EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE TO REACH THEIR FULL POTENTIAL | KELY

Terrence Vuu

Terrence Vuu

"Teacher, KELY Volunteer"

"Have confidence and know that there are people who share your interests and passions. Go out to find them! Be yourself unapologetically and authentically, and make the world a better place."


Growing up in Canada as a child of Vietnamese refugees, I always felt different from my peers - I was kind of a quirky kid in high school. My family didn't have a lot and we relied on food banks, so it was a big deal when my parents decided to take me and my sister back to spend a summer break back in Vietnam.

That summer, I got to spend time with my cousins who were born and raised in Vietnam. I was struck by how we lived such different lives and yet how similar we were on the inside. My cousins lived without many of the luxuries that I took for granted in Canada, like basic plumbing and access to educational and employment opportunities. It dawned on me that those differences in quality of life came down to pure luck - my father managed to escape Vietnam while his brothers couldn't. And yet in spite of the disparity in our living conditions, we were the same - we looked the same, played the same, and dreamed the same.

My trip back to Vietnam instilled in me the idea that we are all connected as human beings sharing this earth together. Reconnecting with my roots and understanding my family history motivated me to do what I can give back where I can. Any previous complaints about Nike shoes or video games now seemed irrelevant.

After I returned to Canada, I joined my school's volunteer club, where I did things like tutoring young children, and helping out at events like holiday food banks or charity marathons.

Today, I have the privilege of being a high school math teacher at an international school in Hong Kong. Volunteering remains a core value in my life and I try to encourage my students to give back as well - giving back fills your heart more than anything else. You're able to make friends, find new hobbies, hone your skills, and get in touch with who you are through volunteering.

I started volunteering with KELY a few years ago, helping to organise activities for ethnic minority students designed to equip them with life skills such as communication, self awareness, and leadership. I was drawn to the programme because I personally benefited from similar programmes when I was growing up in Canada and I wouldn't be where I am today without them. Although the students started out shy, it made me so happy to see them come out of their shells and express their vibrant, energetic selves as the year went on.

Whether in my role as a teacher or as a volunteer, I really hope that I can encourage young people to be fully themselves rather than trying to fit someone else's mold.

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