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Culture Corner: Giving Back through Spousal Engagement

Article by:

Debbie Choa and Yvonne Lau
EO Malaysia
Debbie Choa and Yvonne Lau - EO Malaysia

Looking back, 2015 was an incredible year for EO Malaysia, especially when it came to EO families. From the chapter newsletter being forwarded to spouses and introducing LALA (Lunch Around, Learn Around) events—through which spouses were integrated with members—to the launch of EO360 ̊ initiatives designed to support the growth of the chapter, it truly was an impactful year. A large part of spousal engagement last year hinged on event and program participation, where we were given ample opportunity to learn alongside members. Most memorable was Engage, a three-month learning program designed to inspire local teenagers to become entrepreneurs through knowledge-sharing and valuable enterprise experiences. These teenagers—who hailed from three homes, one for the physically disabled— participated in the program with EO members’ teenaged children. Mentors were comprised of EO spouses, both in and out of Forum, all of whom united to give back to the community.

In all, Engage consisted of a Launch, a Learning Programme and a Business Challenge, followed by a Marketplace— four stages to inspire next-level engagement and learning. Several stories from the heart were shared at the Launch, including: an EO member highlighting his entrepreneurial journey; one of the home’s administrators sharing how she believes entrepreneurship is a way out of her personal trials and tribulations; and a previous resident speaking about his journey from a life of crime that inspired hope. Everyone felt motivated and ready to work.

The Learning Programme consisted of a two-day entrepreneurial workshop, which was designed to be interactive, experiential and fun. We sought to awaken the entrepreneurial spirit in the participants. The underserved teenagers, when stripped of their money, mobile phones and watches, were tasked with figuring out how to make money in a nearby mall. It was amazing to see what ideas they came up with! The teenagers also participated in a financial board game, were taught about business models and had the chance to present their own to a panel
of judges comprised of EO Accelerator members and two EO spouses, themselves experts in business.

All of the knowledge imparted during the Learning Programme was put to use during the Business Challenge, where the underserved teenagers, along with the EO teenagers, were placed in teams and assigned mentors to help them craft their business pitches for the Marketplace stage. During the Marketplace, retail booths were set up in the main foyer of a mall, which the teenagers used to execute their business plans. The team that achieved the highest profit was named the winner. Everyone was relentless in their pursuit of sales, and all profits were donated back to the three homes. What’s more, members of the winning team received Samsung tablets and several in need were given internships at EO Malaysia businesses.

Ultimately, Engage was a memorable experience for all involved. The teenagers had fun, gained valuable business insights and discovered what it’s like being an entrepreneur. Sui Vatanyuvong, an EO spouse and Business Challenge coach, summed it up best: “I was motivated by the opportunity to help those who are less fortunate and also to make a difference in the community. From witnessing the teams come together for a common goal, and seeing members and spouses share their personal experiences, to observing the positive changes in the kids, it made us all realize how anything is possible when people are given the right opportunity.”

Debbie Choa and Yvonne Lau are EO Malaysia spouses and members of Bond Forum and Venus Forum, respectively. Contact Debbie at debbiechoa1@gmail.comand Yvonne at​​​​ yv_lau@yahoo.com.​

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