TEDxYouth@Singapore was brilliant!

Today was TEDxYouth@Singapore. And it was AWESOME!!!! Kudos to the organizer, Sadali Mawi, for making this day happen!

If you couldn’t attend, here is the take-away from each session.

Cheryl Keit Ang

When people grow up, people no longer chase after their dreams. This is a problem: people become practical with age. When we were kids, we were just worried about the happy factor. But now, we are afraid that we won’t match up to the expectations of the rest of the world. Kids go after their dreams, after what they want, no matter the consequences. Being afraid is something we grow into.

A lot of people would like to do what they love but they don’t know what they love. So as a result we put ourselves in the back seat. Why not put ourselves in the driving seat for a change and make time to look for our passion?

Many will tell you you’re not good enough, tell you to be realistic. But we are young – so why should we stop dreaming?

Keep fighting for the things you’re passionate about and don’t grow up.

Syamil Dasuki

Mission: Singapore (M:SG) started with only 14 participants at first. Syamil Dasuki brought the culture of flashmobbing to Singapore with the founding of Mission Singapore in 2008. Since then, Mission Singapore has conducted flashmobs of varying scale and has brought together youths of different walks of life to take part in its projects.

What they do is take an everyday instance and inject something fun and crazy to it. For instance, around Christmas time, they went on Orchard Road and distributed presents to strangers. They also did a “street” version of “Fine Dining” where they hosted a romantic meal near a MRT exit to see the reactions of Singaporeans. Another of their missions was called “Recycle the Bottle”… You should actually watch it on YouTube, it’s very funny!

The take-away? With courage and imagination, you can change everyday life and inspire people around you!

Benjamin Loh

There are two types of speakers: liars and nervous people. So what causes pre-speech jitters?

There are 4 conditions that are bad for survival: standing alone, in an open territory with no place to hide, without a weapon, in front of a large crowd of creatures staring at you. Every condition applies to public speaking so it’s normal to feel nervous!

There is a learning curve to public speaking and the only way to improve is to get more stage time. You only know if you’re good because of feedback.

If you want to be good, you need to dig deeper, be vulnerable and naked in front of your audience: share a personal anecdote so that you can connect to your audience. Benjamin shared with us the story of Ted, 14, who connected with his audience by sharing the passing of his grandmother. It moved the audience so much that his talk was successful.

By connecting to your audience, you can hope to change the world.

Adrian Chan

Creativity is a trial and error process. It is hard work, and change is a catalyst for it.

Adrian asked himself what he wants to be remembered for. Creativity happens in a chain of events, and you need to have a purpose, something you are passionate about.

So what comes first? Idea or action? I’ll leave it to you to decide…

Ashley Tan

Ashley showed us that we can change the way teachers teach with video games.

For instance, Angry Birds are everywhere…except in the classroom. Teachers don’t use the game for learning, which is a wasted opportunity.

Why incorporate games in education? 91% of kids in the US play video games and it has been shown that Singaporean kids game more obsessively than US kids.

Ashley held a workshop for teachers called “game treasure hunt” where he tried to show them the value of using games in the classroom. In his workshop, he used QR codes, blogs, and video games.

It is possible to use Angry Birds to teach civics and moral education: for instance, Birds (good guys) sacrifice themselves for the cause (kill the pigs). Or are birds suicide bombers? Why not use the game to create context, to raise philosophical questions?

It is not easy to change teachers given the obsession about grades in Singapore but change is coming. Right now, it is important to change the perception of gamers, who are seen as solitary and anti social. Maybe we can make learning addictive and kill 2 pigs with one bird that way.

Stella Wee

Stella teaches creative writing and wants to be a fairy godmother, helping her students to make their dreams come true. But sometimes, she has to be the evil witch. Stella never showed her writing to anyone, no one pushed her so she wants to be different towards her students.

Her students wrote The Rainbow Child – a story about a black and white village called Gloomsville, until one day, a colorful girl is born. The story was so good that she decided to find a design student to illustrate it and a developer to transform it into an iPad app. It is available

So she became a dream maker. But one day, she also became a dream breaker, when one student didn’t get the response she expected from a crowd and decided to quit writing altogether.

So here is the take-away: you cannot make curry chicken if you don’t have curry but you can make chicken soup. If one dream doesn’t work out, find another one. Be the best chicken soup that you can be.

Lee Xian Jie

Dementia is a disease that few people talk about. There is a stigma around it, which is why Lee Xian Jie and Jeremy Boo, decided to create Before We Forget, a project to raise awareness about dementia. They want people to share their experiences to destroy the stigma that currently exists.

Videos, pictures and articles are shared on their .

They held a few exhibitions around Singapore, in VivoCity and Jurong Library for instance. By sharing stories about dementia, they are hoping to change people’s perception of the disease.

16 million people have dementia in Asia today and it is expected to grow to 60 million in 2050.

Their documentary will come out next year.

Jamon Mok

Jamon backpacked around Laos, Vietnam, India and Cambodge and discovered poverty. But poverty is a problem that can be solved through business ideas. He believes that social entrepreneurship can change the world.

With inspiration and teaching kids business concepts (such as calculating ROI), you can achieve a lot.

He invented a game called “Gazaab Game” (Gazaab means awesome). He gave children 20 Nepali Rupees and asked them to grow the money they were given. The winner was called Harkaman, who came back with more than 200+ rupees. With the money from the competition, Harkaman created various mushroom plants that are worth more than S$10,000 today.

There are many Harkaman out there. All they need is a little push. These entrepreneurs will get their communities out of poverty.

Gazaab is now present in Nepal, Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh. They also set up Gazaab Social Ventures, a micro social venture capital fund. Jamon and his friend are taking a year out to help the project grow in Nepal next year.

Bee Thiam Tan

With his backpacking trip, he discovered “the beauty of chaos”. When he came back, he asked 12 of his friends to give him a precious object and “lost” them on purpose. 11 out of 12 objects came back to them (the beauty of Singapore!).

Film industry is about making money but Bee Thiam Tan created “13 Little Pictures” – the aim is to resist looking at market share, target audience, how many tickets you sell. It’s a horizontal group, where everyone is equal.

The camera is the audience: whatever is recorded will one day find its audience. To create is not to sell.

Zakaria Zainal

Zakaria’s work is about Singapore Gurkhas, who are according to him, the “visible invisible”. Their stories are stories that belong to Singapore. After serving the country for 20-30 years, they have to go back to Nepal.

This situation raises a lot of questions. Urban displacement is one of them: children who have lived all their lives in Singapore have to go to a country they don’t know.

More can be done for Singapore Gurkhas – they are treated as the periphery, as a marginalized group. With the power of social media, it is possible to create conversations, debate and spread the word.

What does it mean to be Singaporean? To have a Singaporean passport?

There is very little literature about Gurkhas and Zakaria hopes to raise awareness about this population and give something back to this community as a way to commemorate them.

Jeremy Boo

Jeremy spent some time in Georgia. Everyday, people cross borders illegally to get supplies, meet friends, etc. The war has separated the population.

With enough willpower and a sum of money, hope can be rebuilt. However, losses still remain.

Jeremy told us this story of a girl who lost her dad when she was 2 – and now that she is an adult with a child, she still thinks about him everyday, reminded by her mother who cries her husband’s disappearance everyday.

In Georgia, there is an inheritance of sadness, a burden of sorrow. When we think of war, we think of blood, weapons, lost lives. And when the war ends, we don’t think about it anymore. However, there is still a psychological burden for the population. War never really ends.

Dipro Bhowmik

Dipro is very passionate about environment and started LEAF – Local Environment Action Force. He told us various anecdotes: the day he destroyed a row of bulbs in each classroom to save energy in his school, or when he tweaked the famous US poster “We Want You” to ask his classmates to close the library door to save energy as the aircon was going to waste.

So what’s the take-away? The best way to be passionate is to immerse yourself in what you love and be creative. Even if it means to be a little crazy.

Deborah Emmanuel

The last talk was by the very talented Deborah Emmanuel. She teaches us that art is a tool for creating awareness.

When she went to East Timore and saw that the country did not have the means to process its natural resources (gold, oil), she wrote a poem about it. When one of her students could not speak in class, she wrote a poem about it.

Every individual who creates something has a responsibility towards others to pass it on.

She tells us that we need to keep creating, and that whatever we make, make it with our hearts.

Thanks again to the amazing TEDxYouth@Singapore team for hosting this event and see you next year!!!!

  • Thanks for the brilliant write-up Natalie! 

    • Hi Cheryl! 

      Thanks for dropping by :) – your talk was great and it inspired me a lot!

      Zakaria told me you will speak at TEDxWomen on the 3rd of December – I am attending it too, so see you there :)


      • Awww thank you so much Natalie :) I’m glad you liked it! Hopefully there’ll be more in future haha :) no I’m not speaking at TEDxWomen actually – I was supposed to perform there, but it got cancelled in the end so this was the only TED I was doing :) maybe in future though!

        Cheryl x

  • bambousette

    Thank you for this report, as if we were there.

  • Anonymous

    AWESOME resume :) Hope you liked it and maybe you could join this event too : http://tedxmontpellier.com/ :) Thanks for this as always fully-brilliant !

    • I’d love to come :D – I hope you will apply to go there! And I expect a full summary from the event too ;)

  • Thank you Natalie! You gave a really comprehensive summary of what transpired during the event!


    • You’re welcome! Loved your talk, great tip about the personal anecdote, totally agree! :)


  • Jackson

    Hey Natalie,
    I actually also attended a TEDxYouth event today in Regents Park. The theme was based around intergenerational challenges!
    Thanks for the sum up on the Singapore version, sounded fantastic!

    • Hey Jackson!

      Awesome! You should definitely write a blog post about it ;) hehe

      Thanks for your email, an answer will come your way this week :-)