Sweaty palms, somber chatter, a coffee break. And then, the speakers took a deep breath and sat down on the grey chairs. The white light dimmed and the spotlight illuminated the signature red TED carpet, accompanied by the stringed fairy lights that draped against the walls of Jakarta Intercultural School’s Melati Theater on February 4th, 2017. Jaewon Sim, director of TEDxJIS, stood by the podium and opened the event with heartfelt words and a captivating voice.
“The theme “Frames Unframed” could not be any more relevant when in the last two years, we have witnessed so many cases of bigotry and the rise of divisive rhetoric. This conference is about encouraging the youth to think outside the box” said Jaewon SIm. “This is where we escape from our comfort zone for a while and learn to un-stereotype and tackle some of the big issues of our society from brand new perspectives. TEDxJIS is also about science, humanitarian aid and so many other topics, too. TEDxJIS Conferences have always been — and will always be — the platform for the free exchange of ideas of different disciplines, and the annual gathering for this city’s forward thinkers.”
The speakers of this conference ranged from current JIS students, alumni and teachers, along with other Jakarta locals who wished to provoke thought and highlight new perspectives towards stereotypical ideologies.
Kaashvi Sehgal – student, debater, humanitarian – opened her talk with the question: what does service mean to you? “The line between service and charity is blurred,” she said as audience members sat forward, captivated by her words and photographs of children on the powerpoint slide. She strode on the carpet with a smart black skirt. Embedded in her diction, Sehgal turns the spotlight on the social workers who do service for the sake of pity or self image; she redefines the meaning of service by encouraging volunteers to exert effort into doing service to change lives and achieve excellent objectives.
Most of the student speakers at the TEDxJIS conference were humanitarians and advocates for service. Once Sehgal stepped off the carpet and received an ovation, Sabrina Hartono stepped onto center stage. Her intricate words were laced with passion and experience, stunning audience members who sat at the edge of their seats. She began with three words: “everybody is selfish.” In her talk, Hartono talks about how a person’s selfishness can be beneficial towards the act of serving the community, in a sense that one can turn their selfishness into an act of kindness to help others; thus, she refocuses the mindsets of people and had them realize their mission. She also referred to her pilot project – Forgotten Voices – and even sold her books (written in both English and Bahasa Indonesia) after the conference.
Besides service, TEDxJIS featured speakers like Prithika Madhavan, a former JIS alumnus who is a user experience designer at IBM. She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear before talking about breaking out of the oppressive society that forces individuals to conform. Cameras huddled around the carpet and captured her in her black dress. Her speech prompts individuals to “un-frame [their] lives to make themselves happy” instead of simply remaining by the public norm that defines the extent of success.
“I want to thank all of you for your continued support of our program. While I will be passing on the role of leading our conferences to the rest of our team, this won’t be the end of my participation in the TEDx program for sure. I believe that my experience in leading the TEDxJIS team will act as the foundation as I continue to take part in the TEDx program in university”, says Jaewon Sim.
“I have been lucky enough to work as the Director of our organization for the last four years. Looking back at 2014’s inaugural TEDxJIS conference (which I believe, was the first ever TEDx event to be held by an international school in Indonesia), so much has changed.”
“We started off with 20 people in the audience and have grown to have a full seating of a 100 attendees. I do believe that TEDxJIS has become an integral part of life at JIS and it has taken so much effort — from all of us in the TEDxJIS team — to bring our organization to where we are now. We all know that it takes a village to pull off a TEDx event.”
“Our team has successfully created a platform, a series of premier conferences, where Jakarta’s forward thinkers can gather to share their Ideas Worth Spreading. So for that I thank the committee. It was wonderful to work with you for the past year to prepare for this conference.”
The director of TEDxJIS Conferences, Jaewon Sim, will be graduating from Jakarta Intercultural School in May 2017.
This article was originally written by Natasha Sondakh and has been edited by Jaewon Sim and Dhiraj Narula.