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Brunei
Thursday, February 9, 2023
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Brunei
Thursday, February 9, 2023
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    The warmth of communities

    Asyraf Zulkipli

    The ASEAN Young Leaders Programme (AYLP) was first launched in 2018 and, since then, has paved a common purpose for ASEAN youth leaders to come together in order to generate innovative ideas for a better ASEAN future.

    The latest AYLP took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from October 12 to 14. With the question of “How can youth play an active role to leverage mega trends in ASEAN?” spearheading the programme, this year’s AYLP sought to address three mega trends, namely digital growth, future of work, as well as climate and sustainability.

    There were 11 of us, hailing from universities, government institutions and various organisations, who represented Brunei Darussalam during AYLP 2022.

    I was one of them, a struggling university student with persistent self-esteem issues. Truth be told, I initially considered myself unqualified to be a part of the programme.

    A long history of emotional struggles crafted a personal narrative in which I was an impostor in my life, and for the longest time, I believed it.

    Asyraf Zulkipli (2nd R) and other Bruneian delegates of the ASEAN Young Leaders Programme 2022 holding the Brunei flag at Phnom Penh International Airport
    Bruneian delegates in a group photo. PHOTOS: ASYRAF ZULKIPLI

    However, as I listened in to the captivating talks made by influential ASEAN leaders, engaged in riveting discussions with my mega trend group members, and immersed myself at various institutions across Phnom Penh, I started to uncover several revelations about my being: I discovered the inherent capacity for me to communicate and exchange ideas with a group of culturally diverse individuals; the compassion and independence to be able to take care of myself physically and emotionally in an unfamiliar setting, and; the appreciation of small but meaningful moments that ultimately capture the breadth of a journey long travelled.

    These were discoveries that slowly untangled themselves in my mind as I navigated every challenge that the programme member laid down before us.

    Throughout every second of this journey, I made it through alongside my fellow Bruneian ambassadors and my friends from all across the ASEAN states.

    Perhaps it was our inherent value as ASEAN youths to develop a home for ourselves, through overcoming challenges together and the time spent getting to know one another, that I found a sense of belonging with them; a true mark of the ASEAN identity that transcends physical and cultural boundaries.

    The most meaningful revelation of the programme thus far was the warmth of communities.

    In acknowledging this sense of home, the struggles I found myself with at the start of the programme nearly subsided, and in their place, a new perspective on life drew upon the essence of community.

    In communities, we encounter struggles and obstructions of different shapes and sizes. However, there is also acceptance, a sense of belonging, and an emotional warmth exuded by the community members.

    The principles of a community do not only apply to the ASEAN context. Depending on the person, families, friend groups, organisation members, and even other individuals, all have the capacity to provide acceptance and belonging to those who may need them the most – not only to alleviate personal struggles but also to inculcate a sense of hope and possibility for the future.

    My experience with AYLP granted me multiple communities: one with my fellow Bruneian delegates who went through this journey with me; one with my digital growth group members consisting of individuals from Cambodia, Myanmar, and the Philippines; and one for each individual that I was able to interact with and be inspired by their personal stories.

    Coming home to Brunei, having discovered these communities and acknowledging all my other Bruneian communities, internalised a rediscovery of hope that allowed me to look forward to the future again.

    If there is one thing that I wish for you to take away from this article, it is that you deserve to belong in this world. Throughout the emotional and personal struggles you may find yourself in, look back on the lessons and memories of the communities in your life.

    Simply having you in a community already speaks volumes about the value you bring to others.

    Even though a specific community in your life has been lost or is inactive, know that the essence of that community lives on within you wherever you go.

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