Imagining what the eye has not seen could turn out to be most impactful once that comes to life. For the students of the Canadian Pre-University (CPU) program in Taylor’s College, they aimed to paint a picture of issues that humanity faces through the Hear Us Out 17 conference held on 26 October 2016. With the umbrella theme “Put the Human Back in Humanity”, a series of workshops and performances were held centering on creating awareness of various global issues.
The premise of Hear Us Out is to get people thinking about solutions that could work globally from right where they are to solve problems in their local communities; in other words – “think global, act local”. President of Taylor’s College, Mr. Craig Sherrin said, “Experience is the best teacher. It is wonderful to know that our CPU students are able to transform what they have learnt in the classroom into real life. Taylor’s College continuously strives to inspire students through leadership skills, learning skills and life skills, which will equip them anywhere. And, there is no better way to develop these skills than to get on the ground, assess situations and explore solutions to problems that would bring greater good to people and their communities.”
The conference opened with a rousing welcome for notable inspirational speaker, Ian Chew, who gave the keynote speech for Hear Us Out 17. Ian, who is also a member of Taylor’s College CPU Alumni, is renowned for interviewing over 700 people from more than 20 countries in three years, from the homeless on the streets to millionaire entrepreneurs. Ian’s speech was quickly followed up by an engaging introduction delivered by CPU student Adib Iliya Bin Azlan. Performances were held based on themes such as sexual abuse, pollution, obesity, nuclear proliferation, consumerism, police brutality, terrorism, animal cruelty, and fast fashion. These topics were presented through a diverse range of formats including spoken word poetry, Ted Talks, songs, and an original 40 page dramatic performance authored by CPU student Tiffany Nassiri-Ansari. The dramatic performance entitled “Welcome to that Really Bad Place you go to For Doing Really Bad Things” included an exciting ensemble of songs and raps about critical issues facing humanity. There was plenty of comic relief throughout the conference including a particularly funny duo of rapping business men played by Sean & Leonard Wong. In reminiscing about good memories, CPU students John Gordon Fernandez, Amanda Chin, Nabil Aiman, Terry Gan, and Win Hong showcased a documentary entitled “High Noon” celebrating eight glorious years of Hear Us Out at Taylor's College, taking the audience down memory lane on past projects, current projects, and all the things they learnt in between.
The Hear Us Out conference was established in 2008 by former CPU lecturer, Ms. Elizabeth Christie. The idea was based on a book entitled “High Noon”, authored by Jean Francois Rischard, which portrayed 20 world issues that needed to be solved in 20 years. Some of the issues that are talked about are biodiversity loss, climate change, terrorism, hunger, and poverty. Christie’s idea of starting Hear Us Out was to bring students out of a typical classroom setting into a real-world situation where real problems occur, thus giving them great exposure to match what they learn. Fast forward to eight years later, Hear Us Out is now supervised by Mr. Easton Hanna, lecturer in the CPU program at Taylor’s College. He said, “This is part of their Independent Study Unit, and is as important as their final exam. These students, who are currently undertaking the World Issues subject in my class, will get the best exposure when they see for themselves the issues that mankind faces, instead of solely relying on knowledge from what they have read.”
To give the students a taste of what he meant, Hanna and his colleague, Ayu, took 17 students on a trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to learn more about the Genocide under the Khmer Rouge in the mid 1970s, and to do some community service work with orphaned children. “The genocide is covered in both the World Issues and World History subjects, so it seemed like a great idea to visit the notorious Killing Fields and S21 concentration camp. We also worked in a visit to Samrong Children's Farm, which is an amazing orphanage with a sustainable farm on site – really impressive. Our students played sports with the kids, farmed, and taught English,” he added.
Circling back to the conference, Hanna said the same students were also part of the Hear Us Out conference, and wanted to share loud and clear what they had experienced. They also managed to raise funds for several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to whom the proceeds will go to. Eight years on, Hear Us Out has raised over RM70,000 from these conferences, which were channeled to local and international NGOs such as World Wildlife Federation (WWF), the Pink Triangle, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Lawyers for Liberty, Freedom Cups, Befrienders, and many more. He said, “We typically raise around RM 3,500 – RM 4,000 a conference but we have obviously exceeded that amount from time to time. We are truly grateful to all those who contribute, even in the smallest way possible.”
So, what happens next? Hanna said Hear Us Out would continue its tradition of creating awareness on global issues through its biannual conferences and other means. He concluded, “Having compassion for humanity and that belief there is a solution that can benefit a community with a pressing problem is an attribute that moves people to find ways to make their world a better place. This is what, we as educators, intend to catalyse in the classroom and through activities such as Hear Us Out.”