Article Written By: Shaun Chee, The Borderless
Podcast interview and The Borderless source post available at: https://bordersless.com/business/australia-southeast-asia-thomas-da-jose
Thomas Da Jose is an aspiring humanitarian engineer who is on the journey to make a world that isn’t good for a small few, but one that’s good for everyone. Listen to the podcast to find out how he is actively making meaningful change and improving people’s lives across the Southeast Asia region.
In this interview we talk about:
his experiences in Southeast Asia on the New Colombo Plan Scholarship,
what inspired him to cofound Masy Consultants and the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership (AASYP),
how he’s navigating unprecedented events like COVID-19,
how young Australians can get involved in the Southeast Asia and contribute to regional affairs and issues,
his commitment to health, sanitation, disaster resilience and connectivity in the region.
The New Colombo Plan
Originally planning to do a university exchange in Europe, Thomas took an opportunity to volunteer at a remote community in Thailand which “opened his eyes and his heart” to the people in region.
Inspired by this experience, he then applied for the New Colombo Plan scholarship (an Australian Government initiative which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific), where he would spend more time studying and living in Thailand.
“Exchange in Thailand is something I would encourage everyone to consider…it’s such a great exposure to how things are done differently in an Eastern setting as opposed to a Western setting and again, I’ve developed so many lifelong friendships because of that,” he reflects.
The program gave him the opportunity to co-ordinate with local leaders from across Southeast Asia to address ways they could empower people in remote communities and build upon their disaster resilience. Through his on-the-ground experiences, he broadened his perspective on life, developed cross-cultural connections and was exposed to the complex issues in the region.
“Thailand really set me on this trajectory which I’ve stayed on and there’s no going back”, he adds.
ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership (AASYP)
Wanting to utilise his overseas experiences upon coming back to Australia, he and other fellow New Colombo Plan Alumni, co-founded the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership (AASYP), to give young people across the region a voice on complex issues that need to be solved together.
This includes economic, security, social, cultural and disaster resilience issues as “these are regional issues that affect everyone and are transboundary,” he says. “A lot of the young people, myself included, have these passions that we want to pursue but we can’t do it alone.”
The community aims to bring it all together through digital platforms and flagship events, such as the ASEAN Australia Young Leaders Forum (AAYLF), that create synergies with various organisations, companies and government agencies that recognise young people are at the heart of solving these issues in collaboration with each other.
By building expertise and engagement with ASEAN-Australia affairs, along with providing tangible opportunities, AASYP aims to engage and inspire young people in the region to promote peace and prosperity.
Although born in Australia, Thomas has maintained a strong connection to his Filipino heritage and culture but he says, “It has always been a bit of a challenge to navigate between my Western education and way of doing things as well as Southeast Asian practices in terms of values and family.”
Wanting to make a difference and utilise his overseas experiences and civil engineering degree, he also co-founded Masy Consultants, a grassroots organisation that aims to be a leading source of expertise to help disadvantaged communities successfully implement education, sanitation and clean energy projects.
He originally pitched the idea of the distribution of solar power systems at a inter-university Hackathon and won a grant to run Masy Consultant’s first pilot program in a rural community in Palawan province in the Philippines.
“For Western countries and communities, we have a saturation of all these innovations available to us. Solar power was something tapped ages ago, and we’re just finding ways to make it more accessible, portable, energy efficient… but a lot of these communities still do not have access to any versions of solar power,” Thomas says.
On COVID-19 and Staying Connected
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas is committed to using all the digital tools available to stay connected and continue advancing health, sanitation and disaster resilience issues in the ASEAN region.
“Let’s use all the technologies that we’ve been developing for the past decade… now is the time to really exploit your fullest potential, both in your personal life and professional life and stay connected that way,” he says.
He encourages young people, in both Australia and the ASEAN region, to continue to work together and share knowledge and ideas to assist vulnerable communities in the region and to be more prepared for when the next disaster hits.
He reminds everyone that, “we are all in this together, and while borders are closing off, other communities are experiencing similar things. And just being able to reach out, let them know that we are in this [together]… we will get through this and something good will be on the other end”.
If you are interested about contributing to Australia-ASEAN regional matters, please visit: https://aasyp.org
To find out more about Thomas’ projects in the Phillipines, visit: https://www.masyconsultants.org
If you are an Australian undergraduate between the ages of 18-28, and are passionate about building relationships and experiences in the Indo-Pacific, consider applying for the New Colombo Plan scholarship. More information here: https://www.dfat.gov.au/people-to-people/new-colombo-plan/about/Pages/about
Other Quotes (edited for clarity)
On the New Colombo Plan:
Ever since I’ve come back, I find that I’m better positioned to really connect with international students than I’ve ever been before.
It’s not an easy as expected transition back to Australia and finding opportunities to really leverage on the Asian capabilities they have developed.
Our mission has always been using our digital platform to build knowledge and inspire engagement, and create meaningful connections to give young people a voice on complex issues in the region that need to be solved together…that can come in form of economy, security, sociocultural issues, disaster resilience…these are regional issues that affect everyone and are trans-boundary.”
We support a lot of different organisations and we also provide speakers and panellist to really find ways to collaborate with these different youth groups. We offer our unique perspectives and experiences being one of Australia’s largest regional movements for the ASEAN region.
There’s the lack of the conversation and asking the right questions.
I started to share my passions and story with my optometrist. And my optometrist is now my partner. I did not know that he had the right connections for me and him to collaborate and synergise….had I not let him know my passions in candid conversation, [Masy Consultants] would not have occurred.
Right now is the right time that we should be focussing on connectivity more than ever.
On Masy Consultants:
For us, it’s ecological sanitation, so these are toilets systems which transform human waste in to organic fertiliser through a structured and systematic way. And then providing those wastes and products to farmers in rural communities to sell off to others, as well as using that to increase their agricultural yields and earning additional income to support their families.
On Being Asian-Australian:
I’m lucky that my parents brought me up in a way that I have developed a strong appreciation and connection to my Filipino Heritage. It has always been a bit of a challenge to navigate between my western education and way of doing things as well as the Southeast Asian practices in terms of values and family.
0:37 Introduction and background. 3:50 What is the New Colombo Plan Scholarship? 7:10 Thomas’ experience in Thailand and Southeast Asia on the New Colombo Plan Scholarship. 13:20 Difficulties of utilising your international experiences back in Australia, some thoughts on international companies. 19:20 How Thomas is dealing with COVID-19. 23:30 What is AASYP? 27:50 How to get more young Australians involved in Asia? 32:45 What is Masy Consultants? Projects and pilots. 39:20 Navigating between Philippino and Australian culture. 42:30 Are you seeing many young Asian-Australians involved in similar humanitarian projects? 47:00 How to contact Thomas or get involved, biggest issues and opportunities in Southeast Asia, final words.