“In true SEALNet style, nobody told me about this.” One of the founding members, Mr Kevin Teo, said when he was asked to do the welcome remarks for the 15th anniversary gala dinner on the spot.  It was the funniest comment but I honestly couldn’t agree more.

SEALNet has been notorious for making people speak in front of a crowd without any prior preparation. Just you, your sweaty palms and wobbly knees. But I guess this method has made some of the shyest people become more confident and less afraid of public speaking.

And I witnessed that growth firsthand during the gala dinner.

SEALNutters who used to make a u-turn whenever they see a conversation about to happen are now the ones starting the conversations. Mentees who used to speak only when spoken to are now in the front rows, mingling with the rest of the crowd. This must be what they call the SEALNet Glow. It was a truly lovely sight. Warm. Genuine.

Now, I’m probably in no position to talk so much about how SEALNet has evolved through the years since it also hasn’t been that long since I joined the organization. Instead, let me just bring you through the highlights of the biggest gathering of our network so far. And hopefully the first of more and more gatherings.

The night started slow, people introducing each other, catching up here and there. The names and faces I only saw or talked to on social media platforms are finally connected to live and moving bodies. The Council of Elders were actually present too! Can you believe it? I’ve always thought they were just part of the SEALNet myth. You know, make-believe stories you tell the new kids.

Then, there was a video call with the board members and the other elders who weren’t able to join the fun.  I guess they felt the inevitable FOMO too.* Everything felt too surreal.

But what really made a lasting impact in my memory were the new kids pitching their projects. The projects presented that night were social issues which are very current and prevalent in this day and age. There was Project Vietnam with Sex Education, Project Cambodia with Soft Skills Gap and Project Philippines with Mental Health. These, to me, are very huge projects but the young leaders firmly stressed the urgent need to address them. They are still so young but they are already thinking about such big problems, not for themselves but for their communities. I couldn’t help but feel proud. Immensely.

They are the future of SEALNet and I guess that future looks bright.

*FOMO – Fear of Missing Out

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