Interview with Khairunnisa Ash’ari

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Brunei’s Face of the Future:

Focused, driven and action-oriented-27 year old Khairunnisa Ash’ari, founder of Green Brunei recently became the first Bruneian to be awarded the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in recognition of her leadership role in the community. This young woman has been tackling environmental issues, finding solutions, and making positive changes at home and abroad. She has also been connecting with other young people through her involvement in various organisations – and together they have been using their time and talent to help make the world a better place. We had the pleasure of asking Khairunnisa a few questions about her prestigious achievement.

Tell us about your journey to attaining the Queen’s Young Leaders Award.
I have always been an active volunteer, but I would say the significant start for me was back in 2011 when there were several points in my life that got me to where I am now.

I joined this HSBC Climate Camp in Temburong, which got me interested in the climate change dialogue and helped me understand that while Brunei has not directly felt the impact of climate change, we are all affected and have a role to play in protecting our environment.

I also joined the World Leadership Conference in Singapore as a curious individual – and got really inspired after meeting all these amazing groups of people from different countries in the Asia Pacific, a lot of them younger than me. These two things made me realise that we have so many issues in Brunei that are not being addressed yet from the grassroots level. Then together with a few friends I founded Green Brunei to tackle environmental issues and to promote youth dialogue about these issues.

I also joined the Brunei Youth Council following my involvement in the KoreaASEAN Youth Square in South Korea and did my own project. Additionally, I got involved with the Society for Community Outreach and Training (SCOT), and currently I’m holding the post as Director for Green Xchange to help oversee the projects.

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Khairunnisa Ash’ari receiving The Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

All of this happened between 2011-2012, when I was so excited about wanting to initiate new things in the community, running my own projects and working with other young people. My projects were not just local, I also organised “Light Up Cambodia”, a project to fundraise for solar lights to be distributed in communities in Cambodia. This led to me co-managing the ASEAN Young Professionals Volunteer Corps (AYPVC), which is a regional volunteering project where I was involved in projects in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

It was a learning journey for me, initiated by my desire to do something for the community. Most importantly, I think, is the support, guidance and advice I have been receiving from many other active individuals and youth leaders who are my mentors.

My involvement in all of these, I think, led to me receiving several awards, including the Youth Service Award from His Majesty in 2013, the ASEAN Youth Day Award in 2014 and finally the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2015. The QYL is recognition that I have committed myself to contributing my time, energy and efforts for the benefit of the community

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You have done leadership training together with other award recipients from around the world. What did you learn from this experience?
The organisers – Comic Relief, The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and The Royal Commonwealth Society – have put together a year-long leadership training programme that includes online learning modules, residential week as well as a mentorship programme.

During our Residential Week in the UK, I had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, networked with a lot of fantastic individuals from various organisations, as well as visited Twitter, BBC World Service, The Royal Society, and RedThread.

We learned about how all these businesses and charities operate and the impact of the work they are doing. We also did modules at the University of Cambridge, covering various aspects of leadership and management including fundraising, networking and so on. I particularly enjoyed the one-on-one coaching session we had with fantastic people from around the world.

This article was published in the Jul-Sept 2015 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!