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Promoting sustainability through UNVCP

March 2, 2020 | Campus News
NUS students interviewing the villagers

The UTAR New Village Community Project (UNVCP) was established in 2009, with the support from the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) and Silverlake. The main aim was to provide students with an experiential lesson outside classroom when they visit the various New Villages. At the same time, students are able to put to practice UTAR’s six educational pillars, namely Virtue and Morality; Knowledge and Intellect; Physical and Mental Health; Sociality and Humanitarianism; Aesthetics and Harmony, and Creativity and Innovation. Today, there are a total of 613 New Villages in Malaysia, and over 20,000 UTAR students have contributed to the project.

“The UNVCP is a unique learning tool for our students and external participants. Seeing for themselves how the community thrives in their New Villages is also a fresh perspective for participants coming from big cities. More importantly, the participating students gained real-life experiences, which inculcated values on the importance of charitable spirit, humility, wisdom and perseverance in the face of challenges,” said UTAR Vice President of Student Development and Alumni Relations Prof Dr Choong Chee Keong. He is also the chairperson of UTAR Centre for Community Outreach (CCO), a centre that coordinates various community projects. Participants earning about different world cultures

He further explained, “The UNVCP also reminds participants and the public of its history, values and contribution of New Villages in the past and present, as well as understanding how the land and its human resources provide vast opportunities for economic growth for the generations to come. Interactions with the communities also provide a crucial network between the commercialised world and New Villages. Significantly, UNVCP empowers both students and the New Village communities to work together to create a more sustainable environment. Meanwhile, students too are able to practise and improve their soft skills and life skills. They become more creative in providing solutions as they learn about how they can contribute to the communities around them as responsible citizens.”

Overall, the UNVCP improves New Villagers’ interaction and networking with students, members of society and communities outside the village; provides information for New Village communities to utilise available resources; improves productivity and creates better business opportunities; promotes tourism for the New Villages as an economic activity; looks into opportunities for entrepreneurship and investment (domestic and foreign) for the villagers based on existing resources; provides opportunities for villagers to communicate their views, opinions and suggestions for discussions and feedback; and trains participating students to be humanistic leaders who can provide inspiration to others.

The UNVCP consist of five sub-programmes, namely “New Village Tour”, “New Village Survey”, “New Village Community Service”, “New Village Collaborative Project” and “New Village E-commerce Project”. These sub-programmes are conducted to provide sustainable solutions to solve problems faced by the community, such as ageing population, outward migration, lack of commercialisation and job opportunities, lack of crucial skills, knowledge and education for economic growth and development. The results yielded from participants’ involvement and assistance in the New Village Tour programme, including a boost to the local tourism and economy of New Villages, whereby the communities are able to promote their local delicacy, fruits and culture.

International students touring Chui Chak village

The New Village Survey programme, on the other hand, produced multiple reports, from visiting over 550 New Villages. These reports, which were uploaded on to the website ( www.newvillage.com.my ), tells how they rediscovered forgotten histories, explored new cultures and practices, learnt of community’s social problems, understood their priorities and concerns, and created sustainable solutions. The activities included Fun Learning English with IT, free medical check-ups, eye screening, safety and security issues, crime prevention training, and motivational programmes.

The ECM Libra Foundation has also collaborated with UTAR to conduct educational programmes for school children across Perak and Selangor’s New Villages. Over 1,000 community service activities were conducted in various New Villages, which also involved over 80,000 community members, students, and staff. Implementing sustainable activities also saw the projects fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations. The activities conducted so far have successfully fulfilled all the goals, except for Goals 14 and 16.

The educational benefits seen from UTAR students have also attracted the interest and collaboration of academics and students from international institutions. The National University of Singapore (NUS), under their Forgotten Communities International Programme, continues to send their students to participate in the collaborative project, while Kwansei Gakuin University sends their students annually, under the Voluntary project, to participate. Most of the students were very much impressed and inspired by the “Kampung Spirit” (social cohesion in a community) of the New Village communities, while the communities themselves too gained exposure to other cultures from other countries that were shared and demonstrated from the international students’ participation. A more significant outcome of the international participants is the ability for the communities to learn about sustainability practised in other countries and vice versa. A paddy planting experience for NUS students during their visit to Chui Chak Kuala Bikam

For instance, the New Village E-commerce Project has helped the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the New Villages to expand their market through E-commerce online platforms. This initiative has assisted many SMEs in promoting their local products and increasing their business revenue. On its own, the project is aimed at helping New Village SMEs adapt to using emerging digital technologies for sustainable business development. Participants, on the other hand, were also able to apply their business knowledge and skills learnt to help the communities. It also enhanced their communication skills, critical thinking, entrepreneurship and digital literacy.

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) is reputed as one of the fastest growing private higher education institutions in the country since its inception in 2002. From only 411 students, the University now has about 22,000 students with campuses located in Kampar, Perak and Bandar Sungai Long, Selangor. UTAR has graduated over 61,600 students since its inaugural convocation in 2005. The University currently offers more than 110 programmes from Foundation Studies to Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD degrees in the fields of Accounting, Business, Finance and Economics, Actuarial Science, Mathematics and Process Management, Agriculture and Food Science, Arts, Social Sciences and Education, Chinese Studies, Creative Industries, Digital Animation, Multimedia and Design, Engineering and Built Environment, Information and Communication Technology, Life and Physical Sciences, and Medicine and Health Sciences. UTAR is ranked #501-600 in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2020, ranked #181 in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Asia University Rankings 2020 and awarded Self- Accreditation Status by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA). For more information, go to  www.utar.edu.my  or call 05-468 8888 (Kampar Campus), 03- 9086 0288 (Sungai Long Campus).

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