Hear from our Alumni Siddharth Seth from India about his experience with APYE Thailand in January 2018!
"There are some experiences in life that define how you understand your social identity. Asia Pacific Youth Exchange (APYE), Thailand was one such experience for me.In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and established a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Asia Pacific Youth Exchange (APYE) is co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with various international organizations and the Thailand Government. The program aims to empower young potential leaders from Asia Pacific region to achieve UN’s SDGs. I was one of the four delegates from India to get selected for APYE Thailand in January 2018.
APYE Thailand was a great immersive learning experience for me. The international exposure at APYE gave me new perspectives and provided me with a great opportunity to network and learn innovative systems and strategies of different countries for a sustainable development. Unfortunately, not many people in India know about APYE and hence I thought of writing this article to share my experience.
At APYE Thailand, there were around 170 delegates from 19 countries. The Chinese contingent was HUGE followed by South Koreans, Thais, Nepalese and Filipinos. The APYE program has three major components:
Leadership and Development Training (first three days)
Local Immersion (six days)
Youth Symposium (last two days)
The program starts and ends at United Nations. Being at the UN was a different experience altogether. I participated in inspiring talks and discussions on sustainability and social entrepreneurship. I met important dignitaries like Dr. Hongjoo Hahm (Deputy Executive Secretary, UNESCAP), Mr. Martin Hart Hansen (Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Thailand), Mr. Kiatchai Sophastienphong (Vice Minister of Finance, Thailand) among others. The keynote speakers introduced us to the different ways the SDGs are already having an impact, as well as the kinds of impact they are expected to have over time.
The speakers shared their optimism for the positive changes ahead in the future if we work hard and leverage technology and innovation for good. From ending cancer to eradicating poverty, a brighter future is ahead if we come together and seize this moment.
Leadership and Development Trainings
Design Thinking, Social Impact Assessment, Community Engagement and Social Business Model Canvas were some of the topics covered in the Leadership and Development Trainings. I had attended other design thinking workshops at Startup Leadership Program and Indo-German Young Leaders Forum as well. However, the workshop at APYE was arguably the best.
How can one measure the impact of a social enterprise was another key skill that I developed at APYE. Measuring impact allows you to increase the effectiveness of your activities and decrease unintentional negative consequences. However, measuring the impact of a social intervention is not that straightforward as the targets move and indicators are hard to determine.
The two-day training concluded with a cultural night. It's the time when we celebrate the different cultures through music, dancing, and food. :)
The delegates had beautifully decorated their country's stall with souvenirs, postcards, chocolates and traditional gift items. I learned a lot about different traditional clothing at the cultural night. Hanfu, Zhongshan Suit, Cheongsam, Tangzhuang (traditional Chinese clothing), Hanbok (Korean), Áo dài (Vietnamese), Sampot (Cambodian), Kimono (Japanese), Barong (Filipino) were some of the traditional dresses that I saw for the first time in my life in Bangkok.
I made many new friends from different parts of the world at APYE Bangkok. We used to have conversations about our cultures, food, sports and internal issues related to the economy, education, healthcare, and unemployment. We learned a lot from each other and developed a strong friendship.
Meeting the delegates from neighboring countries - Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh was particularly interesting. The love for Bollywood music, coke studio and pani-puri bonded us together. While we were chatting in Urdu-Hindi, the other delegates didn’t understand a word but were still enjoying. Few of them even asked us how do we share so many similarities despite being from different nations. It is quite surprising that how this divide among us disappears as soon as we are abroad and somehow, we become great neighbors. :)
The idea behind local immersion is to give delegates a first-hand experience of the existing development challenges on the ground. My local immersion site was Ban Saladin in the Nakorn Pathom province. It is a small but beautiful village around 30 km east of Bangkok. All 25 of us stayed together inside an alluring, ornately decorated Buddhist temple.
My project team comprised of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and an Indian delegate (myself). We worked on creating a sustainable business model to brand Saladin as a hub of educational tourism around Bangkok; focussed on experiential learning of the King Rama IX's Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.
But to be honest, local immersion was more fun than work, thanks to our international (Jasmine and Milie) and Thai coordinators. There were a lot of team building activities, which overall made everyday vibe a great one and ensured that nobody felt alone.
We stayed in the village only for six days, but I will always remember my time in Saladin for the kindness of the villagers, the warmth of the temple, the boat and the tram rides, the lotus farm, the floating market and the picturesque views!
Talking to people of different nationalities I understood the importance of dialogue among people with different cultural backgrounds. It helped me understand cultural sensitivities and build relationships across time zones. With world converging rapidly towards globalization and various barriers like language, borders, and cultures rapidly diluting, it is important for young professionals to give themselves a exposure to policies and practice of businesses in various countries.