Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dreaming Big but Starting Small

So last month fellow HBBers were in Publika, Solaris Dutamas for inaugural Hope Awards. The event is actually a closing ceremony for the Youth Business Social Summit 2012, where awards are given to the best youth-led NGOs in Malaysia. The summit was officiated by someone who earns my upmost respect for receiving a Nobel Prize in Economics: Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. I had just read his book ‘A World Without Poverty’ and it gave me a lot of insights and ideas that could be applied to HBB. Anyway, several categories were contested that night and we were very lucky to be nominated for best NGO advocating civic actions and human rights, especially realizing ourselves as a very new NGO.

So the results came out, and turns out that we did not win. Being such a new organization, it was quite expected. However, we were disappointed nonetheless for missing the chance to win the award and RM8000 in cold hard cash that could really jump-start our organization. Disappointed, so we went looking for a nearby café where we can let off some steam. It was around 11 PM and most of the cafés are closed. We walked a bit far from the venue until we saw a café still lit open, even with Christmas lights on a Christmas tree still blinking (it was near Christmas at that time). As we got closer, we realized that some of the chairs had already been stacked together, signalling that it is almost time to close. We were about to pass by when a waiter said hello and invited us in. ‘Are you still open?’ I asked.

I had to do a 3 minutes 'elevator pitch' to promote the cause of our HBB. 3 minutes only!

The program booklet for the event
The café was called Coffee Societé, and it was only after we sat in that I realized I have read about this café before in Foursquare community. It has some good reviews and was rated quite well. Being a coffee connoisseur, I am excited to taste their well talked about coffee. It was said that even the Sultan of Kelantan came here for coffee and the Airasia CEO Tony Fernandes regularly come for his caffeine kicks. Then as we were about to order, bad news came in. Since it was already late, the espresso machine has been cleaned up with chemicals, so coffee is not available at that time. ‘What?!’ I thought. Already felt down by the results of the awards, I could not bare any more frustrations and went on to order hot chocolate, the closest I have to coffee.
The coffee bar decorated for Christmas that was coming
Then came in a young man from the back asking us ‘How was the drink?’. We told him that we actually wanted to taste their coffee. Then we went on to tell him that we’re from HBB and why we were there in Publika that night. We also told him about our project in Cambodia and our future plans. He was so excited to hear about us that he offered to reopen the coffee bar and serve us coffee! Although the espresso machine has been cleaned up with chemicals, he was willing to spoil it and clean it all over again just to serve us coffee. We were so happy, ordered the coffee purportedly to be the best in town, and went on to tell him about our exciting projects.

Coffee Societé's nice interiors

At last we had our coffee served with beautiful latté art!
Turns out the young man was actually the owner of the coffee shop. He tells us about his experience of having heart failure when he was young (we guessed it was a rheumatic heart disease) and had to stay in the hospital for weeks and there were moments where the doctor thought he might not survive. It reminds me of my own experience of being warded for 2 weeks and almost having to suffer vertigo for the rest of my life. Interesting is, we both made a promise to God that we would do something significant towards humanity if we went out of this hospital healthy. Different faith (he’s a Buddhist), but same promise. After a few doses of caffeine, our spirits were uplifted sky high. We thought about what will be of HBB in 10 years? So I put out a tissue paper, and wrote our ultimate target for HBB in 10 years. Here’s how it goes:
Our ultimate vision
The great thing about starting young is that there’s no telling where we’ll go in 10-20 years. We may not win an award that night, and although it was never our intention to win awards when starting this NGO, but who knows what award we’ll win in a few decades. A Nobel wouldn’t be too far-fetched when time is on your side, isn’t it? I think it is absolutely fine to have manic flight of ideas (especially after a few shots of caffeine), as long as we keep it within logical means and break it down into small, manageable steps. The rule is simple. If you want to go fast, you can go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. HBB is not about going somewhere fast. It is about going far to help those in need and connect with people who has the same purpose as ours. We think big, but we start small. In the end, all we want to do is answer life’s most persistent and urgent question: ‘What are we doing for others?’