I was recently invited to give the opening address at the 27th Annual Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools (IASAS) Model United Nations Convention at Singapore American School (SAS).
There were nearly 200 students and teachers present at the conference from more than a dozen school across Asia. It was a true privilege for me to speak to an auditorium filled with intelligent, creative and articulate young people.
The central theme of my presentation was You never know if you never go. I try to live by this philosophy, and I highlighted many touchstones in my life where I took a leap of faith and chose my own adventure: my decision to travel to Asia, to accept an offer to work for Coca-Cola in Singapore, to leave the corporate world to pursue my photography passion and, laterally, the choices I made to work with both Mike Rogers in Bhutan and The Chain Reaction Project in Timor-Leste.
I explained a bit about what The Chain Reaction Project is all about, and how these women have made a difference in the world. I then showed the audience the slideshow I created for The Chain Reaction Project on their most recent philanthropic endeavour in Dili.
I wrapped-up by explaining that, for me, my work with both Mike and women of The Chain Reaction Project has been a wonderful by-product of choosing my own adventure: meeting and working with inspiring people, having the ability and means to explore the corners of the world, and being given the creative freedom to make photographs that I am truly passionate about.
I suggested that just by being in the auditorium, each of those students had already chosen their own adventure, and I encouraged them to take the Model UN experience to meet others and share themselves and their passions -- whatever they may be -- with as many of their peers as possible, and to keep doing this as they continued to pursue their dreams in high school, in college, in their careers, and beyond. If they did this, and if they opened themselves up to opportunity, I promised that the serendipity of life would take them amazing places. But, they'll never know if they never go.
When the opening ceremony ended, I answered a few questions and then proceeded back to my studio in the city and a regular day at work. With the exception of harping on a few technical difficulties that occurred during my presentation, I honestly gave my Model UN address very little further thought.
That was until a couple of nights ago, when there was a knock at the door to my home.
It was Mimi Molchan, the SAS teacher who organized, and invited me to speak at, the Model UN event.
I was very surprised to see Mimi standing there.
But I was even more surprised by what she had for me: in her hand was a bag, an envelope and a note, addressed to The Chain Reaction Project, which read:
On Thursday, November 11th Mr. Scott Woodward came to Singapore American School and gave the opening address to 160 delegates and 33 advisors for the 27th Annual IASAS Model United Nations Convention. Scott was very engaging and did an absolutely fantastic job. He had everyone in the palm of his hand as he spoke about the importance of finding a cause and then giving to that cause. He inspired everyone and I know everyone took something away with them from his message.
I appreciate very much the time, effort and care Scott put into his presentation. It truly set a very positive, reflective
tone for the convention that continued on for the next three days.
In the bag you will find change that the International School of Manila [ISM] and International School of Bangkok [ISB] students handed me as they got on the bus heading to the airport on Sunday, November 14th. I was talking to one of their advisors explaining we were thinking of making a donation to The Chain Reaction Project. One of the kids heard us talking and they asked the rest of the kids to give me all their change as they got on the bus.
The ISM kids told the ISB kids, and then the ISB kids gave me all their change. I had nothing to put it in, so I took the bottom of my t-shirt and held it out and the kids filled my shirt with their coins. We collected S$96.71 in a matter of minutes. That was cool.
In the envelope you will [also] find a contribution [of S$650.00] from IASAS that you may use in any way you feel is beneficial. You are making a difference in this world.
I am so touched by the students' and Mimi's caring, thoughtfulness and generousity; their kindness was so unexpected.
I met Ting and Alex, two of the founders of The Chain Reaction Project, for lunch the very next day. I could hardly wait to share with them the story and present them with the (nearly) $750 donation for their next philanthropic adventure: competing in the Kiliman Adventure Challenge in Tanzania in February 2011 to benefit the children of Amani Children's Home.
Ting and Alex were as grateful, and as moved, by the gesture as I was.
The IASAS community, too, is making a difference in this world.