Sabah students ‘first 2 fix’ homes

Fab five: (From left) Ahmad Fahmi, Nur Qamariah, Ara Billa, Mellyvonny and Charles.

ANY building must be kept safe and functional, especially a house, which is the heart of a family.

Hence, when a group of students from Keningau Vocational College (KVC) in Sabah went on fieldwork as part of their course requirements and discovered that many wooden homes in a nearby village were in dilapidated condition, they decided to do something about it.

As construction technology students, Ara Billa Biton, Ahmad Fahmi Ali Hassan, Charles John, Mellyvonny Marius and Nur Qamariah Hasmeddy came up with the idea of using their skills to carry out repair and restoration services on house fixtures, such as doors, ceilings, floors and stairs, for the affected households.

Dubbed “First 2 Fix”, their community service project would target low-income households who can barely afford such services from construction companies.

However, the 18-year-olds needed funds in order to turn their idea into reality.

The solution to their dilemma recently materialised in the form of an international grant coveted by 61 applicants from all over the world.

The team, along with nine other successful applicants, beat out the competition to receive the inaugural YouthMADE Festival Amplify Grant. Each team received US$500 (RM2,356).

Team leader Ara Billa expressed delight at receiving the grant to support the project.

“This is a great starting point to not only carry out the project but also to further find ways to assist our school and subsequently the community,” she told StarEdu.

The team has their teacher and mentor Dr Mohd Sirhajwan Idek to thank for informing them about the grant opportunity and encouraging them to apply for it.

“I was thrilled that they won the grant. Their project seeks to improve home safety and comfort. This is a noble deed that helps them to become concerned and compassionate citizens while helping others meet their basic needs,” said Mohd Sirhajwan.

According to Ara Billa, the team will begin the community project as soon as they obtain the necessary approvals and resources following a preliminary review of the houses that are going to be restored.

The houses selected for restoration are based on their condition in a village situated about a 15-minute drive from the college, she said.

She shared that the most difficult aspect of the project is achieving high-quality repair work while keeping costs to a minimum.

“With the rising cost of materials and supplies, it is difficult for us to narrow our scope and focus on what needs to be fixed first,” she said.

She advised students looking to start their own community projects to research their community’s unmet needs.

“Work with local stakeholders and capitalise on the resources, skills and manpower that you have access to,” she said.

Mohd Sirhajwan said students can keep an eye out for potential grant opportunities offered by local and international organisations.

These, he said, are often shared on social media and in text messaging groups.

“Another sustainable way of giving back to the community is either doing crowdfunding or turning community projects into social enterprises, where students can generate profit while helping people and saving the planet,” he said.

Mohd Sirhajwan is a firm believer in the importance of exposing students to community service.

“It helps them put what they learn at school into practice and improve their technical expertise and soft skills.

“Most importantly, it helps students become altruistic and empathetic, nurturing them to be good Samaritans and promising social entrepreneurs,” he said.

KVC director Nordin Akup congratulated the team for winning the grant, allowing the students to do their part for the community while putting their construction skills to good use.

The YouthMADE Festival Amplify Grant is part of the 2024 YouthMADE Festival, a global celebration of youth creativity and innovation from May 6 to 19.The grant, offered by global nonprofit Digital Promise and sponsored by United States-based networking systems and software company Ciena, aims to help students scale up their projects.

The other nine grant awardees were from the US, Brazil, India, Nigeria and Luxembourg.

Lara, 18, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For updates on the BRATs programme, go to

With the theme of the article in mind, carry out the following English language activities.

1 What community service project would you propose your class undertake? Explain your choice in a discussion with your friends.

2 Imagine that you need to raise funds to carry out your project. How would you persuade organisations to donate funds to support your project? Role-play the speech you would use during your fundraising attempt. Have your friends assess the effectiveness of your persuasion skills.

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email

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