Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program on Shaping Sustainable Schools and Communities Sows Bumper Crop of Green Action Follow-on Projects

See what sprouted when youth from Southeast Asia came to the United States to learn about leadership, civic engagement, and local sustainability through the lens of “green schools.” Since returning home, the participants have channeled their learning and experiences into positive community action to promote green practices.

SEAYLP-Group-Photo_crop_WEBIn the fall of 2012, the East-WestCenter launched Leading Green: Shaping Sustainable Schools and Communities, a Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program (SEAYLP) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. To date, EWC has coordinated two exchanges in the United States for 61 youth and educators from the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The three-week-long exchanges offered took place in schools and communities in Hawai‘i; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, DC; and surrounding communities in Virginia.

new compressed pictureThrough hands-on activities focusing on civic education, leadership, diversity, and community engagement, the program provided opportunities for participants to interact with diverse Americans as they examined, through the lens of “green and sustainable schools and communities,” the principles of democracy and civil society. They also created Green Action Projects, described below and on the project website, which they have been implementing since their return home. By focusing on schools and their immediate community, participants have been able to practice leadership as they engage their peers and undertake positive community action to enhance their everyday environment.

SEAYLP Follow-on Projects:

“Green Expo”

The follow-on activities of the SEAYLP group from Brunei were initially planned as projects to be held in the participants’ respective schools, and to later be exhibited in an ASEAN Students’ Exchange Programme.  However, the SEAYLP team was offered an opportunity to be involved in The Green Expo 2013, which was held in conjunction with the National Environment Conference, Brunei’s premier conference focused on the environment and sustainability.

SEAYLP2013-Brunei-Crop-WEBThey showcased their project plans and shared their SEAYLP experiences with approximately 200 green energy leaders, environmental experts, eco businesses, government leaders, and eco-conscious consumers attending The Expo. A highlight for the team was the opportunity to meet the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya Bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar along with his wife, and the U.S. Ambassador to Brunei, the Honorable Daniel L. Shields.  The U.S. Embassy in Brunei provided the funding that made it possible for the SEAYLP-Brunei team to participate in The Green Expo.

The group is also making plans to implement the “Bring Your Own Tumbler” program, designed to encourage re-use and discourage waste. This will be introduced to the incoming Year 7 students expected to start school in January 2014 at Rimba II Secondary School, located within a one-kilometer radius of the University of Brunei Darussalam. Funding for this project from the Ministry of Education in Brunei is anticipated.

“Environmental Alertness and Trash Campaign”

The Burmese group applied for and was awarded a FY2013 ECA Alumni Project Grant in the amount of $7,000.00 to carry out a substantial project enacting an Environmental Alertness and Trash Campaign. The group conducted a small-scale cleanup and awareness campaign in May 2013, and their larger planned project will expand upon this initial success. Their goal is to educate people in Mandalay about the environment through practical endeavors including organizing cleanups, planting trees, and increasing recycling by placing bins strategically. They are reaching out to a wide audience, but will target kids and teenagers, and hope to involve 1,000 people.

SEAYLP2013 Burma Grp_crop_webTheir detailed six-month plan launched in October 2013 as they printed t-shirts and accessories and visited schools. Over the course of the following months, they will conduct a number of cleanups and install recycling bins in various locations around the city, and continue to visit schools and connect with organizations. Several local institutions, including the International Language & Business Centre, KBC, and Myit Thar See Sar, have pledged their cooperation, and the group is soliciting additional supporters. Media coverage is a part of their plan and they have reached out to three media groups to cover these events. Throughout, they will follow-up with schools and at cleanup and recycling sites to monitor progress. They will submit reports to the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar and to the EWC.

“Grow Cambodia Green for Sustainability”

The Cambodia group collaborated with the EWC and a local Peace Corps volunteer to organize an innovative and fun-filled Eco-English Workshop that brought together nearly 150 lower and upper secondary school students from Kampong Speu province to learn about the consequences of improper waste disposal and the benefits of recycling.

SEAYLP2013-Cambodia_webThe Eco-English workshop activities focused on health and environmental dangers that arise from daily practices in Cambodia, and raised awareness about safer and sustainable alternatives.

With the permission of officials at the Kampong Speu Ministry of Education, the event was held at SokhaPhallyHigh School. SEAYLP participants publicized the workshop and generated interest by creating flyers and distributing them in community schools, and by meeting with groups of students. The Peace Corps volunteer helped prepare workshop materials and trained SEAYLP participants on how to use the materials and run the workshop. The danger of burning plastics was demonstrated through an interactive English vocabulary activity, the “Three R’s” were explained and investigated through an interactive lesson and the learning of a song, and proper sorting of waste was explained through material lifespans and a scavenger hunt around the immediate area. The day was capped with a Carbon Footprint Quiz complete with prizes and certificates.

The workshop was timed to coincide with the EWC’s Partnership for Youth exchange program in Cambodia, which brought 24 American students from U.S. high schools. American participants were trained in how to use the materials and helped conduct workshop activities.

“Eco Bag Project” and “Green Children Surabaya”

SEAYLP2013-Indo_board_WEBThe SEAYLP group in Indonesia created two projects: Eco-Bag and Green Children Surabaya to promote environmental awareness, reduce the use of plastic bags, and increase recycling. The Eco-Bag project took place in schools in Takaran, East Borneo with partial funding from Tarakan’s Bureau of Educational Affairs. Participants explained the environmental impact of bags and garnered the support of other students, who eagerly gathered donations from classes and promoted the use of alternative eco-bags. The team was very pleased with the response of their peers and could see the evidence of their success as students adopted the new bags for different uses.

The Green Children project focused on an orphanage in Surabaya. The children warmly received the SEAYLP participants and enjoyed answering global warming questions, playing a recycling game, repurposing toilet paper rolls to make pencil holders, and planting seeds in the garden. Participants funded this visit in part by collecting used paper and selling it to a recycler.

They also received support from the U.S. Embassy.

After they complete their high school and vocational school exams, the Indonesia participants plan to expand their two programs by adapting Eco-Bags for kindergarteners and by revisiting the orphanage and expanding on their recycling education program.

“The Green and Clean School Campaign”

SEAYLP2013-Lao_WEBThe Laos group took part in the Vientiane Career Fair Project at Vangphoun Primary School in VangphounVillage in Kenthao District of Sayabouly. This was attended by 60 students, teachers, and parents from the village. The Lao-SEAYLP group made presentations and distributed study materials focusing on sustainability and healthy living. Support for the event was provided by the Lao-AmericanCollege.

Also, Laos SEAYLP team member Phatxalin Phanouvong has won a writing contest sponsored by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, a non-profit global humanitarian organization. She created a comic book for children 10 years old and younger about environmental sustainability. Her book is currently being edited and illustrated and she anticipates that it will be published in the coming months.

“Adopt the Environment Campaign”

The Malaysian team hosted speakers, and conducted activities focused on sustainability and reducing waste. The two-day seminar was held on March 25 and 26, 2013 in SMK St. Mary, Kuching, Sarawak. More than 50 students from various secondary schools in Kuching participated in the program.

SEAYLP2013-Malaysia_crop_WEBThe seminar started off with an introductory speech from the school’s principal followed by the SEAYLP participants going over the “what” and the “why” of the seminar. Later, an invited speaker from the Natural Resources and Environmental Board Sarawak shared a talk on “Wise Up to Waste.” This was followed by a hands-on session, led by SEAYLP participants, where students made candles from used cooking oil to show new, fun, and practical uses for waste.

After this, the 2012 SEAYLP youth participants shared their U.S. program experiences and innovative applications for waste, such as using coffee residue to grow mushrooms; video clips on “going green”; and a presentation on the “Bottle Brick Bench Project,” initiated by Mr. Brennan Blazer Bird, founder of Peace on Earth Bench Movement ( The participants played the Paper Ball Game with the Kuching students answering quiz questions when the paper ball passed along the line stopped in their hand. The quiz questions were based on the previous session about “Wise Up, Waste Not,” candle making, video clips and the “Bottle Brick Bench Project.”

All Kuching students attending the seminar were required to bring recyclable materials from home to make a creative art project. There were attractive prizes for the top three winning entries, and the grand prize was a balloon-powered car. The Kuching students were enthusiastic about the activities, and excited to apply their learning to find ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“LUNHAW (Living Under New Horizons And Well-Being)”

The Philippines group conducted a post-election cleanup campaign by gathering, separating, and recycling posters and handouts after the May 13, 2013 election. In addition to the six members of the SEAYLP team, about 50 volunteers joined the cleanup near the precincts where the elections were held. They took the paper and plastic to the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in University of San Jose Recoletos, where it could be sorted and recycled. This saved it from being burned and contributing to air pollution.

SEAYLP2013-Phil_WEBOn August 20, 2013, LUNHAW organized a feeding program with the USJ-R CAT-1 Unit (University of San Jose-Recoletos Citizen Advancement Training) in Sitio Ulap in Basak Pardo, CebuCity. The CAT leaders volunteered to assist LUNHAW to achieve their goal and feed more than 50 children aged 4-10.  The children were also instructed on how to dispose of their garbage.  LUNHAW is also planning an ECO Camp. This will bring together student leaders of selected secondary schools around the city of Cebu. It will be a mini SEAYLP program showcasing knowledge gleaned from the program in Washington and Hawaii, and giving participants follow-up projects in their respective school communities. The LUNHAW members will conduct monthly visits to check the status of the projects. The City Councilor of Cebu, the Honorable Nestor Archival, has volunteered his home, which is known for its many sustainable elements, as a location for the ECO Camp.

“Sort it Out”

The Singapore SEAYLP group project educated students about recycling and waste reduction. They targeted both high school and elementary students through separate activities, enticing the high school aged youth with competition, and the elementary students with games.

SEAYLP2013-Singapore_WEBIn January 2013, the group made a presentation at a school assembly during the Whitley School Environmental Week that was attended by representatives of the U.S. Embassy. The Singapore SEAYLP group explained their follow-on project goal of educating students about recycling and waste reduction. This concept was visually demonstrated by constructing “The Whit-Man,” a structure built from paper, bottles, and cardboard items collected at two drives, one at Whitley and another at DunmanSecondary School. A contest was held to have students guess how many recycled items were needed to construct The Whit-Man. 32 students guessed correctly and were awarded mouse pads. The structure served as a reminder of how much waste is generated on campus.

The SEAYLP participants also organized collection drives, promoted at morning assemblies, to encourage the habit of recycling in schools. They fabricated recycling bins and educated the students on their use, recyclable materials and how to sort these effectively. Their project raised awareness about the need to recycle and reduce waste in communities. Another community involvement program centered on a beach cleaning activity held in March included a competition to see who collected the most trash. A workshop to reinforce the concepts and raise awareness about the challenges of waste management was also held. Some local NGOs and small companies are willing to continue to support upcoming projects.

“Green Alliance”

Team Thailand started a “Green Alliance” movement to become environmental leaders and educate others to become agents of change by adopting small, meaningful changes through their own actions and by educating their families and friends. They hope that this will engender and sustain a network of young environmental leaders in Thailand.

SEAYLP2013-Thai3_WEBThey received support from AIESEC, an international university student-run non-profit organization and hosted an eco-concert during the last week of June to generate interest and support for their project, which targeted Thai youth (12-25 years of age) who have an interest in leadership and sustainable development.  Following the concert, the Green Alliance was executed in two parts. It began with Green Explorers on June 30, 2013, at LumpiniPark. Core founders led friends and family members through games and a conflict scenario simulation. This culminated with sharing personal learning and brainstorming concrete ideas for change. The second phase, Green Insiders, was an on-site community service that took place on September 14, 2013 at the Bangkaen Nursing Home involving 40 seniors. The U.S. Embassy in Thailand provided $2,000 in funding for the group’s projects.

“Peace Garden Hanoi”

The SEAYLP group from Vietnam wanted to engage the senses of young children and use hands-on activities to make lasting impressions. They built a bottle brick bench for a Peace Garden that had been established by SEAYLP Vietnam 2012 participants at ThucNghiemPrimary School in Hanoi. All six of the SEAYLP Vietnam participants along with 40 third grade students, their teacher, several science teachers, and some Hanoi gardening club members took part in these activities and funding was supplied by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.

SEAYLP2013-Vietnam_WEBA Facebook fanpage, developed by the SEAYLP participants, provides the students, teachers and parents with basic information about the project and posts updated practical lessons and observations about gardening and upcoming workshops.

In January 2014, they plan to hold a “Green Day Competition” at the school. They will lead primary students in a painting activity centered on nature themes, and will award prizes for pictures that express unique and meaningful ideas on environmental protection. They will also teach children to make simple but useful recycled products such as cards and bags, and feature these in an exhibition and product design contest. Lastly, they will conduct a guided tour of the school garden, explaining how other schools or families could model it.