Pathways to the Interiors - Honda & UNDP reach out to rural youth
The serene surroundings and chirping of the crickets filled the air. As I looked around for the familiar buildings, roads and highways, there were none. It was only then that it dawned upon me that I was not in the city but in remote and rural Bario, in the heart of Borneo’s dense interiors. When reality hit, I acknowledged the environment and came to my senses and remembered why I was in this far away place in the Kelabit Highlands.
The Honda Dreams Fund (HDF) team had decided to embark on a public promotions campaign in the form of road shows to reach out to the communities, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds. In Sabah and Sarawak, poverty is largely a rural phenomenon. Thus, the HDF team set out to promote the educational opportunities afforded by the HDF to these very communities in the regions of Sabah, Sarawak and parts of Peninsular Malaysia.
A very warm welcome greeted us by the Pemanca (Headman) of the Kelabit community. After the video presentations and Questions and Answers session, potential candidates vying for the HDF scholarships braved themselves to make their applications by video. Many appeared shy and reserved but nevertheless were willing to fight against the odds to take the challenge in hope of obtaining a non-binding HDF scholarship. The golden opportunity was too good to be missed. Their lives could potentially be changed via this possible access to further education and training!
The HDF team had a similar session in Miri just the day before where many youths from the indigenous communities studying in the urban area attended the campaign at a local hotel. Honda’s CEO/Managing Director, Mr. Atsushi Fujimoto gave a welcome address and reiterated Honda’s commitment in Corporate Social Responsibility via the HDF to assist youths from underprivileged backgrounds to gain access to education and skills training – in line with the Malaysian government’s development thrust stated in the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010) which outlines, “Empowering youths for the future through improved access to education and training”.
A few weeks later, the HDF team landed in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. A similar campaign was held in the Penampang State Library where numerous Indigenous People groups came to listen and find out more information about the HDF. At the end of the session, potential candidates were also given an opportunity to submit their applications via video, in view of the difficultly faced by rural communities in traveling to urban areas for live interviews. Members of the HDF team immediately assumed their interviewer’s roles drawing the nervous youths to talk about their dreams and aspirations.
Over the next couple of days, the HDF team and the Honda entourage consisting of staff from the marketing and advertising divisions and their related agencies travelled to the rural areas in Tambunan and Sukau in the Kinabatangan. Again, Honda’s commitment to the project as exemplified by the sterling leadership of Mr. Fujimoto, who joined the HDF team in crossing swift muddy rivers via a shaky suspension bridge, trudging along through the wet and slippery paddy fields in rural Tambunan as well as enduring a three hour car ride from Sandakan to Sukau where some parts of the journey were very bumpy on gravel roads.
The team also did similar campaigns in Gopeng and Cameron Highlands for the Orang Asli communities.
In its second year, the Honda Dreams Fund youth education and training project showcases how business corporations, through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, have the potential to support government in achieving national development aspirations consistent with the development thrusts of the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
This project is about providing access to underprivileged youths to further their education and improving their ‘employability’. It will contribute towards improving their own social mobility, provides many beneficial effects for individuals, as well as having important positive externalities for families, communities and society.
As a result of all the successful public promotions campaigns, the HDF saw a vast increase of applications from indegenous communities. Subsequently, when the final selection was made, 12 youths from these communities were awarded with the HDF Scholarships this year.