Simone Heng Hosts the 8th USLS at the United Nations

1021 1024 Simone Heng

From August 2nd to 7th, I was absolutely honoured to be hosting the 8th University Leaders Symposium at the United Nations in Bangkok. The symposium targets emerging world leaders to push the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Youth are central to the Sustainable Development Goals agenda being achieved by the 2030 deadline. The week was filled with international speakers and United Nations Development Programme staff who came to speak to the student delegates.

 

The participants for the conference are by selection only, so although I would recommend this to anyone (it was life-changing), almost all the students present were selected by their university and offered scholarships to the symposium. It is not open to the public. I think it is for this reason that the delegates were so engaged, eager to debate and so well spoken which made my job as host a lot easier. In fact, moderating was not at all a job about enticing dialogue during the Q&A session (normally in Singapore people are very shy to ask questions and I have to pull teeth to get hands raised at an event) but rather guiding questions when delegates may have wanted to “hijack” the conversation for a separate agenda. This happened when the Palestine/Israel issue was raised in a question addressed to the founder of an NGO which was not even operating in the Middle East. It kept me on my toes, that’s for sure.

 

 

It was certainly one of my most difficult gigs, hosting and moderating for 10 hours a day for 5 days requires a lot more attention to detail than other hosting jobs and high energy reserves. Every speaker and question needed to be moderated. After 3 days of continuous lectures, it was good to go out in the field and see the work that NGOs are doing in Thailand. As the MC for the event, I did not have to attend the outreach day but I have done more than enough shopping on holiday to fill a lifetime and would much rather spend my days doing something productive.

 

I cannot end this blog without mentioning some of the charities which I learnt about while hosting the symposium. I have been so blessed that posting about these on social media has already garnered donations but I feel there is even more help needed.

The image of the girl on the top left was taken during the experiential learning day at the conference. (She and her family gave me permission to do so). We visited Bangkok’s largest slum which was built around what was once a large slaughterhouse. The young girl in the photo lives with her young mother and her great grandmother in a shack in this slum. The parental generation (30 to 45 years) are often missing from the slums, many go out to work and barely can provide for themselves let alone send money back to their families. Her two grand uncles are monks, so they cannot send money either. Her great grandmother is too old to work. The entire household relies heavily on the food donations of Mercy Centre. We delivered food bundles to these families (glad I worked out in the lead up to this trip because those bags were heavvvvvvy). I was also struck by how much the young girl looks like my niece, Pheobe, in Australia. She will have such a different life to Pheobe simply because of the circumstances she was born into. You can sponsor a child’s education at Mercy Centre www.mercycentre.org.

The other NGO which really stood out for me was Geraldine Cox’s Sunrise Cambodia. When Geraldine spoke, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The things she spoke of, that the children at her centre were subjected to, just unspeakable. No child in this world should be so vulnerable and subjected to such atrocities. These children would be on the street if not for Geraldine, who left a career in banking to take care of the most marginalised sector of Cambodian society. You can sponsor a child ‘s education for an entire year for just $500 at Sunrise Cambodia (Thankyou to 2 of my followers who have already done so) by heading to www.sunrisecambodia.org.au. Hosting after Geraldine was very challenging, I even broke down on the podium and then had to get the level of energy in the room back up for the next speaker, The Oprah Winfrey show’s Ryan Hreljac from Ryan’s Well Foundation.

Thankyou so much to Humanitarian Affairs Asia and the United Nations for reaching out 7 months ago and choosing me to helm this huge event of 1000 delegates. I was the first MC that had been requested by name since the symposium began 8 years ago, it has been a huge honour and I hope I did it justice.

Here are some of the testimonials of my hosting performance from the delegates: