The youth conference in Port Dickson got off to a high-spirited start as participants assembled early in the morning in the auditorium of a conference hotel on the south-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This small scenic coastal town, normally a tropical and tranquil holiday destination, was host to 1,150 like-minded youth, gathered to explore the ways in which they can contribute their talents and energies to efforts that are conducive to the progress of their communities.
The main hall was unable to cope with the overflow of participants and many were led to a space nearby, well equipped with chairs and a live video feed. While they waited with anticipation for the programme to start, a video of the youth conferences that have been taking place around the world was shown, and the participants applauded and cheered at photos of friends from the conference in Bidor that had taken place the week before. The opening ceremony took off with youth entering the hall performing a traditional stick dance accompanied by a style of music that fused a diversity of genres. The conference theme song named "Belia Boleh" ("Youth Can") followed, and there was a devotional period with prayers and songs in English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil.
“It must not end here. It is important for us to take back what we have learned and reach out to other youth.”
A participant at the conference
Conversations during the workshops reflected a profound thinking that took place around the concept of service. The participants emphasized the importance of striving to develop a sense of purpose that infuses everything we do with a spirit of service, along with the positive effect that this has on our spiritual and intellectual growth: “Service has taught me to be patient, optimistic, and most of all perseverant”. Another participant stated: “Service should be at the centre of all of our activities. As youth, the careers we choose should allow us to serve humanity and not give us a disjointed approach to life”. Participants explored the ways in which serving one’s community and striving to contribute to the well-being of others may actually assist us in other seemingly unrelated aspects of our lives, for example, our studies: “Walking a path of service enhanced my understanding in my studies and gave me confidence”. Many had come from areas in which a large portion of the inhabitants are working together for the well-being of their community. Friends from the Semenyih neighbourhood described how by focusing their efforts on raising up youth to carry out acts of service, there are now 60 youth who are actively working with a community of 400.
As the sun was setting across the seafront, the distant sound of songs in different languages could be heard as the young people prepared for their artistic presentations. Groups dispersed to rehearse and dress up for the evening programme, and as the night drew to a close, the participants proceeded up the breezy coastal path to a stage that was set up on a raised canopied platform by the beach. What followed was a rich and diverse array of musical performances, dances, and skits, all of which were connected to the study materials. Highlights included a Malay folk song named "Rasa Sayang" with lyrics rewritten by some participants to reflect their acts of service in the community, an original Mandarin song about love and serving together through trials, a traditional Indian dance called the "Bharatha Natyam", and the last song of the night named "One Nation" that ended with a confetti blast, taking the crowd by surprise! The spirit of the evening was participatory and on a few occasions many rose to their feet to join in with the dancing on stage.
Throughout the weekend, participants expressed their sense of responsibility towards the younger generations and how important it will be to transmit the lessons they have learned to others in their home communities: “I believe there are youth out there like us who desire positive change, a change that will affect the environment in which we live”. “It must not end here. It is important for us to take back what we have learned and reach out to other youth”’.
The conference ended with a final round of "Belia Boleh", and by 7pm, the last bus had pulled out of the venue, a place that will forever be associated with the youth of Malaysia and the history of their country.
Several busloads of youth arrived at the same time
Members of the Continental Board of Counsellors receiving orchid corsages upon their arrival
Youth were focused during their study of the conference materials
Participants prepare to sing the conference theme song "Belia Boleh"
Youth took time to explore several themes in depth
Young people from various regions shared artistic presentations at night
Group discussions took place in the national language Bahasa Malaysia
Neighbourhood friends made plans of action
Participants viewed a portion of the film Frontiers of Learning about a community in Lubumbashi
One group from Singapore shares a song with fellow participants
Artistic presentations were full of joy
Group photo of the youth conference participants in Port Dickson