Student leaders dream of a brighter future

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 March, 2009, 12:00am

More than 180 student leaders from 16 countries converged in Hong Kong this week for a forum on the challenges facing youngsters amid the global financial crisis.

Organised by the international youth platform AIESEC, the Asia Pacific Exchange and Leadership Development Seminar was part of a week-long event featuring workshops and seminars.

The theme was 'Dreaming Today for a Brighter Future' and the event attracted 25 local students. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who delivered a speech at the seminar, exhorted participants to toughen up and persevere in riding out the economic crisis.

'Young people must be more flexible and versatile, and have resilience to turn adversities into opportunities,' he said.

A topic that stirred up heated discussion was the emergence of social enterprises in countries hit hard by the financial crisis. At the workshop on social entrepreneurship, students talked about the growing influence of commercial enterprises with a social conscience.

Hirokazu Yokoo, 21, a public policy management student from Keio University, said the Japanese public was today more supportive of social enterprises aimed at helping the underprivileged than they used to be.

'Many social enterprises aimed at the homeless and suicidal people sprang up after the economic crisis struck Japan,' he said.

'In spite of the emergence of such organisations, many Japanese are quite conservative and tend to keep problems to themselves. So it is sometimes difficult for social enterprises to reach out to those in need.'

Aniel Bhaga, 23, an electrical engineering and business management student from Queensland University of Technology, Australia, said he had learned a lot about different cultures during his stay in Hong Kong.

'I got to know how the 'economic tsunami' affects youths in different parts of the world and how they cope with the challenges,' he said.

Cheung Ka-man, 23, president of AIESEC at Polytechnic University, said meeting student leaders from other countries had been inspiring. 'We discussed a lot of issues over the past days, including the Aids crisis and corporate social responsibility,' he said.

Overseas delegates left Hong Kong yesterday.