In its third month already (time really does fly), the 4th edition of ASEF Young Leaders Summit is in full bloom. What better moment to get to know the participants than now, with the Knowledge Building Phase approaching its end? Today we are shining a spotlight on our peers from Asia and Europe, their unique background and experiences, Leadership in Action projects, thoughts on leadership and more. We will come back to the featured participants after the ASEM Summit to ask them if their views changed–so stay tuned!


Juanquine Carlo R. Castro (Philippines) is currently studying at the University of Philippines, majoring in Communications and Multimedia Art. He is serving as President and founder of Youth Service Philippines, an NGO dealing with environment, health and sports. Juanquine has also supervised and spearheaded 20 projects and counting for the youth. He was awarded various leadership, journalism, research, and Model United Nations awards. His interests involve the environment, sports, education, and health.


You decided to join Project 13: Podcast on Climate Action. What led you to choose this project out of all the projects available?

I chose it simply because I am a broadcaster myself, here in the Philippines. With this in mind, I plan to apply my broadcasting knowledge to this podcast. Aside from this, I take matters seriously when it comes to the environment itself and climate change has affected different countries to various degrees. It has an effect on the Arctic region, for me it is a very interesting topic since the water levels tend to rise in various countries, which will lead to flooding in the next following years. That’s why I chose to focus on this.


What is your role in the project?

Initially, we were given a set of tasks and I came up with the idea of streaming the podcast on YouTube. People would likely see more with regards to the expression of the speakers and different individuals that we will invite to the podcast. I am geared towards speaking and editing. Recently we were able to meet with the team: some of them are professionals in their field and two of us are still in university. We used Mural as a support for our discussion and we talked about the leadership roles that everyone has done in the past, and I think that it is an essential stage, as it informs us about the capacity of the said individual. I’m positive we will be able to create a great podcast in the long run.


What, in your opinion, makes a good leader? What qualities are needed?

To be a good leader, you should be compassionate. You should understand your members well enough to know how they are doing, especially in this time of the pandemic, where most of us are confined in their homes, unable to share their emotions or what they’re currently going through, which affects their mental health. To be a leader in this time of the pandemic, compassion is number one. Honesty should be one of the things considered; your members should be able to tell you if they can do a certain task or not, to prevent any delay. These things make a good leader.


Tiago Gonçalves (Portugal) received his MSc in Bioengineering (Biomedical Engineering) from Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto (FEUP) in 2019. Currently, he is a PhD Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at FEUP and a research assistant at the Centre for Telecommunications and Multimedia of INESC TEC with the Visual Computing & Machine Intelligence (VCMI) Research Group. His research interests include machine learning, explainable artificial intelligence (in-model approaches), computer vision, medical decision support systems, and machine learning deployment.


Why did you decide to join Project 15: Atlas-Akhyana, what is your motivation behind it?

Although it is not my specialization, I really like to do things out of my area. When I was a student, I was the Manager of the Energy Network in ShARE-UP, a student organization doing consultancy projects that aim to create social impact. Therefore, I believe this project is an interesting way to revisit some of the topics, which are not connected to my daily work. By doing that, I can learn new things and contribute to something bigger than myself. We are assessing the situation regarding sustainability in specific regions, focusing on the impact of climate change. It will be interesting for me to get to know different stories and extract information that could lead us in doing something better.


What are your expectations, do you think that everything will go smoothly, or do you see any obstacles or risks in the implementation of your project?

The first thing that could be considered an obstacle is that everyone is in a different time zone, so it’s difficult to get a common time to meet. Most of the people don’t really have a technical background and we have to learn everything from scratch, especially cartography. We have Francis helping us in interpreting maps and how to deal with technological systems in cartography. We have to learn it in a very short time. It will also be hard to balance it with our personal lives. These should be the main difficulties, but I see them more as ‘special challenges’ and ‘once in a lifetime opportunities’: to be involved in the exchange of ideas and experiences.


What, in your opinion, makes a good leader?  What qualities are needed?

I usually say that a leader should also know how to be a follower. I believe that a good leader knows how to put himself or herself in a place of the rest of the team. A good leader knows how to delegate tasks. Each member of the team has specific skills which are valuable, and this person should know how to divide them to leverage each skill. It’s also important that the leader is somehow flexible enough to communicate and push team members by putting them in different context, out of their comfort zones. Besides being a boss, the role of a leader is to act as a facilitator and to help members to grow and make the project grow as well. A leader is a person that connects the dots between team members and can gather the team as a whole.


Sinem Ishlek (United Kingdom) is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London. Prior to University, she was an active member of her school’s Amnesty International Society as well as Debating Society. At University, Sinem is serving as the president of SOAS Turkish Society for the 2020/21 academic year, where she has led many inter-collegiate collaborations aiming to bridge cultures and build a community of diaspora. Additionally, Sinem recently held the role of Content Contributor for “thinkHER ambition”–a social enterprise aiming to upskill young women aged between 14-19.


You are assigned to Project 4: The BEEP Media Campaign. This project is focused on SDG 4: Quality Education. Why did you decide to join this particular project?

SDG 4 of Quality Education really resonates with me. I’ve always been driven by my strong belief that every child regardless of race, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status should have access to high-quality education. This really stems from the fact that my own grandparents were either entirely illiterate, or had to drop out of school, because they had to work. I have a very vivid memory of when I was really young, and my grandma was at our house. I was proudly reading through my teacher’s feedback when my grandma, out of nowhere, stroked the page I was reading from, leaving me a bit confused. She seemed mesmerized by my handwriting, inspecting every single sentence. And then she said: “I really wish I could write like this too”. When she said that, I felt helpless and frustrated because no child should be denied the transformative power of quality education. I’m very happy to be working on this project.


What obstacles do you see in the implementation and what are your expectations? Do you think everything will go smoothly or are there any risks?

Covid-19 and everything held online is in a way an obstacle for us. I know there’s been a global transition towards digitalization, but we need to concentrate on what these out-of-school youth need and what their requirements are. We need to ensure that their voices are heard and that we are doing this project for them–more than a project for us and for ASEF–because the target audience here are the children and for me that is the most important thing: to make sure they receive this alternative education pathway.


Is there something about your country that you would like to change in terms of the education system?

Covid-19 very obviously resulted in there being many obstacles to education, and although the UK most of the time is seen as a very wealthy nation, I think the digital divide in this country is still very prevalent. There are some students who are of a less fortunate background and may not be able to access education effectively, because they don’t have the means to buy the digital devices. I think that is an area that must be tackled, particularly in the short-term, because we don’t know how long Covid is going to last. The restrictions are slowly getting eased, but I think the consequences of Covid will last for a while. One main thing that I would have liked to see the UK government prioritize, is ensuring that digital inequality is eradicated.


Lamia Mohsin (Bangladesh), a graduate from the Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka, is currently working as a Junior Consultant at the Resilience and Inclusive Growth Cluster, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bangladesh. She is the co-founder of “Standing up for the Underprivileged”, a youth-driven, voluntary organization working on areas such as social inclusion, reduced inequalities and access to education. She has won a number of research grants, including the Young Researcher grant awarded by UNDP’s Effective and Accountable Local Government (EALG) project.


Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Currently, I am working as a co-founder of a youth initiative called “Standing up for the Underprivileged”. We work with 100 children and women. Our main areas include inclusive education and women empowerment. Due to the second wave of Covid, a lot of people are unable to find work and feed their families, so we are trying to provide customized food packages. We recently concluded a project which focused on providing access to education for underprivileged children in remote areas of Bangladesh. We try to focus on ethnic minorities, because of the language barrier and engage them in mainstream education. I’m currently trying to develop a project where I can increase advocacy related to climate change by developing a curriculum. I’d like to reach these children using online modules where they can learn about climate change and disaster in an engaging way.


Is there something about your country that you would like to change in terms of SDG 3:  Good Health and Wellbeing?

There is a lot to think about and change. State healthcare lacks investment, funding and has a poor quality of service delivery. People in our country cannot afford private healthcare, so they opt for state sponsorship. The quality itself is not up to the mark and at the end of the day, people suffer. One of the main issues that I think about is the state of rural healthcare in our country. We have 60-70% of the rural population, however rural healthcare cannot offer the level and quality available in the cities. Whenever a person in a village becomes sick, they are immediately transferred to the city, which makes them dependent on healthcare in the cities and facilities overcrowd. That is one area that I feel needs a lot of improvement.


What, in your opinion, makes a good leader? What qualities are needed?

Personally, I feel that I’m not a born leader. I think I’m the kind of person who has always shied away from taking any kind of leadership responsibility. That has changed gradually over time, because sometimes there is a situation where you cannot find anybody else to lead, so you must be the one who takes on the role of a leader and I think I did pretty well. I believe those experiences helped me learn and improved my communication skills. To be a good leader, you have to be able to communicate well with your team members. There are certain instances where you just have to take up the role of a leader and those experiences help you learn a lot about human interactions, communication and emotions.


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