May 8, 2021

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Cultivating community-minded young citizens

IN the process of developing social and cultural literacy, a youth-led project called The Noeo Project (TNP) is promoting community-mindedness through uniting people with shared understanding to support underprivileged youth in our community.

Founded by 17-year-olds James Chong and Erin Eu, TNP has gained tremendous attention since its inception in October 2019, through its fundraisers for refugee children and families. But more notable was its petition in September last year to reform sex education in Malaysia.
The success of the petition eventually led to meetings with various political organisations and non-governmental organisations, including AMK Setiawangsa and Protect and Save the Children.

“The overwhelming support that we received for the petition proved to us that many people want change and improvement in the syllabus. Through our campaign, we also got to connect with our followers as they shared their experiences on their sex education classes in government schools,” said Eu.

“It was very intimidating to establish a campaign of such scale as high school students. However, it goes to show that our age is not a disadvantage and that people are willing to hear what you have to say if you are indeed passionate about the cause and take steps towards making that change.

“It demonstrated to us the power of social media to unify a community for a cause and advocate change.”

In addition, TNP’s efforts to build a well-informed community have been loud and clear on Instagram, through its informative feature posts that cover a wide range of topics to deliver some of the most important issues that everyone must know.

How does TNP fit into your life?

Eu: As an aspiring economics major, I find it extremely interesting to see how economics in one way or another relates to most things occurring in the world. Through leading our sex-ed reform campaign, I’ve found a deeper interest in public policy and its conspicuous effects on everyone’s lives.

Chong: Aiming to be a successful social entrepreneur, I’ve really enjoyed leading TNP’s fundraising efforts, that have taught me so much about business. Through my experiences visiting refugee learning centres to deliver supplies and talk with the refugees, my passion to create a positive impact within our community has only grown, and I hope to continue this through my future endeavours.

What set you off on this journey to cultivate community-mindedness?

Chong: When we visited a refugee learning centre, it dawned on me how heartbreaking their situation was. It was a dilapidated building and we found ourselves in an already cramped room.

During a drawing workshop that we hosted, we met a little girl and her smile was radiant and contagious as she coloured her self-portrait. She revealed to us her dream to become a firefighter, but her joy and hopefulness broke our hearts as the refugee status forced upon her could mean that her dream would forever remain a dream.

The memory of her smile is what motivates our search for ways to improve the refugee situation.

Eu: We currently have 20 members in TNP and each member has their own interests and passions. Most of the topics that we pick to write about are important issues that need to be discussed. Other times, we make posts about current or ‘trending’ issues in the news because these are topics that most engage and benefit our followers on Instagram.

Do you view making these features as journalistic or curatorial?

Chong: Each feature post involve thorough research and compilation of information into a concise piece to be published.

We felt that Instagram, a digital platform widely used by youths, lacks coverage on topics usually covered on other platforms such as websites or newspapers. So, we decided to fill that gap by re-presenting information on the Instagram platform and because of this, I would describe our features as a curatorial practice.

However, in future, we would most definitely like to explore a journalistic approach and bring to light original stories that we have uncovered.

What is TNP looking for from its contributors in its ‘Feature Friday’ series?

Eu: We started our Feature Friday series in hopes of providing a platform for people to share topics that they are passionate about and that is truly all we are looking for from contributors. We often help our contributors structure their pieces in a way that makes the post flow better, but the content is created by the contributors alone.

Feature Friday is a series we really value as it allows us at TNP to learn from our followers and the community around us.