Jia Yaw

Jia Yaw

Malaysia 2002

What made you go on an Expedition with Raleigh?

In 2002, I had just sat my Bar exams. I then signed up for the craziest thing I have ever done in my life. I went on a Raleigh Expedition. I knew then that before I embarked on my legal career, I needed to get out there and do something different. I struggled to explain to my concerned parents and curious friends why I had to do it. While my peers were sending out pupillage applications to law firms, I was heading out to Borneo with a group of strangers for ten weeks to carry out environmental and community projects.

What you have done since your Raleigh Expedition?

Since my Expedition, I have remained involved with Raleigh Kuala Lumpur Society. Working with Raleigh KL has always been invigorating and fulfilling; it never fails to remind me to celebrate diversity, embrace empathy, demand more of myself and believe in the potential of others. Raleigh attracts awesome people, and as a result, I am extremely lucky to count many awesome people as friends.

Last year, in my ninth year of legal practice, an invitation to apply for a scholarship to read a masters degree in the UK came to me through the Malaysian Bar. It was the prestigious Chevening scholarship offered by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office for mid-career ‘future leaders, talented professionals and decision-makers’. While I was (and still am) none of the above, I felt the Raleigh seedling stirring and, taking a leap of faith, applied for the scholarship to read a masters in Environmental Law. My resume was unremarkable except for my work as the Deputy Chair of the Environmental and Climate Change Committee and with Raleigh KL. Fortunately however, that, coupled with the wonderful references written by my excellent colleagues from the Committee, was good enough.

I have recently finished my course at SOAS, University of London. The sense of empowerment, soft skills and international friends I’ve gained through Raleigh have helped me make the most of my time here as a law student. In 2014, I had the amazing opportunity of being a Volunteer Assessor at Raleigh Head Office, which proved to be a really unique personal development opportunity for me. Initially, I found myself outside my comfort zone and was surprised to find my confidence level challenged. Like a good Raleigh experience, I’ve gotten to know myself better and am inspired to improve myself further. Being in London in 2014 was particularly special because Raleigh was celebrating its 30th anniversary.

What impact do you think your time with Raleigh had on your life both personally and professionally?

During my Expedition with Raleigh I became determined to be a competent lawyer so that one day I may harness the system for positive change. Over the years, my colleagues at the Malaysian Bar established the Bar Council Environmental and Climate Change Committee. I have been serving on it, and with my colleagues, we have been trying to lend the Malaysian Bar’s voice and influence to important environmental issues arising in the country. To mobilise more lawyers, I am presently exploring the possibility of having a bespoke Raleigh Expedition for young Malaysian lawyers.

Had it not been for my Raleigh experience, I would not have felt empowered to serve on the Committee and challenge my fellow lawyers to think about the roles that they can play for the environment.

Did your Expedition have an impact on the way you see the world?

It may sound cliché, but the experience changed my life. No, I didn’t grow a foot taller or sprout extra arms. It did not ‘inspire’ me to abandon a career in law to become an activist, artist or social worker (to my parents’ relief). Instead it planted this seed inside me which never stopped growing.

My Raleigh experience gave me the clarity that I am a global citizen and the conviction that a small group of people can make a positive impact in the world.

My Borneo Expedition 02L had a life-changing effect thanks to the many staff and volunteers who worked the magic behind the scenes. I have since joined the many volunteers and staff of Raleigh KL and, this year, in a small way, with Raleigh Head Office, to share the Raleigh experience with as many young people as possible. In this journey, I have constantly come across amazing opportunities and new challenges. In a way, my Raleigh Expedition has never ended. For me, my Raleigh experience is a gift that keeps on giving.

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