A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Smog and Leadership- forging the connections in Singapore

There is a running reference in Ireland where Dublin is referred to ‘The Big Smoke’; the grand city, enlarged, congested, dominant. But when it comes to smoky large cities it is beginning to pale in comparison. I’ve had my fair share of large cities since beginning this trip- Nairobi, Jo’berg, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Singapore, Bangkok, and each time I get to another my reference point for ‘Big Smoke’ is being redrawn. Dublin looks more and more provincial.

Singapore I was told was not normally smoky, but on my visit it indeed was. Forest fires were raging in Indonesia, due to slash and burn agriculture and the wind brought the fumes southwards, leaving a dull haze to linger between the skyscrapers. ‘Those Indonesians’, I overheard some Singaporeans exclaim, passively. But others were attempting to make the connections and ask the why behind it. Like Melissa Kwee for instance, Chairperson of the Halogen Foundation, a youth leadership organisation, who on the day that I met her had just come from a meeting with the Ministry for the Environment, trying to spark the debate, and action on the issue.

Understanding global connectivity and networks is a core component to Melissa’s work with Halogen, and specifically getting more young people to make the connections and see that they can play a role in actualising solutions.

To ‘get’ more young people to think and act in such ways, Halogen have developed a series of innovative programmes to engage young people in critical thinking about their roles. Again very similar to Suas in Ireland- a connection I enjoyed making too.

They just recently held of pan Asian youth conference, 1 Degree Asia, bringing young people together to inspire action and thinking about their role in their local and global communities. Halogen also organised national young leaders days; an initiative across schools in Singapore, in which speakers come to the young people talk about how they are effecting change. Jack Sim, from the World Toilet Organisation was one such speaker (see next blog). Then the connection gets deeper. An idea I really liked; '10 minutes of time', in which CEOs from a spectrum of businesses are teamed with you a young person who each commit ten minutes of their day to on-line coaching/ mentoring.

In all Halogen is about teaching young people about responsible leadership; both at personal and social levels.

Some may even go on to tackle global smog issues. My lungs will celebrate that!


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