Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Brunei Town

The power of dialogue

Rizal Faisal

A participant of Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative Academic Fellowship Spring 2023 returned to the Sultanate with priceless knowledge and experience on social entrepreneurship recently.

Dayangku Afrina Zahiah Puteri binti Pengiran M Alexander SP during an interview with the Bulletin at her debriefing session at the United States (US) Embassy in Brunei Darussalam, shared her experiences during her assignment to University of Connecticut (UConn) in the US.

“There, I delved deeper into developing sustainable social enterprises with inspirational young leaders from ASEAN,” she said.

Dayangku Afrina Zahiah Puteri said she worked with aspiring entrepreneurs in various stages of their journeys – from ideation stage to established business.

She explored the intricacies of building sustainable social enterprises such as refining pitching skills, crafting compelling value propositions and devising effective marketing strategies.

Through discussions and sharing best practices, Dayangku Afrina Zahiah Puteri learnt their challenges and successes.

Dayangku Afrina Zahiah Puteri binti Pengiran M Alexander SP in a group photo during the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative Academic Fellowship Spring 2023 in the United States (US). PHOTO: DK AFRINA
Dayangku Afrina Zahiah Puteri in front of the US Capitol. PHOTO: DK AFRINA

“The programme also honed my problem-solving abilities and taught me to leverage individual strengths within a team,” she said.

She appreciated experiential learning during the programme, a method not commonly practised in Brunei.

“Taking part in weekly community service at food banks and soup kitchens provided me with first-hand understanding of social issues faced by local communities.

“The opportunity to participate in day-to-day activities of organisations such as Connecticut Foodshare, Hands-on-Hartfood, Midwest Foodbank and Covenant Soup Kitchen underscored the transformative power of collective action and social responsibility,” she said.

Dayangku Afrina Zahiah Puteri said the organisations are interconnected through their shared goals of addressing hunger, poverty and community well-being. “They collaborate with one another and other agencies to maximise their impact and ensure comprehensive support for individuals and families in need,” she said, adding that there is potential in adopting a similar approach in the Sultanate.

She also recalled learning from visionary minds from social enterprises, startups and non-governmental organisations. “Listening to their stories and witnessing the positive change was inspiring.” Dayangku Afrina Zahiah Puteri highlighted the power of dialogue saying that her own project idea began with conversations she had with socio-economically challenged households.

The conversations brought to attention problems and logistics issues when unpredictable weather affected water quality in Brunei.

“Getting selected as top three project posters while in UConn was memorable as it granted me the honour of showcasing my work at the Department of State in Washington DC,” she said.

Apart from her learning experience, she shared fond memories of taking scenic strolls at Horsebarn Hill popular for outdoor activities and springtime picnic at Mirror Lake.

A highlight was witnessing US President Joe Biden welcome Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at the White House lawn.