Established in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aims to accelerate progress and peace in the region and increase international cooperation.
What is YSEALI?
As part of the U.S. Mission to ASEAN, the U.S. established the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) in 2013 to help strengthen leadership development in Southeast Asia by targeting 18 to 35-year-olds. According to the initiative, “Approximately 65 percent of people in the ASEAN region are under the age of 35.”
YSEALI runs a Seeds for the Future program that provides small grants to youth in Southeast Asia through annual competitions. The program awards funding to projects within four issue areas: sustainable development, economic growth, civic engagement and education. These grants create better futures for youth in Southeast Asia.
Top 10 2018 YSEALI Grants
- Back2Communities is a convention in Brunei that facilitates discussions about the issues people with disabilities face in day-to-day life. The organization emphasizes teamwork and hosts brainstorming sessions at its conventions. YSEALI’s grant helps fund Back2Communities’ conventions and search for practical solutions.
- FIBERS hosts workshops to educate young fashion entrepreneurs and help them prosper in the fashion industry. This year, FIBERS is targeting Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines and pushing initiatives in sustainable unisex clothing and empowering underprivileged youth in Southeast Asia. The organization is also creating an online marketplace where young designers can sell their products.
- Kid+ is based in Hanoi, Vietnam and works with kids with disabilities and kids from low-income families. According to the organization, disadvantaged children are four times more likely to be victims of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Kid+ already has programs in three schools reaching over 400 students and teaching them about child rights, gender education and child sexual abuse prevention. YSEALI funds will help Kid+ expand to more schools in Hanoi.
- The Lao Film Academy (LFA) trains young filmmakers ages 18 to 22 to make films related to environmental protection. Young students receive direct contact with established filmmakers and gain important insights into the industry. LFA also does important work raising awareness for environmental issues and educating audiences about environmental protection.
- PREDIKT, which stands for Preparedness for Disaster Toolkit, works in the natural disaster-prone ASEAN region distributing toolkits that educate families about natural disasters. The toolkits also help families design disaster plans and include disaster supplies such as emergency torches, whistles and first-aid kits. PREDIKT has already distributed over 600 toolkits and YSEALI funds are helping the organization translate materials into more languages for wider distribution.
- The School of Coastal Environment (Schoove) is a fishery and marine incubator that educates students from coastal villages in coastal management, fishery-based social entrepreneurship and coastal housewife empowerment. Schoove has already reached more than 100 young leaders and women in Indonesia. The program gets young leaders more involved in the environment and coastal development.
- SHero was founded by a domestic violence survivor to encourage other survivors to share their stories. The founder is also a lawyer and SHero also encourages young lawyers to work with victims. Originally just in Thailand, SHero has expanded to Vietnam and the Philippines with YSEALI’s grant. SHero also plans to expand its platform to include sexual assault and other gender-based violence.
- Teach for ASEAN (T4A) was founded by three young leaders in Myanmar, and now T4A works in the entire Southeast Asian region. The project educates and empowers youth in Southeast Asia through training programs and community events. Many young people in the region lack job preparedness which leads to a large number of unemployed youth. Large rates of unemployment strain communities and increase poverty rates. An amazing 70 percent of T4A’s Workplace Skills Program’s first class is now employed or in vocational training.
- Tonkar Learning is an online learning program for Lao students that provides an opportunity for them to learn outside of the classroom. The program offers courses in math, physics and chemistry as well as test prep for Lao university entrance exams. YSEALI’s grant has been instrumental in the program’s development and also helps sponsor educational events for students.
- Viet Children’s Picture (VCP) works in public school districts outside of Ho Chi Minh City. These school districts only spend 45 minutes per week on art but VCP has established after-school classes in drawing, photography, crafting and dancing. Thanks to YSEALI funds, VCP has already reached over 450 students.
YSEALI’s Other Projects and Impacts
Outside of its Seeds for the Future program, YSEALI also sponsors professional and academic fellowships to the U.S. and hosts regional workshops for youth in Southeast Asia. Even after young leaders move on from YSEALI, many of them continue to make positive changes in their communities.
YSEALI has also inspired other young leaders in Brunei to establish Youth Against Slavery (YASBrunei) — Brunei’s first civil society to focus on people trafficking. Both through its small grants and its example, YSEALI is making huge impacts on youth in Southeast Asia.
– Kathryn Quelle