Southeast Asian Service Conference: Service in the time of COVID-19

Written by: Clara 

Edited by: Keitaro

Visual by: Sarah  

The Southeast Asian Service Conference (SEASC) was held virtually on November 28th, from 11AM to 5PM. Its theme “Service in the time of COVID-19” saw tremendous interaction among service leaders from five IASAS schools: ISM, SAS, ISKL, ISB, and JIS.

So how was this done? According to Nobu, one of the ISM representatives, “The idea was initiated by the SAS service council in July. Through social media platforms, such as Instagram, they first contacted the service learning councils of different IASAS schools proposing the idea. We all agreed to the idea because there have been a lot of lessons and difficulties that everyone has faced with adjusting to online indirect service, so we thought it would be a great idea to come together and share our thoughts on them. Since then, the service leaders from each school met once or twice a month on Zoom to discuss logistics and give each other progress updates.”

When asked about what their motivation was, Mia, the other ISM representative, answered “Because IASAS season one was canceled, we wanted to find a replacement for students to collaborate on a virtual level, while emphasizing the importance of service within our communities, but also in the greater Southeast Asia.” She mentioned how it was important during these unprecedented times for everyone to come together to make a change. Additionally, it was a way to provide students with a CAS service opportunity, which is not as common anymore due to the pandemic. Mia also commented, “I find it super interesting how we were able to collaborate and make new friends from different parts of Southeast Asia without even meeting each other in person! It is truly an example of how technology has made way for countless possibilities- from making friends, to hosting 100% virtual conferences like this one.”

The conference consisted of five workshops, one conducted by each school. From ISM, Marny and Raina led a workshop about Navigating Online News and Activism. The workshop consisted of two parts. Marny led the first half of the seminar which was on spotting fake news, being informed outside of the social media echo chamber, and the pitfalls of performative activism. Afterwards, Raina introduced Bye Bye Plastic Bags Philippines and the organization’s journey on youth activism. Marny summarized the workshop by saying, “The purpose of this workshop is mainly to help people navigate through misinformation and bias, for they become boundaries to one’s own critical thinking.” She elaborated on how once being truly informed on certain topics is sorted out, consistency and honesty come next. Marny continued to express how “We have to keep taking action on issues even when the spotlight dims; issues do not magically disappear once we lose interest in them. Overall, to know how to navigate around online news and activism is important to ensure that we do not fall into the dangers of misinformation, bias, and performative activism.”

After all the workshops, Tom Graham—founder of Make A Difference (MAD) Travel—gave a webinar telling his story with MAD Travel, a social tourism platform that provides alternative meaningful experiences and supports marginalised communities in the Philippines. 

After attending the conference, Dongwoo said, “This was such a great opportunity for me to learn about service aspects that I didn’t know before. I was especially intrigued by the role of social media and how we can use it to make a difference. I’m really thankful that the service leaders of each school came together to plan this, and I hope online service conferences continue even when the pandemic ends.”