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Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday October 16, 2013 MYT 12:15:16 PM
by luwita hana randhawa
KING George IV once said that the highest of distinctions is service to others.
If that is the case, then this honour has surely been conferred to the 97 youth eco-volunteers that were chosen to take part in the inaugural Asean Youth Volunteer Programme (AYVP).
Aged between 18 and 30, the participants from the 10 Asean member countries arrived in Malaysia recently for a five-week stint of eco-volunteerism.
The Asean Youth Eco-Leaders spent their first week at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) getting to know each other, learning about the values of Asean and volunteerism as well as getting equipped with practical skills for the field.
Then, they were split into four groups and assigned to a biodiversity site in Malaysia.
For three weeks, the youth volunteers engaged in community-driven conservation initiatives at their respective sites.
Laurence Lloyd Lugtu Lumagbas from the Phillipines was assigned to Kampung Dew, Perak, where the focus was on firefly habitat conservation and community-based ecotourism.
“We worked to improve the eco-tourism potential of the site. The firefly population attracts tourists to the area and the local community need to know how to best capitalise on that.
“We trained the adults to be effective tourist guides and gave the children lessons in English as they will be the future tourist guides.
“We also helped the locals with drafting promotional and informational material for tourists,” said the 20-year-old.
KL girl Atiqah Nadiah Zailani, 26, was assigned to Setiu Wetlands, Terengganu, which focused on restoring and conserving a sustainable wetland ecosystem for the community.
“Our goal was to leave the place in a better state than when we first found it. We found that the coastal environment was quite polluted so we initiated a beach clean-up programme where every morning for 14 days, we collected litter,” she said, adding that they collected 817kg of rubbish!
The other two sites were Mersing in Johor, and the Kuala Selangor Nature Park in Selangor.
The Eco-Leaders spent their last week of the programme back at UKM where they reflected on and shared with each other their learning experiences.
Laurence said that he had come away from the programme feeling like there was truly a common sense of Asean identity between all the Eco-Leaders.
“I’ve come to realise that when it comes to the environment, it is the small actions at the community level that matter and that should be encouraged,” added Atiqah Nadiah.
AYVP is an initiative under AsiaEngage, which subsequently comes under UKM’s deputy vice-chancellor (Industry and Community Partnerships) Prof Datuk Dr Saran Kaur Gill’s office.
At the programme’s closing ceremony, Prof Saran, who is also AYVP@AsiaEngage executive director, said the programme is an opportunity for youth across the Asean region to work together by helping communities and becoming environmental leaders.
“This journey provides invaluable opportunities for volunteers to make relevant and apply theoretical knowledge to meet real world needs,” said Prof Saran.
The closing ceremony was also attended by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, UKM vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin and US Ambassador to Asean David Carden.
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Education, asean youth volunteer program; ukm
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