Every year, thousands of youths from Perak are sent overseas, on exchange programmes or invited to participate in international programmes. And many also leave Perak to pursue their tertiary education.Participants of exchange or invitational programmes have to undergo pre-departure preparations which help them to better understand Perak, to equip them with sufficient knowledge about our culture and traditions, about popular tourist spots and things that we associate with Perak. Thus they will be better prepared for their upcoming role as ‘ambassadors’ of Perak.
By Nolee Ashilin Radzi
State Executive Councillor for Tourism, Health and Culture
While the various tourism agencies and players in the industry in Perak are doing their utmost to promote the state as one of the ultimate tourist destinations of Malaysia, many people are still unsure whether our “Discover Perak” campaign is successful or not. Just like what they did with Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2012.
Many fail to understand that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that “Discover Perak” is a success. And Perak will be a must-visit destination when tourists make a trip to Malaysia. Surely, the state has more than enough world-class attractions that would interest any discerning traveller.
Lest we forget, we have the Royal Belum forest that is older than even the Amazonian jungles and Lenggong Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just to name a few.
The one factor in the success of “Discover Perak” isn’t the number of gems that we have to offer visitors but the mentality of Perakeans, and the sense of pride that one should have for his or her home state. If we are proud of Perak we definitely want as many people as possible to know about the state that we call home.
There is no denying that whenever we are away from home, we are considered ‘ambassadors’ of the state. This is especially true for the younger generation, especially those who are sent out of the state to pursue their tertiary education, whether within Malaysia or abroad. Their role is great and responsibility, heavy, though they may not realise this yet.
So, why not invest a little time to inculcate the love for Perak in these youngsters before they leave for greener pastures? Word of mouth and recommendations from friends carry a lot more weight than mere advertising.
To make this change in attitude and perception, let us begin now, beginning with ourselves, by instilling a sense of pride for Perak in our children.
Organised by the Ipoh City Council is the Sister City Exchange Programme between Ipoh and Fukuoka, Japan, where students here are sent to Fukuoka biennially. Participants are hosted by local families in Fukuoka where they get to share the culture and knowledge of Ipoh with their foster parents.
As part of the preparation for their trip, participants have to undergo traditional dance training classes and are taken on a tour of the city to enable them to brief their Japanese friends and host family in Fukuoka about Ipoh.
Also under the Council’s ambit is the Asian-Pacific Children’s Convention Mission Project, where students in Ipoh are invited to visit Fukuoka.
Selected to participate in the 2002 mission was Faizah binti Zubair. Only 11 years old at that time, and now 22, Faizah remembers learning two traditional dances, with seven other participants, for their cultural performance during the convention. They did not fail to promote Ipoh whenever the chance arose and were a big hit with the curious delegates from Fukuoka and other international cities.
Promoting Tourism Through Culture
Ipoh City Council’s very own cultural troupe, Gema Warisan Budaya MBI, was invited to perform in Medan, Indonesia and the Philippines last year.
Spending four days in Medan and almost two weeks travelling the Philippines from Manila to Davao, Cebu and Makati, Gema Warisan Budaya MBI performed cultural and traditional dances to appreciative audiences.
The programmes, named Acara Seni Budaya Antarabangsa di Kota Medan, Indonesia and Ta Ra Nasa 2012 Tour and Roadshow in the Philippines, were aimed at promoting Perak and Malaysia as a whole.
International Youth Exchange Programmes
Handled by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia, is the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP). This annual youth exchange programme is more of a leadership training, whereby the main objective is to forge mutual understanding among participating countries and Japan, the host-cum-sponsor.
Selection is extremely stringent, and only the best-of-the-best youth leaders from the ten ASEAN countries, plus Japan, are sent on board the cruise ship, which sails in ASEAN and Japan waters for 54 days.
It was a once in-a-lifetime opportunity for Megat Hafizal bin Ahmad, who participated in the 37th SSEAYP back in 2010. As one of the 28 members of the Malaysian contingent, and who was subsequently selected as a Youth Leader of the contingent, Megat Hafizal said that besides going through the programmed activities, it was a golden opportunity for him to promote Malaysia, particularly Perak, where he hails from.
The three Pre-Departure Training camps he attended made him a better person in facing whatever situations he encountered on board. He remembers the hours of training he and his colleagues went through, learning the various Malaysian traditional dances, lessons that stood them in good stead, when they had to perform on “cultural nights”.
Megat Hafizal brought with him hundreds of souvenirs to exchange with the other delegates and his host families at the six ports of call. Miniature labu sayong from Kuala Kangsar were among the most popular gifts given out.
For more information log on to the Ministry’s website at www.kbs.gov.my.
Other International Programmes
Elavarasan Thiruchelvam was in Japan for two weeks in 2011, under the AFS Intercultural Programme. He brought with him souvenirs from Perak and promotional materials obtained from the Ipoh Tourist Information Centre for his host families.
The state education department also organises, some in collaboration with the British Council, international programmes such as the International Inspiration Programme and Young Sports Leader Programme. These are excellent opportunities for the young to promote their home state.