Serving and Leading with YSS

by YSS Admin / 29 November 2016 / No Comments

When Carmen Yong received a phone call congratulating her recruitment as a volunteer, little did she know that it was the start of an enriching leadership journey with YSS. This time we have this amazing lady who is a cognitive science major telling her experiences, and how this could also be Your Success Story with YSS. 

Bringing change:

Through my time in university, I have always had a firm belief that education empowers change. The reality is that bringing actual ‘change’ also requires strategy, persistence, leadership and a lot of courage.

As an undergraduate, I was often involved in community service projects, but it was through YSS experience that I learned leaps and bounds about EFFECTIVE and SUSTAINABLE community development. It is through various platforms in YSS that youths experience community service, structuring change and the spirit of volunteerism.

YSS-ASEAN Mission to Laos: Refurbished School Library

HOW it all started:

In the second year of my studies, I went for a YSS interview with two of my coursemates without much expectation, as it was a nation-wide recruitment for all varsity students. Soon after, I was thrilled to receive news about being selected for a YSS-ASEAN mission, and my good friends were subsequently selected as student volunteers too. We are all so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this volunteering family!

Laotians and Malaysians preparing scrumptious meals

The journey:

In April 2015, fellow volunteers and I were assigned to YSS-ASEAN Mission to Laos, where we served the village communities in the province of Savannakhet. Prior to our mission, we knew so little of this ancient country and its beautiful people.

We were trained and drilled by YSS before departing for our mission in Laos. As a fellow alumni described, the Pre-Departure Training(PDT) was an accelerated ‘survival bootcamp’, with much guidance from field experts, safety briefing and cultural appropriation sessions. We were also given the liberty and responsibility to plan out our community projects, with emphasis on clusters such as education, healthcare, ICT, cultural exchange and infrastructural improvement.

Our mission in Savannakhet was nothing short of a true adventure. Life in Kheau Khao Khat village was simple, the people are friendly and welcoming.We share precious memories of learning and teaching languages, providing hair cut services, building infrastructure, collecting buffalo poop compost, dancing with the locals, celebrating the Laotian new year- experiences that are precious to all of us. Our days of diligently working and serving the community were worth it when we witnessed the warmth and gratitude of the people. It was a highly-challenging mission which propelled each and every one of us to offer the very best of our talents, passion and vigour. Though it might seem that we were there to serve the people, in fact it was a mutual learning experience. We also experienced the beauty of regional cooperation, when youths from Laos and Malaysia share a vision for progress and improvement, forging life-time friendships.

Teaching High School Students on ICT usage

Teaching High School Students on ICT usage

One of the impactful memories throughout our mission was the English night classes. On the first night there were around 45 students who registered, but news spread so quickly, that more than 100 students turned up. For the following nights, more than 300 local children, teenagers and adults congregated, all eager to learn and improve their language skills. There were students from other villages who travelled over for our classes too. We had to maximize our resources and use the common area and village office for teaching, as light source was limited during the night. Our team of 11 volunteers were so overwhelmed by their enthusiasm for learning!

Indeed it was a humbling experience to contribute towards a mission that aims to have long-term impact on the lives of local communities.Since then, I have also been given the opportunity to write about the role of youths in building effective volunteerism culture, speaking in campus and community events on YSS-ASEAN experiences.

Creative Session with Colourful Tie-Dye Batik


Celebrating Pi Mai Lao, Laos New Year, in traditional costumes.


Apart from developing global volunteer leaders through an immersive and holistic approach, YSS provides youths with a network of like-minded achievers and a multitude of opportunities. The strength of the alumnus is in the diversity of our educational backgrounds and personal experiences. On a personal level, I have met YSS comrades who are now my close friends, cheerleaders and some who are my role models.

Our team of volunteers with the Kheau Khao Khat village chief

Our team of volunteers with the Kheau Khao Khat village chief

I have also gained invaluable skills to improve community development and social projects. Moreover, understanding the bigger picture of problems that we face as a society provides us more clarity in defining solutions. Most millennials like me have been confined to a perception that our life goal is to earn a good living, but when we learn to give, we learn to live even more.

So, I urge my fellow millennials to seize this opportunity, challenge yourselves, and never stop learning!

Yours truly,

Carmen Y.

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