By CARLOS RUBEN DOURADO
WE always say the BRATs participants are like family – well, some of them actually are.
Attending the BRATs young journalist workshop has become something of a family tradition for these siblings, and here’s what they have to say about Malaysia’s top young journalist programme:
BRATs Kuala Terengganu 2013 participant, Abirami Baskaran, was so happy with her camp experience, she made sure her sister, Savuntherii, became part of the BRATs family too.
“When I first joined, I wasn’t very confident. But during the camp, I found myself being able to interact with people of different mindsets. Thanks to that experience, I realised I shouldn’t be fearful of having different opinions, but rather learn to speak up for what I believe in,” she said.
And that’s why she felt her sister needed that experience too.
“I noticed that she wasn’t very confident before joining BRATs,” said environmental science student Abirami, 20.
“But all that changed after she attended the camp. She became more extroverted, and she’s able to carry herself much better in front of people now!”
Savuntherii, 19, who was part of BRATs Ipoh 2014, is grateful to her sister for nudging her in the right direction.
“BRATs is more than just a programme that teaches you to be a journalist,” she said.
“You become more attuned to your surroundings, which is undoubtedly very crucial to assure that you’re always in the know of things, which is why I’m very glad that I applied.”
Apart from helping them overcome their natural shyness, the sisters said that BRATs has benefitted them in their studies as well.
“Group projects require a tremendous amount of teamwork, and with my experience in BRATs, I’ve learnt how to work with other people and be more creative, which is what a student needs to stand out,” said Savuntherii, who will be starting a degree in biomedical science at the University of Nottingham Malaysia soon.
Skills aside, the Baskaran sisters found common ground through BRATs, making them much closer than before.
“BRATs has brought us together by instilling a love for photography in us, which is when we realised that we had much more in common than we thought!” said Abirami.
Siblings Cassandra and Shaun Yeoh agreed that BRATs helped them develop inquisitive minds, which is helping them in their studies.
“We are both more curious as to how things around us work, and we have developed a better understanding of the way journalists work,” said Shaun, 19, who is currently pursuing his A Levels at Brickfields Asia College.
His sister, Cassandra, 20, who is pursuing a law degree at the same institution had to make sure her brother followed in her footsteps.
“At the time, Shaun had just finished his SPM examinations and was unsure about what he wanted to venture into. I recommended BRATs because I knew that it would give him an idea of whether or not the journalist life was for him,” said the Kuala Terengganu 2013 participant.
“BRATs not only allows you to see how real-life journalists work, but equips you with hands-on job experience which you can’t obtain from a textbook.”
Despite not going down the journalism path, Shaun said the lessons he learnt at BRATs still help him in his current field.
“The workshops, as well as the entire experience, will strengthen not only your writing skills, but your love for advocacy as well,” he said.
“It’ll teach you to properly ingest information, especially with so much fake news being circulated these days.”
BRATs has also helped him in his university life, where he has been able to improve his writing.
“I’m able to express my ideas in a logical manner, which contributes to the coherency of the essays which I write,” he said.
“My lecturers and tutors have told me that my work has improved, and I can safely say that BRATs has enabled me to do just that.”
Cassandra also said their camp experiences have brought them closer.
“There are moments when we recall what happened during our camps, and it just makes us realize that we’ve grown so much since then, using the skills we learnt to become who we are today,” said Cassandra, who went on to become an intern at R.AGE in 2014.
“I’ve taken the skills I learnt from BRATs and developed them into lifelong lessons, which I carry with me to this day.”
When her older siblings returned from BRATs, Tan Jo Anne, 18, wasn’t willing to be the only one left out of the fun.
“They didn’t stop talking about all the fun they had at camp,” said Jo Anne, who then participated in the BRATs Langkawi 2014 workshop.“They told me that BRATs participants would experience things only journalists could, which is why I chose to apply as well!”
It all started when oldest sibling Kel Vin, 26, joined BRATs Penang 2008.
“The programme opened my eyes to a lot of things, and they taught me how to make an average story come to life,” said Kel Vin, now an accounts manager at an advertising firm.
“I had always wanted to learn how journalism worked. With the interesting stories my friends and seniors told me, I just had to apply. I had so much fun that it would’ve been wrong not to tell my sisters about it.”
That’s exactly what he did, and his younger sister Ee Laine joined BRATs Alor Star 2011, where she picked up a lot of soft skills and learnt how to speak confidently in front of a camera.
“BRATs definitely allowed me to build my character and assess my strengths and weaknesses, so I can work effectively with a team,” said Ee Laine, 24, who’s now a PR executive.
Ee Laine went on to be part of the BRATs editorial team, going on assignments and producing #BRATspeak articles on topics close to her heart, like women empowerment and youth giving back to society.
While the camp undoubtedly taught them a lot, Ee Laine said BRATs wasn’t just about learning journalistic skills – it made them stronger as a family.
Prior to becoming BRATs participants, the siblings didn’t communicate with each other very often, they said.
But post-camp, they were able to find more common ground, and continue to share stories of their BRATs experiences today.
“There’s no doubt that we’ve all acquired some new skills through our involvement with BRATs, which is why I strongly urge participants to get their siblings involved,” said Ee Laine.
“Siblings who BRAT together, stay together!”