Never too young to make a difference

By Sophia Eliza Rossman, who is currently studying in Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. She is the project manager of the “Open Little Eyes” Conference and believes in helping others in need.

Started in 2009 as a student-initiated project at Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (SCGS), the Open Little Eyes Conference (OLE) has upped the ante from year to year. We recognise that children are growing up in a complex world where social and environmental changes can sometimes be overwhelming. How do we develop our participants, the leaders of tomorrow, to believe in themselves as young change makers in the face of today’s seemingly difficult problems? Thus, the OLE Conference 2011 aims to raise awareness of the consequences of a wrong leader or government being elected for a country and to explore areas where the participants can contribute, such as fund-raising.

“IMAGINAcTION”, a play on the words imagination and action is the theme for this year’s conference. The theme has a two-pronged approach for the execution of our programme. First of all, we want to challenge our participants to respond and think of their own creative approaches to child-related issues, such as child labour and lack of education and health. This is done through problem-solving and developing empathy for the plight and differences among disadvantaged and disabled children here and elsewhere. Next, we want our participants to take action by actually volunteering and fundraising for a worthy cause of their choice. This would sow the seeds of volunteerism and philanthropy in the participants, encouraging them to do something for a cause they feel strongly about.

We want to inspire all young people to make a difference in the world today. It does not matter how big or small the change is, as long as it comes from the heart. Education and awareness comes from the conference, but the real action comes from the participants and facilitators wanting to make a change in society and to help others.

Always remember: you are never too young to make a difference.

The conference is distinctive because it exposes upper primary students to important topics. We are looking for socially conscious participants who are eager to be young change makers, interested in current affairs and thrive on discussion. Our rationale for choosing primary school students as participants is that during these formative years of development, participants will be more receptive to nurturing and to care for society and the world at large. This year we have invited a number of local and international schools to attend the conference because we hope that the diversity of students will encourage the participants to be more engaged and to reach our goal of 80 participants.

OLE would not be complete without our student-facilitators. The facilitators are aged between 13 and 16 years and they will assist the organisers in running the programme and guiding the participants throughout the conference to make their experiences fruitful. The facilitators will go through training workshops conducted by CanACT Pte Ltd. The training will be experiential and some of the exercises are mock-ups of the conference activities to develop quick and critical thinking. The training prepares the facilitators for the conference and enhances their development to be the leaders of tomorrow.

The conference will be held over 3 consecutive Saturdays, 2 April, 9 April and 16 April 2011. Over these 3 weeks, participants will go through a series of workshops and activities to educate them.

2 April 2011

The first day will be “Servant Leadership consensUs Mastery”, also known as the SLUM Camp. This day will be a full day, non-residential camp during which the participants will go through many rigorous and demanding activities to simulate the lives of families living in slums and under a corrupt and unfair government.

9 April 2011

Participants, each representing a different country, would discuss Millennium Development Goals and solutions to tackle these world issues. As a team, they will decide on the best resolution for their situation and present it to their peer participants. A panel of judges will decide which group has the most feasible idea and grant them a small amount of seed money. The money would then be “stretched” by the group and after raising a substantial amount of money, would be given to the NGO of their choice. There will be campaign workshops where the participants will be trained in 5 different mediums of art; drama, dance, music, art and speech writing. Through these training sessions, the participants will learn to share their message through the selected medium.

16 April 2011

On the final day of the conference, there will be a presentations and awards ceremony where the participants will be performing their campaign packages for their parents, peers and teachers. The award ceremony will acknowledge the achieve- ments of various teams with certificates such as “Most Dynamic Team” and “Most Creative Team”. This will be followed by a PrAUPER Lunch where lunch is served according to the 3 types of “lots”; “Slum”, “Street” and “Silver Spoon”. We simulate the environment and the food that most paupers eat such as plain bread whereas the “Silver Spoon” section will cater a buffet lunch for the participants.