AFTER graduating with a degree in actuarial science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in the United States, Alina Amir looked poised for a high flying career as an analyst at Accenture Consulting.
But Alina, who is from Kajang, Selangor decided to become a fellow of Teach for Malaysia — an independent, not-for-profit organisation that strives to transform education outcomes of less privileged schoolchildren by expanding their education opportunity.
Under Teach for Malaysia, Alina taught at a school in Bukit Mertajam in Penang for two years. Encouraged by the experience, she stayed on for two more years and co-founded the social enterprise Arus Education, a learning centre which teaches underprivileged students and those from high need schools education and 21st century skills such as coding and programming.
With the belief that digital skills can revolutionise education and innovate solutions, Alina tried for a spot at the 2016 edition of the Swedish Telenor Youth Forum (TYF) which showcases the search for inspiring youths who are passionate to drive change in the world.
An annual event in Oslo, the forum is a year-long programme designed and hosted by Telenor Group and the Nobel Peace Centre. At the forum, selected youths from 13 Telenor markets are challenged to make an impact on the world through innovations by utilising mobile technology and the Internet.
Alina won one of the spots to represent Malaysia and attended the kick-off in Oslo in December last year. She was placed in a group which was assigned the goal of gender equality.
“We interviewed people working on gender equality in Oslo to understand the issue better. Most worked with victims of gender violence including LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) communities,” said the 29-year-old.
“We came up with a platform to guide victims of gender violence to leave an abusive relationship. The platform connects victims to the nearest shelters, hospital, police station and community workers. It hopes to work with existing platforms and share services.”
Due to the composition of group members, Alina had to collaborate online with them before a second meeting in Bangkok, Thailand last month.
“The hardest part is working virtually with the team. My team members are from Norway, Thailand, Hungary and Denmark — the time difference alone is a challenge.
As we come from different regions, our solutions were not a blanket solution because of the different contexts. It pushed us to think outside the box and learn to communicate more effectively to get our ideas across.”
The members finally hashed out their ideas while in Bangkok.
“Our team won funds to further build our solution. We’ve delegated the tasks among ourselves to come up with the first draft of the platform and a digital exhibition to explain our solution to the public by September.”
Alina added she has learnt a lot, not only about project management but also the topic itself.
“As an advocate for equality and empowerment, I had to put things into perspective when coming up with a solution that can help everyone lead a better, happier life without being harmed just for being themselves.
“I work with students every day and often times as a teacher, I become more than just the person in front of the class — I am also the one who lends an ear when my students are facing challenges at home.
“The project has helped me to better understand the people who have gone through gender violence and think of more effective ways to not only help the victims but also educate the abusers.
“Professionally, as an Arus Education co-founder, I work with my team to provide not just quality education equality for all, but also to empower students with the right mindset and skills of the future workforce.”
For those who want to join the forum, Alina said: “TYF isn’t a one-week forum — it’s a long-term commitment. You have to continuously work on your projects on top of your daily commitments, but if you do it right and manage your time, it’s a pretty amazing experience.
“Be open-minded about exploring alternative solutions, about working with people from different cultural backgrounds and about expressing your views.
“Think of sustainable, effective and efficient solutions when solving a problem.”
The culmination of this year-long commitment will be the unveiling of a digital exhibition in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Centre. Each delegate will be awarded a certificate of participation from Telenor Group and the Nobel Peace Centre.
Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd is in search of two inspiring youths to represent Malaysia at the fifth annual forum. Closing date for submission is Aug 15.