Dato Hamdillah was elected president of the Brunei-Japan Friendship Association (BJFA) in 2017. Under his leadership, the BJFA has put fresh emphasis on youth development, entrepreneurship and volunteerism. With this new direction, the former deputy minister wants more young members to get involved.
We sat down with Dato Hamdillah to ask him more about what the BJFA does and learn more about its approach when it comes to youth development.

Tell us more about how you first got involved with the BJFA

I’ve always been passionate about the cause of the BJFA since its founding days in 1998. The association was co-founded by the late Pg Setia Negara Pg Hj Mohd Yusof bin Pg Hj Abdul Rahim and the former Japanese Ambassador to Brunei His Excellency Masao Kawai. The BJFA was established to enrich the bilateral relationship between Brunei and Japan through exchange programmes.
Its a way of expanding the bilateral agenda beyond just trade and economics. Furthermore, Japan is our largest export partner, so it makes sense to deepen that relationship through people to people contact.

What are the goals of the BJFA and the programmes that it runs?

Our main objectives are to address the needs of the young entrepreneurs and to run cultural and educational exchange programmes. We’ve had nine exchange programmes with the most recent one involving a visit from Wakayama University. Additionally, we also enrich the life of the students forming partnerships with local educational institutions.

Progressive is about creating space for the young people to be able to see what it’s like out there, how it’s done so that they can cherry-pick the best practices and plant it here.

What are the key drivers behind some of your campaigns?

It goes back to the idea of youth development, entrepreneurship and volunteerism. For example, one of our projects involves training young people how to speak Japanese. This has helped students to become more fluent in Japanese and create opportunities for themselves. A lot of them are now working for Japanese-linked companies.
At Universiti Brunei Darussalam, they’ve started their own Japanese clubs as a result of the active outreach done by both the Japanese Embassy in Brunei and the BJFA.

These projects take a lot of time, energy and volunteers. How has the BJFA managed this with limited resources and how has it impacted the local community?

The BJFA is a non-profit organisation. If we’re not passionate about its causes, it would never have lasted this long. Right now, we’re keen on expanding so we’re focused on bringing more young people in. I would also ask now for the youth to come forward and get involved with the BJFA.

The spirit of volunteerism is an important one. It involves stepping outside of your comfort zone to support the needs of people that really do need help.

We also want the BJFA to grow out of its dependency on sponsorships so we’re currently looking at ways on how the association can fund itself.

Last question. What does being progressive mean to you?

It’s transforming the mindset of our young people, and to actually move them to become a global citizen.

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