphanages and soup kitchens can finally receive the attention that they need through social media.

"Youths can fill up their free time wisely by volunteering at these places and as an added plus, their actions will benefit society on a whole."

On her future plans, Sharifah Yasmin gets excited as she talks about the support they have received.

"Celebrities like Ana Raffali have promoted us and actor Redza Minhat is even following us! I'm pleased to say that our first ground event is in the works."

No stranger to organising events, this petite youth co-organised an Earth Hour event during her schooling years that attracted overseas support and was project manager for an Earth Night charity event during her first year of college.

"I don't see it as achievements. To me, I have a responsiblity to help those I can if I have the means to. I love what I do and I'm lucky to have the support of my friends and family," said Sharifah Yasmin.

She advises those who are interested to volunteer to start doing so.

"Start living, start volunteering, start meeting new people and find new passions. You'll definitely feel empowered and fulfilled in life."

The writer, a Journalism major and a youth herself, hopes that her peers in Malaysia will follow @YouthMalaysia on Twitter at https://twitter.com/YouthMalaysia and take the first step to awaken their volunteering spirit!