THERE are those who anguish and harbour the ambition to reduce the inequalities in society — income, education, health, and nutrition, for example — but not many has the grit to do something about it.
Loh Rachel, 21, a final-year psychology bachelor’s degree student at HELP university, is one of the few determined to make a difference.
Having had the privilege of attending REAL International School for her highschool education and HELP International School for A-levels, Loh has often sought ways to give back to those who have had lesser opportunities in education and in life.
“It was also a way to develop myself, finding ways to push myself out of my comfort zone,” she said.
One of the key moments that kicked off her cause was when she joined the Asean Youth Volunteer Programme, organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, which was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2015.
Selected from 2,000 youths Asean-wide to join a group of 50, Loh participated in a four-week intensive climate change and environmental education leadership programme that focused on project management and environmental sustainability in Krakor Village, Cambodia.
“The programme focused on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and key areas were hygiene and sanitation. Among the activities we had was to teach the particular village community in Cambodia to use hygiene products. It was my first time meeting children who didn’t even know what soap was.
It gave me the realisation that not everybody has the same opportunities or exposure.”
This led on to her involvement in various organisations. These included The International Council of Malaysian Scholars and Associates (ICMS) where she was the executive director of external outreach and publicity, spearheading marketing campaigns for over 10 student-led initiatives aimed at professional development and preparing them for the working world.
Loh is also involved in the United Nations Association of Malaysia (UNAM) Youth looking into the UN Sustainable Development Goal which is addressing inequality through health.
While focusing on volunteerism, Loh also has an interest to develop her business skills. Last year, she was named Maybank Go Ahead Challenge 2017 global champion out of 40,000 participants in the international business case competition.
From her passion in volunteerism and business, she formed an international social enterprise Rise Inc with her friends whom she met through the International Council of Malaysian Scholar and Associates.
Loh is the chief operating officer at Rice Inc which aims to tackle food insecurity and farmers poverty. They are currently running a pilot project in Myanmar which looks into ensuring farmers are not shortchanged and are able to use the existing technology provided by Rice Inc to eradicate poverty where they can.
“What Rice Inc does is to create a supply chain solution, where farmers are provided access to the rice dryers at an affordable cost and enabling them to sell rice at a higher price.
“We are partnering with International Rice Research Institute who have been conducting a lot of work in Myanmar. They are able to identify certain villagers that need this solution.
“We are currently deploying this solution which is in operations during the harvest season.
We are working on a five-year plan to expand to more villagers in Myanmar. We are also looking at farmer communities in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam to expand,” Loh said.
With all the achievements under her belt, Loh was selected as one of the two participants representing Malaysia in the Telenor Youth Forum (TYF) 2018 in Oslo, Norway.
Loh joined other accomplished young leaders from seven of Telenor’s markets across the world for the sixth installment of TYF, a six month-long global programme designed and hosted by Telenor Group and the Nobel Peace Centre. This year’s delegation is challenged to address inequalities in health through the use of digital technology.
“I am really passionate about reducing inequalities, and for me, to gain exposure to international ideas at the forum, to work with them and connect with industry experts to tackle these social issues are some of the things I am most excited about.”
Along with co-founder of social enterprise Arus Education, Felicia Yoon, 28, Loh edged out of 90 other participants and recently headed for Oslo on Dec 8-11 to work with their assigned teams. Yoon and Loh are among the 16 youths, aged 20 to 28 selected from a pool of 5,000 applicants from Bangladesh, Denmark, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Sweden and Thailand to represent their countries at TYF.
Loh already has plans beyond her graduation early next year. The full scholarship student is aiming for a first class honours degree.
“I am exploring opportunities through Rice Inc and what the Telenor experience would bring.Iwould like to work in the corporate environment first to gain experience but ultimately I would like to positively contribute to the community in various ways,” she said.