The End of the Road: Leaving Youth Without Borders.

…the end came without fanfare.

Today, the 31st of October 2016, I chaired my final Board meeting at the helm of the organisation I founded in 2007, Youth Without Borders.

I was 16. 16! It was a time of dial up internet, Nokia 3210s, and my traditional hijabi look. I had no idea what I was doing, no idea what journey I had just begun. I also had no idea why people thought it was such a big deal, starting something at 16. I just had a lot of energy and wanted to change the world! My parents wouldn’t let me do drugs, so I started an organisation instead. Seemed like a fun thing to do. Why not, right?

The Asia Pacific Cities Summit — where the idea for Youth Without Borders was formed

The Asia Pacific Cities Summit — where the idea for Youth Without Borders was formed

This end has arrived without fanfare. It has crept up on me, not unexpectedly, but with a finality that leaves me unmoored, bobbing in the current of an uncharted future. I’m left with sense that one should be celebrating, but I mostly just want a long afternoon lying on the grass, starting at the sun, reminiscing at times that will never be experienced in the same way again.

‘My baby’ is all grown up. It walks and talks, it lives and breaths. It is different to what I wanted it to be, what I hoped for it when it was born, but then — aren’t all children like that? Like I assume it is with kids, I did my best to provide a solid set of morals and values that will guide it through the world, and the rest, well. It’s not my choice anymore, really. Isn’t that scarily beautiful?

Honestly, one of the main reasons why we still exist almost a decade later, as one of the oldest true youth-led organisations in the country, is the fact that we stuck with it. Boring, right? We just didn’t quit. We almost did, many a time… but importantly, we didn’t.

‘We’ was quite often myself and a few of the engineering boys I corralled into doing a fundraising BBQ. ‘We’ was whoever I could convince to stick with it for a little while. ‘We’, was sometimes just me.… but ‘we’ made it. Teenagers and young people wanting to change things, before being a ‘youth-led organisation’ was part of a government’s plan to reinvigorate the economy. Subhanallah.

First conference we attended as YWB members in 2008

First conference we attended as YWB members in 2008

There are many stories to share. For now, I just take this moment to acknowledge and thank every single one of the people who were a part of the Youth Without Borders journey. Without you, we would have never existed. Really, YOU are what makes this organisation great. Lucy, Anthony — the OG’s — thank you for believing in me at the very beginning. I may have inadvertently made your life difficult at times, and for that, I apologise. To all who may have had a less than optimal experience: for what it is worth, we always tried to do our work in good faith. I hope you will forgive me having to learn critical lessons at your expense.

I am who I am because of Youth Without Borders. But Youth Without Borders is not what it is because of me. It is thanks to the collective sweat equity of hundreds of young people who gave the organisation life, and in doing so believed in their capacity to make a positive impact on the world around them.

In a time when things seem to be falling apart, it’s nice to remember that all over the world, there are young people determined not to let that happen. Have faith in that. Have faith in the fact that the good stuff doesn’t make it in the news, but the good is happening all around you, all the time.

But it does its work and leaves. Its touch is light, imperceptible. Good happens without fanfare.



Alhamdulilah for the strength to lead, for the capacity to be heard, for the fortitude to forge on. Alhamdulilah, always.

This was originally posted on Medium.

Guest Blog: A Matter of Being Heard

This is a guest piece by Iman Salim Ali Farrar, the young Muslim lady who is the 2015 YMCA NSW Youth Parliament Premier.  I'm honoured to have her poignant contribution to the blog. 

I was fortunate enough to be elected by the youth delegates as Youth Premier of Queensland in 2008 and it fantastic to see Iman in a similar position this year in NSW.  Chyeah! 



There comes a point in the hub-bub of everyday politics when the discussion on real issues which face our vast communities seems to give way to disjointed partisanship and strong-arm showmanship. Thus, this shows a neglect of the voices which often need to be heard most. Certainly, the lack of balanced and nuanced debate surrounding such issues by our nation’s leaders has heightened deep visions, sensationalized trivialities and disenfranchised many, particularly the young, from mechanisms of political institutions.

Now, it is with great humility and respect that I was provided with the opportunity to lead this year’s NSW YMCA Youth Parliament as the NSW Youth Premier for 2015. The Youth MPs I had the pleasure of working with are some of the most intelligent, outspoken, talented and politically active people I know; I could not be more honoured, and I thank them sincerely for entrusting me to lead them.

Throughout my life, I have lived across four continents and five different countries; I have traveled and I have been immersed in several different cultures, however, due to this, I was never able to fully settle and develop any deep attachment to call anywhere home. I will not deny that this gave me a realisation beyond what I was exposed to in my home and local area – it showed me the different governing systems, the different values and the inherently different lifestyles that came with that. It developed the value that I now have for the many cultures of the world, but I have never felt more at home then I do here in Sydney, Australia. I may have a British accent, I may not have been born here, but my Australian identity is as strong as anyone else’s. I am a migrant, in fact, besides the indigenous, we are all migrants to Australia, and we have all adopted this place as our home. When you see me, you wouldn’t guess that I am half English, and half Malaysian, that I speak 3 languages and can read and write in another two which I do not understand, and that I am a very, very passionate young woman who will not stand to be discriminated against, especially based on my identity as a Muslim or a woman. I may not look or fit any stereotype of anything that you may have in your mind – but against all the odds; of both a society often fearful of Islam and of a society that does not value the opinions of the youth nearly as much as they should, I am still proud to call Australia my home.

Iman with QLD's Former premier, Anna Bligh.  Reppin' QLD! 

Iman with QLD's Former premier, Anna Bligh.  Reppin' QLD! 

I preach for diversity. For it to be fully accepted in society, in managerial positions, in educational standards, and in State and Federal Parliament, and for it to not be a point of discrimination. I believe that it is about time that our Parliament reflects the diverse and multicultural nature of our population. I preach for diversity to be realised, for our true multicultural society to reflect on this notion of diversity, and for our youth and broader society to have their say on matters that affect them, on issues that they have the ability to put forward resolutions for.  As a woman, it fills me with great joy to see that 60% of the participants in this year’s NSW Youth Parliament are women. It is even more impressive that out of the Government Executive in the Legislative Assembly, 4 out of 5 of the executive positions are filled by some of the most inspirational young women I have met in my life who have such drive and passion for positive change in our society. Not only are we challenging the statusquo represented in current state and federal parliament through closing the gap of women in powerful positions, but we also encompass the multicultural nature of New South Wales that we have all come to embrace.

Through grassroots’ apolitical forums such as YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, the voices of this State’s young leaders are allowed to cut through much of the clutter and put into creating legislation and open debate regarding the issues facing their own communities as well as broader society. I believe that it is pivotal to acknowledge that this is not a matter of small significance. Rather, the Youth Parliament program kindles that political awareness and superb quality integral to the next generation of our states’ leaders – ensuring the future burns even brighter than the past.

And who said we, the youth, don’t have a voice?

It is simply a matter of being heard.


This is a guest piece by Iman Salim Ali Farrarthe young Muslim lady who is the current 2015 YMCA NSW Youth Parliament Premier.  I'm honoured to have her contribution to the blog and stoked to see more and more young Muslim women doing awesome things and leading with compassion, integrity and vision.

Iman Salim Ali Farrar

Iman Salim Ali Farrar

One week left! "Australia Day" at your local Queensland Theatre!


Inshallah this weekend I will be heading off to check out the slightly controversial "Australia Day" production by Queensland Theatre Company!

"It's funny as hell with some killer lines but there is more to it than meets the eye ... and the heart." - Courier Mail

It's supposed to be a pretty tongue in cheek, sometimes difficult to stomach (?) look at Australian society and I can't wait to check it out...

Shameless plug - youth tickets are $33 so I'd totally recommend everyone go check it out as there is only one week left! Tickets can be found here.

“Moor carefully directs this play so as to test audiences’ limits …” - The Guardian

(love limits being tested)


“… laugh out loud, and be appalled that you did so.” -  XS Entertainment


"Jonathan Biggins’ Australia Day is a laugh, a jab, a thought provoking prod at our current political and cultural climate ..." - Aussie Theatre


Official blurb:

"Welcome to the Aussie country town of Coriole, where life is laidback and carefree. Unless you're a member of the Australia Day committee, who couldn't raffle a chook in a pub. These six quirky community leaders can't agree what it means to be true blue Aussie, and Mayor Brian Harrigan is no help. He's too busy scheming over his Liberal Party preselection and sledging the local Greens.

A bang-up-to-the-moment barbecue-stopper of a comedy, Australia Day follows a mob of bumbling bureaucratic battlers as they debate the details of the national day. Never mind wrangling the Nippers, the Lions and the CWA; these unhappy little Vegemites are at loggerheads deciding on the appropriate type of bread for a dinky-di sausage sizzle. Grab a lamington and a stubbie, sit back, and find out if Coriole's Australia Day will be a little ripper, or will it go off like a bucket of prawns in the sun!

As the brains behind Sydney Theatre Company's wickedly satirical institution The Wharf Revue, writer Jonathan Biggins has his finger firmly on the pulse of Aussie culture. Director Andrea Moor was behind last season's smash hit Venus in Fur. And for actor Paul Bishop (pictured), who plays the Mayor, this material is comfortably close to home. When he's offstage, Paul is a Redland City Councillor on Brisbane's bayside.

Australia Day features strobe lighting, political themes and medium level coarse language"


Disclaimer: QTC is providing me with two complimentary tickets to go check this out and generally encourage people to as well. I will be writing an honest review though, so stay tuned!


Everyone is getting married!


I felt like it crept up on me, but I was warned on my 16th birthday.

“Oh you’ll get excited about 16th’s!” she said.

“But then it’s 18ths, then 21sts, then graduations, then engagements, weddings, baby showers, first birthdays…”

I remember being all like “whaaaaaaaaaaat? That shiz is so far out, yolo!” (but yolo wasn’t a thing yet. Trendsetter).

…but it is here!

All of a sudden, I’m being invited to weddings, engagements and baby showers, my facebook feed is full of pictures of children (?) and various issues relating to child rearing (!!).  There are epic debates about the virtues or sins of being married, worries about settling down, friends talking about mortgages and shares and buying houses…

I am super excited for all my friends that are going through these exciting and obviously life changing experiences.

On the other hand, I think I missed the memo.  When did this all start to happen?

What exactly is going on?

Growing up, I guess…


There’s an article that’s making the rounds at the moment: 23 things to do instead of getting engaged before you're 23.

All in all, the tone of the article is a little self-interested and condescending, but hey.  The reply, 24 things to do… is a little more aligned with my personal values, however both articles, and the respective responses (vehement, opinionated, passionate in approval or disapproval) illustrate something larger is at play. Something, I feel, particularly as a young Muslim woman from a traditionally conservative background who has grown up in a thoroughly Western society feels quite keenly.

What social norms are we meant to adhere to?

The world of my parents was simpler in a way: the roles that were to be played were understood.  As my cousin said to me: “We know what we are meant to do to live a ‘good’ life by society’s standards, and how to be a ‘good’ woman. Being good in that way, and making my family happy and proud of me, that is what will make me happy’.

It’s simple. 

Get an education but get married young,

have children,

be a good mother,

hold down a good house.

If you have a career alongside that, great, but your family is more important.

In Western society though, things aren't nearly so prescribed. In fact, the freedom of choice is lauded as revolutionary and liberating.

Yet…there is such anxiety in the twenty-somethings I know.  There seems to be so much confusion around what is what; in relationships, in life, what we are meant to be doing and if we are meant to be settling down (am I behind? Should I find someone to settle with? Am I settling too fast?).

Seeing everyone else’s life, described daily for you in painstaking detail everywhere you look (phone, laptop, tablet…) only exacerbates the FOMO (fear of missing out).

It isn’t even just fear of missing out on an awesome party, it’s the fear of missing out on *life*. It’s the fear that, at its root is the most primal of fears – the fear of ending up alone.

I don’t know if this is something that *all* twenty-somethings go through and have gone through for decades and I am just discovering. This isn’t something I’ve been through before, personally.  I’d also wager society is in a drastically different place to where it was even 20 years ago, so the experiences of previous generations are incomparable.

For me, it will be interesting to see how this year plays out. 

Turning 23 for an Arab/African girl is definitely a point where family and community members start making noises about ‘settling down’ (you should have heard the conversation with my father as soon as I graduated from University…at 20!).

I am not against the idea of marriage as an institution in itself, far from it.  It’s a huge part of Islam (half our ‘deen’, or belief in fact, so marriage is seen as a fundamental part of the way of life), and if I am being perfectly honest, as a Muslim, there are things I can only do as a married woman that the rest of society tells me are really quite fun, so I’d like to get to it!


At the same time though, there seems to be a perception that marriage brings about the end of all the fun. The responsibility, the kids, the family, the mortgage… and for women, the point where you start to think about juggling career and family.

So I don’t even know if I should be anxious about missing out, or living it up because I’ve only got a little while as a young free bird left!

All I know is this.  I believe in fate, so I believe that what happens will happen, and what is meant to be shall be.  I have control over my choices and how I respond to what does happen.

Some things are outside my control.

Being anxious about those things isn’t going to change anything.

So, I’ve decided I will do what I’ve been doing. Living life, being grateful Alhamdulilah, learning as much as I can, appreciating those around me and taking it as it comes.  The fact that other people are at other stages in their life is exciting, but it should not affect how I live my life.

At the end of the day, we are the only ones who have to put up with ourselves forever.  So we better make sure that we’re happy with the choices we make, regardless of what society says (or doesn’t say) we should be doing.


Be like this guy. With more clothes.

Do we follow our dreams or take the safe route?!


Should we focus on getting jobs that fulfill us, or is it all about putting food on the table? I guess there is more than one way to earn a living, yet it is much easier said than done.

It's no secret that youth unemployment is an issue in this nation, and one that doesn't often get the airtime that it deserves.  Granted our situation is a far cry from the malaise that is the European situation, with the likes of Spain and Italy seeing double digit unemployment numbers. However, in the economic situation that we are in today, is traditional job creation the answer?

One of the ways in which the United States has continued to be an attractive location for entrepreneurs and budding start ups is its welcoming policy framework around innovation and enterprising.

Furthermore, the extraordinarily capitalist nation that America is means that young people 'must' make it - they don't have the same safety net of HECS (Higher Education Commonwealth Support) and Centerlink that we take for granted here in Australia.  As such, young people graduate from university with lukewarm prospects of traditional employment and debt to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The system, although not perfect, rewards enterprising and entrepreneurship.

In Australia, although we are placed in the top 10 nations for entrepreneurship culture around the world, doesn't necessarily reward it in the same way...

However, is it becoming a more important piece in the puzzle to fight unemployment?

This isn't the only problem either.

On an ideological front, the idea of following your dreams if often sold.  We are taught coming up through school that we should follow our passions, do what we love, never give up, keep trying and it will all work out.

On the other hand, society shuns failure, and we still need to find ways to put food on the table.  Furthermore, the workforce itself hasn't changed.  It's seems to be full of people who 'put the hard yards in' to get to where they are now, and see a job as a form of employment and a duty for the pay check as opposed to a place for self fulfillment.  Our bosses aren't there to help us find our purpose in life.  They've hired us for a job and it's that job they are interested in.  If you've been one of the lucky ones to find a job that perfectly aligns with your love in life then you're doing well, but as has become clearer to me as I have moved into the workforce, not everyone has that luxury.

Once we start asking ourselves these questions, it seems like everywhere you turn you can find the blog of someone who has turned their passion into paying job.  'I want to do that!' You think...I want to do what makes me happy!

Of course, this then goes to the point about happiness, and whether life is about finding happiness or about meaning...and what does that mean anyway?

This leads me back to the original question.  Should we forgo security and working ‘for the man’ to ‘follow our dreams’ which is a much riskier path, or do we take the safe option and do what we are ‘supposed to’ by getting a good, less risky, stable job and figuring the rest out on the side?

I don't know. I haven't figured it out yet. People keep telling me I have my whole life to go (Insha' Allah), but sometimes I feel this anxiety about whether the choices I am making about my career and path and the right choices or whether I am closing doors that I will regret.

...then I think of the words of my friend who very simply said:

'You are in the place you are meant to be right now, and it's perfect.  All the choices you've made have brought you here, and so it's all perfect for right now'.

I guess it is times like this I find solace in the concept of fate and destiny.  Alhamdulilah...


What do you think?


Yassmin Abdel-Magied

The Drama Around #SocialMedia and Politics.

During #QandA on Monday, a lady asked the question about social media that got tongues and fingers wagging.

[box] Leisa O’Connor asked: I have a 17 year old daughter who won’t vote this year but will next time – active debater, articulate, well’s clear she is influenced heavily because Kevin communicates so effectively in the world where she lives – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc...Even if she doesn’t agree with the policies – she is swayed because she feels Kevin Rudd is more in touch.[/box]

I completely understood where the mother and daughter were coming from, and was surprised (although perhaps I shouldn't have been) with the response from a fellow panel member.

[box]Yeah, look, I hear what you’re saying and I suspect it’s not this election that will be decided by social media but maybe the next one or the one after that but not this one... I can tell you most undecided people do not [tunes in to what Kevin Rudd is tweeting today]. They don't. They don't about care about politics. They are not interested. They are doing other things...You know, I'd like to educate your daughter.[/box]

What was more interesting was the response online.  On the #QandA discussion forum and on twitter, people expressed their disdain at young people basing their decisions on social media.

Examples of comments:

[box]Sadly if your daughter bases her votes on who she can see on twitter she won't be a very informed voter.  If people's preference is sitting back relying on social media to educate them on issues then they will not be well informed regardless of how well educated they are. It is also highly possible that it is not Rudd posting his tweets but one of his many media staff. Kevin Rudd is currently acting more like a show pony trying to win people over by popularity instead of proving he is a politician with any substance.  I hope for the sake of Australia that our youth are not that gullible and make the effort to research the track record of all parties before voting.[/box]

twitter 2

Clearly a little opposition to the idea that us young people have no idea...


'Social media' has been discussed, derided, lauded and dissected endlessly since it started taking off a few years ago and began to play a part in  'real' movements.

Perspectives are varied: some see it as the saviour and liberator of the East, some see it as proof of young people losing social skills and capacity to be able to communicate face to face.

At the end of the day, we must remember that social media is a tool, and should be treated as such. A tool itself does not hold any power beyond the power we bestow it through our use.  It has natural advantages and disadvantages but focusing on either at the expense of the other in a public role such as politics is not only foolish, it is ignorant.

I feel strange writing about 'social media' as a discernible 'thing': the fact of the matter is, the forum that other generations seem find so hard (by and large) to get their heads around is just part of the natural fabric of our lives.  It's not as if I grew up as a child-early-adopter either; my parents only allowed me an old school mobile phone at the end of grade 11 (and only because mum accidentally got sent two!).  However, as much as we sometimes hate it, my generation lives and breathes online just as legitimately as we do offline.

Relationships are announced on Facebook, elections on twitter.  Is it different to how it used to be? Yes. Does that make it terrible? I don't think so.

When the television was introduced, people cried the death of the radio.  When the internet was introduced, people feared the death of television.  Now, the latter is yet to be decided but the radio is still around.  Sometimes technology is replaced completely, but often new technology simply extends the reach and scope of information through avenues that were previously inaccessible.  That is the power of social media.

To the question of social media and politics.

Young people are not stupid. We are not completely ignorant, and although many like to believe it, we are not all as self obsessed as the selfie epidemic would have you think.  It is insulting to think that simply because KRudd has an account we will vote for him.  It isn't that he has an account, it is what he does and says with it that matters.

Not all young people are the same and are interested and engaged. This is true. However, the youth demographic is a powerful one indeed and ignoring them and their needs is done at your own peril.  Half a million young people are enrolling to vote this week.  The age bracket of 15-24 year olds is over 13% of the population (ABS, 2013).  There are a few marginal seats in that, I would imagine…

Gone are the days of obsession with and loyalty to a particular type of ideology.  We care about issues, issues that we feel are important.  Whether politicians like it or not, only a very small, engaged percentage of young people will spend the time researching policy and gauging whether or not a particular party aligns with their beliefs.  As such, politicians need to be able to effectively community their standing directly.

What better way to do so than through the forum we are all already on?

If you want to hold a party and everyone is already at one location, what is more effective: going to that location and starting the party there, or convincing everyone that they have to come to where YOU are because that's where you have always had your parties?

The same concept applies.  Young people are active and engaged on social media – Facebook largely, instagram and twitter for the more politically active.  For politicians to be able to communicate effectively, they need to be active on these platforms, and engaged with their audience.  We are the shareholders, the constituents.  We are electing you to represent us. Show us why you deserve our votes.  Earn it. 

We aren’t interested in endless press releases about obscure funding agreements and official statements on a Facebook page that is clearly run by a staffer.  I want to see the personality behind the politician, engage in discussion and debate that makes me convinced that this person is genuine, going to be a good representative, and eventually, deserves my vote.

In a way, it can be seen as ‘show ponying’ as a tweet described.  However, that is campaigning, is it not?

Policies are important, there is no doubt about that.  What wins though, is a combination of good policy, good service delivery and implementation, then good communication.

Using social media is simply good communication if you want to communicate with young people.

It may not win you the election, but at least we were hearing what you had to say.


Oh, and for all the baby boomers’ disparaging comments about the state of the youth if they are deciding who to vote for from social media let me ask: does your average voter not decide after conversations with their friends and family around dinner tables on these issues? How is this any different?


What do you think?


young people


Exciting Business! The Y20 Project.

A couple of hours before appearing on the #QandA show on Monday, I noticed a number of missed calls from a private number, but without any messages left. Curious... When I eventually answered, it wasn't a stalker or an invite to join a bank heist crew as I had suspected.  Instead, it was a lovely lad from the Prime Minister's Office!

Thus, the news.


Wait: some background first!

The Australian Government has announced that is will be hosting the Y20 alongside the G20 that is being held in Brisbane in 2014.

The Group of Twenty (G20) is the premier forum for its members economic and financial cooperation. It brings together the world's major advanced and emerging economies, representing around 85 per cent of global GDP.

The idea of the Y20 is to give youth and young people a voice in these international discussions.  As per the media release:

The Y20 will gather young leaders from the world’s twenty largest economies for an exciting exchange of ideas. It will help build skills and networks, and identify the most pressing economic challenges and opportunities facing young people today.

In order to prep for this, the Government has put together a team of young people to plan and manage the Australian Y20.

Guess who made the cut Alhamdulilah?!

It is an absolute honour and exciting responsibility and I am completely stoked to be part of literally a dream team of people from around the nation.

Chaired by the amazing Benson Saulo, the Director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy, the other members are:

• Ms Samah Hadid (NSW) • Mr Scott Limbrick (VIC) • Mr Ehon Chan (QLD) • Ms Amanda McKenzie (ACT) • Ms Holly Ransom (WA).

Ehon is an old friend and so I am even more stoked - his work always inspires :) Holly and Samah are also inspiring acquaintances and I am looking forward to meeting and working with Scott and Amanda.

We were selected for our backgrounds in various sectors and I will be focusing on the area of energy inshallah.

This is an awesome opportunity and I want to make it as open and genuine as possible. If you have ideas or are interested in contributing in some way, please get in touch and let me know your thoughts! The idea is to be as engaging and representative as possible and get the energy/innovation of young people up to the international stage - here is a chance!

I can't wait to work with this group and you all on this and will keep you posted!

Check out the official media release here.


Finding your (engineering) Spark!

Youth Without Borders just ran its third Spark Engineering Camp and it was a resounding success! Here is a little more information...

In the words of one student, “Spark is a life changing experience - what you put in, you get double out!”


Spark Engineering Camp is an equal opportunity experience for over 60 young Queenslanders who may face barriers to university education, and according to one student, ‘is the place where you will find your motivation and inspiration for your future’.

The main focus of the camp is showing students that their dreams for future study and career possibilities are both valid and achievable.

The students come from a variety of backgrounds, with 75% from regional or rural locations, and students from refugee, indigenous and foster care families.

In a 6 day residential program at the University of Queensland, these students are supported by a passionate team of mentors through practical engineering activities, motivational and educational presentations, and personal development workshops. They learn that not only is engineering useful and interesting - it is also fun!

Students left the camp with an entirely new network of friends, a sense of excitement about their future pathways, and above all, the notion that if they can dream something, they can achieve it. Students discovered:

all the possible things that may happen in life if I choose engineering”

that I had more potential than I thought”

and “how it is never too late for anything”

An initiative first started by Youth Without Borders in 2011, Spark has been overwhelmingly successful in motivating students towards university studies.

In only its third year, 90% of 2013 participants aim to pursue some form of university studies after finishing school, an increase of 50% from before the camp.

In a post-camp survey of 2012 participants, all respondents who had finished school reported now being at university, and 90% of the respondents were either studying, or intended to study engineering.

All Year 12 students at Spark 2011 went on to attend university, and since then, past students have returned to the camp as mentors and keynote speakers to give back to the program that motivated them towards university.

The mentors are predominantly university student volunteers from engineering disciplines, who work tirelessly to give the Spark students the most exciting and insightful experience possible.

Instrumental in providing this opportunity are the sponsors ofthe program. Industry partners allow Spark to be provided free of charge for students, and also provide an added dimension for the students’ discovery of engineering.

Through actively engaging in the program with a panel, “mentor in a minute” speed networking, and keynote address, the sponsors can directly see the incredible students that they are supporting, and can share their passion with the next generation of engineers.

Students enjoyed the corporate engagement because they could “talk to actual engineers and find out what they actually do” and “plan out their career”. In particular they found the Keynote Address “inspirational” as it sparked in them “strong determination and motivation for [their] future”.

If you know someone who needs that Spark to encourage them towards university study, student applications will be opening towards the end of 2013.

To stay up to date and be notified, email and follow the Spark website, If you are interested in becoming a corporate partner of Spark, please!









Grass Roots Sudanese Inspiration (ARABIC)

A good friend of mine recommended this TEDx talk performed in Sudan and I simply love it. It talks about ambition, gumption, examples of Sudanese who have defeated the odds and 'made it'...and is a great grass roots video for young Sudanese to watch and be inspired by. Note that it is in Arabic, and pretty Sudanese Arabic at that!



Are you a budding Sudanese Entrepreneur?

Thanks to my father for the heads up on this initiative!

The British Council in Khartoum, in collaboration with a few local players in Sudan including Sudanese Young Businessmen Association and Sudani Telcom has launched a competition for budding Sudanese entrepreneurs.

Called "Mashrouy", which translates to "My Project" in Arabic, the aim is to select 12 people/teams from the pool of applications for a competition to be aired at Blue Nile Satellite Station.

It is open for Sudanese people - both in Sudan and overseas - aged 18 to 40 - who have a business (commercial) idea that needs funding. In addition to the cash prize (SDG200,000, 150,000 and 100,000 for the top three)  there is also the opportunity to spend three weeks in the UK for coaching.

The Sudan Vision Daily has some information here and Alnilin also has a bit more information.

The 'Mashrouy' website (in Arabic) has the application form - closing date 20 May 2013.

[box type="info"] “The completion we are launching today is seeking ambitious bright young people in Sudan who have creative business proposals that needs support to be developed”, said the British Charge d’ Affaires Mr. David Belgrove in his address in the conference. Adding that the future and growth of the country require investment in youth and we hope that through this project young Sudanese will be able to kick-off the ground their innovative ideas and contribute to the growth and development of the economy of their country. He concluded by saying that all over the world with very few exceptions, all the largest companies in the world have started as a small business”.[/box]

This is an awesome opportunity for young Sudanese and those with ideas and the drive to push them to fruition.

There are numerous barriers to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Sudan, but this may well be one of the avenues around those barriers.  I encourage all young Sudanese reading this to consider putting in an application or forward it to someone who might find it of use!


Links, Links, Links! 21st April 2013


How are we all this morning? How has the week been? I've been super busy with a crazy week at work (I've a new trainee), getting excited about being published and wrote one of my most-read articles on an encounter at the airport.  Enough about what I did is what I came across on the net!

I love this piece by the Informed Comment: Top Ten Reasons why Terrorism is Forbidden in Islamic Law...

From the simple dollar: 5 pieces of advice that changed my life.

Young people need to be more involved in all levels of decision making in society; even though public and corporate decisions usually affect us we are rarely party to the decision making process.  That should change, and one way is by getting young people on Boards.

I completely relate to this writer - the love of technology mixed with nostalgia for print (I was an insane bookworm growing up and still feel guilty that I own a Kindle...I feel like I am betraying print) and it's interesting to read this piece from a lady who says her life is better without Facebook. I don't know if I could leave Facebook (isn't that a sad state of affairs!) - working out in the sticks doesn't help I guess...

Feel like you have media overload? A piece from Wired on balancing your media diet...

Why aren't there more women in technology? Forbes thinks it's a numbers and expectations game...

On one hand, the Boston bombing reaction reporting seemed relatively free of bias...but that was definitely not the case. 

Regardless of your views of justification and intent: whatever rage you're feeling toward the perpetrator of this Boston attack, that's the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the US for killing innocent people in their countries. Whatever sadness you feel for yesterday's victims, the same level of sadness is warranted for the innocent people whose lives are ended by American bombs. However profound a loss you recognize the parents and family members of these victims to have suffered, that's the same loss experienced by victims of US violence. It's natural that it won't be felt as intensely when the victims are far away and mostly invisible, but applying these reactions to those acts of US aggression would go a long way toward better understanding what they are and the outcomes they generate.

A post (a rant, really) from an irate Sudanese blogger who is frustrated at the fact that in Sudan, skin colour is still an indication of status...

I don't agree with everything the United Nations does, but I do believe there is a place for it.  Why we get value for money at the United Nations.

I love examples of Muslim women challenging the expectations, and this Bosnian Mayor is a inspirational case!

The difference in treatment and expectations of male and female CEOs - Queen Bees getting the flak.

The age old question about "peak oil..."

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday (and the Formula 1 and MotoGP!)

Links, Links, Links! 6th April 2013

  Hello all! How are we this week? I’ve been flat chat at work doing the oil and gas thing, while also working on getting a few things moving on the Youth Without Borders side and writing a whole bunch of different articles… anyhow, enough about me! Let us look at interesting things on the net recently…


Daily Dishonest posters…I had to chuckle.

But that's the thing about racism: it goes way beyond bad intentions. The most insidious racism is just so ingrained it's involuntary.

Waleed Aly’s brilliant piece on ‘The Curse of Australia’s Silent Pervasive Racism’.

This one is pretty cool: Miracles of Engineering in Peru: Drinking Water Out of a Billboard!

“Each generator captures the air humidity and from there it goes to a reverse osmosis system. Each tank stores about 5.28 gallons of water. These 5 generators purify the vital liquid and its total is gathered in one tank,” said one of UTEC’s engineers involved in the project.  The billboard has already produced about 2,496.42 gallons of drinking water in a 3 month period, an amount that equals the water consumption of hundreds of families per month.”

An interesting piece by the Australian Government’s ‘Resilient Communities’ initiative on ‘advice to young Muslim Australians’.  I don’t enjoy motherhood advisory statements, but this was rather good.

And, don’t wait for someone to come and take you by the hand. Don’t wait for the leaders and Imams. They have their hands full. You must initiate the process.

You must lead the way.

There is a perception among many of us that it is fine to be an Indian Muslim, Pakistani Muslim, Algerian Muslim, and Palestinian Muslim. And so on. But, for some reason, there is a false perception that it is not fine to be an Australian Muslim. The ‘Australian’ part is seen by some as ‘kufr’ (unbelief). Don’t be fooled by this simplistic and false understanding.

Don’t be afraid to say you are a Muslim and an Australian. Don’t be afraid to say that you are an Australian Muslim.

An interesting and informative perspective: How to move beyond youth tokenism into real engagement.

A good round up on what is happening in North Korea and why the general analysis is maybe looking at the wrong audience.


My piece for Future Challenges on women in the workforce, and why there is more to it than just numbers.


Why volunteering in orphanages sometimes does more harm than good. This is part of the ‘well intentioned but misguided’ mindset my father and I share about a lot of aid work…


Again on the ‘well intentioned but misguided’ note, a piece on WhyDev that really resonated (and challenged me in equal parts) on Why making the world better does not make necessarily make YOU better’.

It sounds harsh, but it has to be said. It’s important to understand that doing good things does not make you good. It is important to understand that good people can and frequently do do bad things. Not all good doers (confession: I positively loathe the term “do gooder”) are nice. You need to enter the aid world understanding that you will have to work and deal and maybe even share quarters with some truly nasty individuals. You need to understand that you, too, may do things that are not nice, things that you’re not particularly proud of. And you need to understand that this is nothing at all about your competence as a humanitarian. Being deeply committed to reducing the amount of injustice in the world, and expending great amounts of energy and personal resource towards that end in no way precludes you from treating your staff unjustly. It’s the opposite of “but he/she/they mean(s) well…” argument, all too frequently used to justify everything from poor individual performance to ridiculously reasoned startup NGOs.


On a totally different note, looking for some crazy cool (modest) fashion inspiration? Oh, check this out. I couldn’t get past the first jacket…

Thank you, Mr Sartorialist.