Diversity & Inclusion Youth Camp 2016

 
   
 
   
As the world becomes increasingly more globalised, people are facing unprecedented exposure to individuals of diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, alternative ways of thinking and most of all, different beliefs. Cultural and religious misunderstandings stereotypes and skewed media reports have long been the cause of prejudice, violence and war, and these trends continue with an accelerated pace today.  It is imperative that we institutionalise the education of diversity in our education system.  Students must be engaged in national and global issues without any prejudice whilst also preparing them for employment in a globally diverse workplace. As Malaysians and global citizens we must encourage our youth to exercise tolerance towards different races, beliefs and socio-cultural backgrounds.
 
The Diversity & Inclusion Youth Camp (DIYC), which was first held in 2012, serves as a platform to educate and nurture future global citizens whose view about our world will be guided by the Concept of Moderation in thought and leadership, peaceful co-existence, democracy and rule of law within civil societies, and whose daily actions will be demonstrated by how they appreciate, embrace and celebrate the concept of Diversity and Inclusion.
 
The Diversity and Inclusion Youth Camp 2016 saw more than two hundred participants comprising of students, educators, facilitators and organisers from 19 different universities and 18 countries converging in Iskandar, Johor to learn about the concept of diversity and the act of inclusion through a transformational experience during the three-day camp from 31 March to 2 April 2016 in the beautiful campus of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.  The students worked closely under trained facilitators in a safe environment and learned to be aware of themselves and others without stereotypes, judgement, prejudice and biases.
 
The Diversity & Inclusion Youth Camp 2016 is a partnership between local and international universities, and is jointly organised by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and KDU University College (KDU) representing the public and private Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) in Malaysia; Sampoerna University representing the international universities; Harmony Works representing the Facilitators Industry across Asia; Voices of the Moderates representing the aspirations of young Malaysians; Star Media Group as the media partner whilst also representing the corporates and industries of Malaysia and last but not least, Putera Sampoerna Foundation as the main sponsor and representing Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) throughout the ASEAN region. 
 
The theme for the 2016 camp was “One World, One Vision”.  At the opening address, Professor Dato’ Dr Mohd. Ismail bin Abd Aziz, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Student Affairs and Alumni) at UTM shared his words of wisdom which emphasised the importance of diversity and inclusion not only for Malaysia but globally as well. Associate Professor Dr Hon Wei Min, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, KDU University College, said, “Education is not only about knowledge; it is also about value nurturing and character building.  Education comes with responsibility for ourselves and the communities we live in.”
 
During day one, students were asked to come prepared with collages to introduce themselves to one another using colourful visuals in order to break the ice. Mohammad Azfar Haziq bin Ayoub, 21, a student from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, noted that the number of different cultures and nationalities helped him to learn that every culture has its own values. “That’s why I think that people are really different but we have to find that commonality in order to get to know them and their thinking,” Mohammad Azfar explained. Continuing, he said, “Before the camp, I always assume that this person is like this or that, and hard to approach and tolerate. But during and after the programme, I learned I have to take the initiative to get to know them.”
 
The camp kicked into deep learning on day two with a documentary video titled the “The Imam and the Pastor”, a powerful true story about reconciliation and the hope of grassroots peace building in a Nigerian region torn by vengeance and killing. Two men of faith, Imam Mohd Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, both have had personal reasons to nurture the animosity they feel toward each other, but yet decided instead to work together to create a positive future for their communities through a process of peace-building instead of continuing bloodshed.  Even though both are former members of competing militias in Nigeria, they have experienced personal transformations and now work jointly to head the Inter-Faith Mediation Centre, supported by USIP.
 
Another camp participant, Shanice van Zwienen, 22, a Murdoch University student under Kaplan Singapore, said, “One of the biggest things I’ve learned at this camp was through watching the documentary, and learning that if you want to create change, you can’t hold on to anger and resentment so you have to forgive people in order to move forward.” This video was followed by using proven techniques such as D.E.E.P Conversation, the Ladder of Inference in order to help participants understand the nature and causes of stereotypes and biases. These were also extensively used during open sharing sessions as well as during the private reflection moments which helped participants to learn about themselves on a deeper level.
 
Finally, day three of the camp progressed from learning to actual application of the concepts by connecting diversity and inclusion to real-life situations after graduation, both at work and in private life.
This was especially important to help participants understand the significance of social skills and mutual respect, as successful global companies hire talents who are not only able to perform in a globally diverse team, but have open minds to explore and to create win-win situations in business or public administration. Day three ended with a highly energetic and inspiring display of drama and musical performances by the participants and facilitators during the Cultural Night. Each performance truly embraced the concept of diversity as participants learned different styles of song and dance from each other’s cultures with enthusiasm and passion. Participants spontaneously joined in on each other’s performances, in the manner of a flash mob throughout the evening.
 
It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, KDU University College student Michelle Sit Qian Yi enthused. “The camp was great, never a dull moment. I loved meeting new friends who could have interesting conversations! This camp has really sparked my interest towards the greater meaning of diversity and inclusion, and I hope to be back next year,” Michelle commented. Her fellow university mate, Ng Shu Qi, added, “Diversity, for me, is having a range of people with different cultural backgrounds, racial and ethnic co-existing together. In this camp, I'm glad that I am able share my thoughts and make friends that are from different countries.”
 
One of the intended outcomes of the camp is to encourage these students and young leaders to take on the role of ‘Ambassadors and Role Models’ upon returning to their campuses, work places and communities.  Abdullah Ibrahim, aged 24 from Mauritius, joined the DIYC 2014 camp as a student participant and returned to the DIYC 2015 camp as a facilitator.  During the sharing session on day two of the camp, Abdullah, who was unable to be present due to work commitments in Germany, made a video especially for this year’s camp to share his experiences and lessons learned from the camp as well as his journey after as an ambassador of diversity and inclusion. Abdullah inspired participants by sharing his experience of how he met and bonded with two Latvian and a Nigerian stranger on a train ride through Europe while explaining to them his mission as a diversity and inclusion ambassador. He also shared how he decided to be responsible for himself, thereby landing himself a job in Germany today.
 
There were a number of students and facilitators who had traveled from abroad especially for this camp. Whilst Sampoerna University sent a delegation of 11 participants, Merry Agnes Pangaribuan, 20, from BINUS University, Jakarta, Indonesia, who had previously never travelled outside of Indonesia, learned about the camp through a friend and decided to sign up.  She managed to apply for a passport two weeks before the camp and travelled on her own from Jakarta to UTM Johor via Singapore. For the first time, the camp had a visually impaired facilitator from Hong Kong. Chong Chan Yao, 60 from the International Association of Facilitators, who was a motivating force and helped the participants to understand that those who are physically impaired need nor want any sympathy, they only want opportunities.
 
The annual Diversity and Inclusion Youth Camp (DIYC) aims to create a more progressive social landscape as well as to bring about more dynamic communities in Malaysia and the ASEAN region. By using education and working closely with the public and private sectors as partners, in order to widen the reach and broaden the base of participants, DIYC intends on becoming a self-sustaining program which will evolve into a movement by itself.