At just 26 years of age, Jason Sebestian is already well known for the positive impact he is making in the Hamilton community.
Jason emigrated with his family from Malaysia more than 10 years ago, and has become a respected advocate in Hamilton for youth, community and the environment.
He's part of the 2017 30 Under 30 series, a multi-media project profiling young Hamiltonians achieving in their chosen field or overcoming adversity or personal challenges.
Jason has spent a number of years representing Hamilton's young people: he was the chair of Hamilton City Council's Youth Council, has been part of the Red Cross National Youth Panel and Ministry of Youth Development's advisory group. Jason also has a keen interest in the environment and was part of a stakeholder group on the Waikato Regional Council's Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change. He says community participation has always been a part of who he is.
"People often have a reason for volunteering," he says.
"I just enjoy helping people and giving back. If I see an opportunity to do that, I'm going to seize it."
Jason is currently the Humanitarian Services Coordinator for the New Zealand Red Cross. The role involves overseeing volunteer programmes and working alongside the community to provide programmes for youth, prepare for Civil Defence emergencies and welcome new refugees to the Waikato. The job has seen him take a leadership role and work with a diverse range of people in the Waikato.
Jason says the position with Red Cross is varied, but it allows him to make a positive change in the community.
"A big part of the reason I enjoy the work I do is I get to help volunteers across the Waikato to do good, and assist them to give back to their community. It's both a privilege and a challenge," Jason says.
Jason enjoys being based in Hamilton and says there are great opportunities for young people here: "It's a great city – the perfect size, and a real sense of community mindedness.'
His advice for other young people is to think big, and act locally: "Young people are often said to be idealistic, and want to change the world. Often they are told they can't – but small, local actions can make big differences to people, so don't be afraid to step into the community and do your part."