Below is my speech as promised. It was amazing to hear the stories of the other candidates on Wednesday! I feel so proud to be a part of my generation – we’re a generation of youth that WILL make a difference and see poverty eradicated in our lifetime.
“My story that I would like to share with you is more than a single event or moment. It’s been a process that’s made me into the person I am today and I want to share a few brief moments in this journey. It all started in Year 2 at primary school, I was seven years old and one rainy afternoon we got to make silhouettes by sitting in front of the projector and tracing our portraits – it was a fun afternoon, until we got to my portrait. As a seven year old with frizzy hair, Mum thought a huge perm like fringe was ‘the look’ – but to my dismay, when I had my portrait drawn a kid yelled out “look, it’s Gaston from Beauty and the Beast!” My favourite Disney film, I sadly wasn’t seen as Belle, yet a man with a big ego and even bigger hair!
This story brings back many laughs today, but at the time it was the beginning of years of bullying and being told ‘YOU AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH.’
In 2002 when I was beginning Year 6, my very healthy and loving grandmother passed away from a very short illness that quickly took her life. I was so close to my grandmother and losing her was a tragic moment in my life, but I learnt so many lessons from her, and try to put these into practice every day! She believed that I WAS GOOD ENOUGH. She saw something good in everyone, whether they were short or tall, young or old, rich or poor.
Thanks to her, I’ve always had the mentality that everyone is GOOD enough. Everyone has a right to life, education, food, water and health. Yet I was still looking for some way to put this into practice.
I’d seen World Vision’s moving TV ads for years, and whenever the ad asked “Do you see what I see”, I thought, YES I DO, BUT HOW CAN I HELP!? In 2007 my way to help was revealed when I was chosen as an ambassador on the 2007 Make Poverty History Roadtrip. For the first time I learnt about the alarming statistics – there are 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty in our world, and many of these people don’t have access to education, food, water, shelter, health or job opportunities – things I’d had provided to me my whole life. By denying these people their basic rights, I felt we were telling them, YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, and after years of being told this myself, this experience made me into a strong defender of justice and I decided that my life would become about making these 1.4 billlion people, realise they ARE good enough. There is no difference between them or myself, yet our geographical location.
This passion to see extreme poverty eradicated in my lifetime, I believe, started because I was once the underdog, and now I’m fighting for the underdog. It’s been a challenging, sometimes disheartening but always rewarding journey. It’s allowed me to stretch myself as a volunteer in various capacities with VGEN and The Oaktree Foundation, and allowed me to visit Ghana as an English teacher earlier this year.
For me, Nelson Mandela is a huge inspiration. After a past spent imprisoned and tortured, he rose up to be a voice for the ‘underdogs’ of his country. He says, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. I hope to give those 1.4 billion people this ‘light’, and will continue to fight for their justice and equality, until they do know that they ARE good enough.”