Meet the Young Leaders Who Are Saving Our Seas

In less than three weeks, 64 rising stars from all 10 ASEAN member-states will gather in Jakarta, Indonesia for the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) Generation: Oceans Workshop. Sponsored by the Embassy of the United States in Jakarta and organized by Cultural Vistas, the YSEALI Oceans workshop is a platform for youth to build bridges and create concrete solutions to the planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Sustainable development, overfishing, coral bleaching, coastal erosion, tsunamis, and climate change—it’s all on the agenda.

As students, scientists, architects, and entrepreneurs, these youth—all of whom are under the age of 25—are truly inspiring. I could tell you how amazing and passionate the participants all are, but why not let them speak for themselves?

Meet the Participants

Channita Ouk – Cambodia

“The ocean is the heart of our planet. Like your heart pumping blood to every part of your body, the ocean connects people across the Earth, no matter where we live.”


Thao Pham – Vietnam

“I wish to show my future children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren the love and inner peace by feeling the greatness and extraordinary of blue clean oceans, not by my words but in reality.”


Tinharit Moonvanit – Thailand

“Young people represent the future. They bring in new ideas, dynamism, and creativity for social development.”



Halimatul Hj Nasir – Brunei Darussalam

“In Brunei, we have a lack of expertise in the coastal environment. We need local experts to review and discuss coastal issues and problems in the country.”



Gene Adhiyasa – Indonesia

“All we need are the qualities shared by youth voices to be vocal to take responsibility, to educate others, to be the change that we will see together, and most importantly, to take the first step of action.”


Priscilla Seah – Singapore

“Young leaders throughout the ASEAN region could potentially lend a voice to the need to manage fishing levels and intensity before it is too late for the fish stock to recover.”


Chanthachack Keophilavong – Laos

“Ocean management issues and sustainability are not easy, but if we as youths and a population don’t attentively do something, who will?”



Ricky Low – Malaysia

“Younger generations in ASEAN should be more exposed to the realities of our deteriorating environment and who else better to spread that message than the young leaders in ASEAN.”


Aung “Jo Jo” Kyaw Kyaw – Myanmar

“Knowing that the interdependence between the sustainability of the ASEAN region and the natural resources it possesses demands the delicate balance between the economic development and environmental sustainability. There are many issues which need to be addressed in terms of the conversation and sustainable management of coastal and marine ecosystems.”

Youth and Leader Mentors

In addition to the 64 Workshop participants, the Generation: Oceans Workshop will also feature more than 20 youth and leader mentors. Comprised of alumni from previous exchanges, including the American Youth Leadership Program and the YSEALI Generation: Earth Workshop, they will provide guidance and environmental expertise to the group. Meet a few of these amazing leaders:

Emily Koch – United States

“I am unique among my peers because as a professional free surfer for Billabong Women, rather than compete, I use my sponsorship to support social good projects for youth empowerment and ocean conservation.”


Bryan Madera – The Philippines

“I will empower the youth. They can be leaders in conservation today.”




Sean McKnight – United States

“My background in ecology and conservation, which includes coursework relating to the study and conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems as well as human dimensions relating to development, natural resource use, and sustainability, makes me uniquely suited to support the YSEALI: Oceans participants with their projects.”

Hendriyadi Bahtiar – Indonesia

“I am passionate in women empowerment, social education, and sustainable fisheries. Because I always believe that empowering women, especially in coastal areas, will bring multiple impacts and collaborate and help them lift their families out poverty.”

Set Sail with Us

As we get ready to officially launch the YSEALI Generation: Oceans Workshop on March 16, we invite you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. We’ll be sharing daily stories, photos, and highlights from these captains of conservation.

And if you’re feeling truly inspired (like we are!), there are plenty of ways to get involved. Whether it’s by learning about the biggest threats to ASEAN’s oceans, carrying reusable bags and water bottles, supporting sustainable fishing practices, reducing your carbon footprint, or by cleaning up your local beach, we all have the power to make a difference.

So tell us, what are some ways you pledge to save the oceans?