For Nikko Elnar, the eMpowering Youths Across ASEAN (EYAA), a partnership programme by the ASEAN Foundation and Maybank Group, presented a rare opportunity for him to make a meaningful change in the community. “I first knew about the programme from social media,” Nikko said. “I was immediately hooked after knowing that the programme involves youth volunteerism and social innovation to achieve its goal.”
Due to his achievements, he was chosen as one of the change-makers from the Philippines to participate in the regional capacity building workshop in Thailand, where he was grouped with 9 other ASEAN youths to implement a community project that tackled food waste issue in Gombak, Malaysia. “Food waste constitutes 60% of the total waste in Malaysia,” Nikko said. “This problem stems from poorly executed waste segregation and ineffective waste collection.”
With a grant of USD 20,000 and the support from EcoKnight Malaysia, he and his team carried out a project called Integrated Organic Farming Project with an aim to change the perception of the community towards organic farming and sustainable food waste management. In the matter of two weeks, Nikko and his team managed to collect a total of 9,200 kg of food waste and produced an educational outreach module about food waste and Black Soldier Fly as a method to compost waste.
One of the most valuable experiences from EYAA was working in a team with diverse individuals and it taught him how to be a good team player. “It was not easy, but it taught me how to interact professionally with people of different beliefs, perspectives, and walks of life,” he said.
After joining the EYAA programme, Nikko was hired as a Technical Assistant to the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Operations of Duty-free Philippines Corporation. He believes that EYAA has taught him the key ingredients for a successful project, which was “passion and camaraderie.” “There were two things that kept us goinf and they are our commitment to persevere more and work harder,” Nikko said.
Being involved in the project provided Nikko with vital lessons. “It has helped me to take more risks and learn about project management in a different level,” he said. Nikko wants to encourage more youth to join EYAA. “I highly recommend this programme to those individuals who want to be a change-maker and a future leader." he said. "This programme will help the youth to go beyond their competencies of solving one of the world’s pressing issues.”