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Meet Iswandy, President of the Brunei AIDS Council

1d1e707What do you do?

I work as a teacher at Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation School. I am currently the President of Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council (connect with them via Facebook here), a non-profit, volunteer-based Non-Governmental Organisation raising awareness on HIV & AIDS and other related matters. I graduated with a Diploma in Youth Development Work from University Brunei Darussalam. I volunteer at the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Volunteers Unit, Scouts Association & Datalish Volunteers (a relief humanitarian group). I have also attended or been invited to various programmes related to youth work, scouting and HIV / AIDS in ASEAN, South Korea, India, Japan & Europe.

Together with the AIDS Council, we have been acknowledged with the Commonwealth Youth Silver Award (2005 / 2006 & 2007 / 2008), the B-@ktif 2008 Silver Medal, and the ASEAN Youth Award 2009. On a personal basis, I was awarded with Youth Service Award by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah during National Youth Day 2010.

Describe yourself.

In one word; passionate! In a sentence, a down-to-earth yet aspiring youth advocate that has passion in volunteerism, youth work and a special interest in HIV & AIDS

Last year you represented Brunei at the One Young World Summit. How did that come about?

I have been to a number of Youth related events on HIV and AIDS, Youth Work, Scouting, etc and my networks usually communicate through emails and Facebook. I think a friend of mine shared about the Summit. 

To attend as a participant, you have to register at OneYoungWorld.com. We were all supposed to raise funds (about 3,000 Euro) to attend. I did not raise the required amount but I received an email about a month before the Summit. It outlined that a company funded me based on my youth work background.

Iswandy with other members of the Brunei AIDS Council

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Iswandy at the Brunei Online Forum (Photograph courtesy of Candid Syndrome)

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Which company sponsored you?

It was Futurefunds Ltd. I do not know them, seriously! What I do know is that a few weeks before the event, the Logistics Team emailed to advise that I got sponsored! I think it would be good if the bigger businesses in Brunei (e.g. banks, telecommunication companies, transportation companies, etc) could sponsor our 'young leaders' to attend the One Young World summit. Not just to attend but to get involved in the post-summit to-do's!

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What was your role at the Summit? Were you and others provided an opportunity to speak?

Alhamdulillah, I applied to be a Delegate Speaker and I was one of the 36 chosen one to be one! I was put into the Global Health stream. I wanted to do the 8 Millenium Development Goals but after a number of drafts, I focused more on HIV & AIDS prevention and intervention. I guess it comes natural to me since I am an HIV advocate. It was actually nice to receive a standing ovation from international delegation. I was proud to represent Brunei there! =)

What were some highlights from the Summit?

Wow! This sure is a tough question as ALL of the sessions had individual interest to different people. Personally, the Dignity, Healthy Food and Sports sessions were highlights. Dignity was co-facilitated by the Crown Prince of Norway on promoting self esteem and dignity for young people. This is what I am working on to motivate and inspire young people through the motivational programmes we work on. Healthy Food was facilitated by Jamie Oliver and this old ‘war’ is still actually rampant, especially in our canteens; I am sure school canteens in Brunei can still be improved. Sports was attended by sportsmen. (Clarence Seedorf of AC Milan was there!) It was interesting that while sports actually unites the world, it has also a negative impact on development. There were suggestions that following big sporting events, e.g. the World Cup, the venues could be used to develop the country, for example, big stadiums could be used as a hospitals.

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And social media played a role at the Summit?

Many young journalists were invited to the event. There was even an anchor from CNN who attended as a Counsellor (James Chau). All of the time we were to ask to update our Facebook and Twitter accounts on what we learnt there in real-time to share with our friends and networks. We were also encouraged to utilise social media to make positive changes to our society. I guess, youngsters are not exactly ‘wasting time’ in front of their laptops or phones. =p

From what I understand, the Summit was very much about the "Big Picture". What is Brunei's role in the Big Picture of things?

I may answer this differently but what I understand, the Big Picture is that we young leaders are preparing ourselves to take the lead and run the world. However we are not doing that just for ourselves (the current generation), we are actually doing this for our younger brothers, younger sisters, our children, our children’s children and so on.

What other messages did you take home from the One Young World Summit?

The event was not like any other youth event I have attended. Most of those who attended were actually young leaders or youth engaged first-hand in projects, be it on health, business, social media, interfaith, environment, etc. Literally, everyone there had an inspiring story about what they were involved in back home.

If there is one message I would like to share, it would be “Be grateful”. Many countries (there were 160+ countries at the Summit) have their own struggles, be it in politics, economy, conflicts, etc. They were curious about Brunei Darussalam and being the ‘ambassador’, I had to explain our unique devotion to Islam, the His Majesty the Sultan and culture, with emphasis on social welfare. There is a lot of misunderstanding about Brunei (many have never heard of our country) but Alhamdulillah, after my speech, there was a respect for what Bruneians have to offer. =)

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Editor's Note: I found about the One Young World Summit via Twitter. David Jones (@DavidJonesHavas), the co-founder of One Young World sent out a tweet in which he live-quoted Iswandy Ahmad. It read out "Ignorance is not bliss" regarding HIV. One Young World is a not-for-profit organisation which prides itself as a "premier global forum for young people of leadership calibre" and its "purpose is to connect and bring together the youngest, brightest and best and to ensure that their concerns, opinions and solutions are heard." (One Young World) Iswandy was the only representative from Brunei in 2011.

This is the first "Everyone has a Story" feature for 2012 and purposely so. It is my intention to bring you a variety of Bruneian stories - stories from students, local business owners, professionals, charities, musicians, artists, photographers, specialists, etc. It is also my intention that after each story you go away challenged, motivated and inspired. If you have a story to tell, I would love to hear from you. Reach me here. May 2012 be our best year yet.

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