Repair works underway at the School of Hope.
The boat ride to Pulau Mabul.
EXA multi-disciplined members bring to the CSR projects a variety of perspectives.
A group member carrying out an educational activity with the children.

LEARNING by doing is a powerful tool for personal and professional development as the process involves working on real and practical challenges.

A group of 10 students, who are doing part-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, experienced this through corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects in Pulau Mabul, Sabah, and Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Part of the requirement to graduate, the projects, which replace thesis submission, had the group utilising skills in research methodology, project management and leadership to improve their target communities’ quality of life.

“We formed a non-governmental organisation called Persatuan Ekspansi Amal (EXA) on Sep 28 for this purpose. We are a diverse group from various professional backgrounds, nationalities and races. Each of us has a specific role for each social project under EXA,” said president and project director Sathiya Kumar Tamuvederan, 32. Kumar is a human resources specialist at CTOS Data Systems.

Among EXA’s vision is to help improve the standard of economy, healthcare and life quality of the society; foster the spirit of unity by giving back to the needy; and to reduce the gap of poverty and education of the society one step at a time.

Kumar said the group helped to provide proper and conductive education infrastructure to stateless children in Pulau Mabul, and installed water filters for the underprivileged in Siem Reap.

The idea of helping the kids in Pulau Mabul came from Ho Weng Hong, 29, who noted their predicament during a visit to the island.

Ho, who is an entrepreneur at Sunrise One Enterprise in Puchong, Selangor, wanted to put up a book rack at resorts on the island for their use. But, he figured there must be a better way to provide the kids with access to books and learning.

So, he shared the idea of providing a more conducive environment for the stateless kids to learn, in particular the English language, which might come in handy one day for gaining employment.

EXA engaged the Mabul Kid Education Society that runs the School of Hope, which accommodates 50 stateless kids aged from 8 to 17. Monitored by only one teacher, the NGO had financial constraints and couldn’t maintain the school’s facilities.

“The school was not able to provide a conducive environment for the students due to defective rooftop, walls, tables, chairs and insufficient education tools. This encouraged EXA to help,” said Kumar.

EXA created awareness about the plight of the school on social media and raised RM25,000 in less than eight weeks.

EXA left for Pulau Mabul on Jan 24 for a four days, three nights stint that saw them renovating and repainting the school, setting up a mini library, providing stationery, installing a laptop, projector, generator and portable speaker with microphone, and organising a sports and activities day.

The group then went to Siem Reap on Jan 28 for a three-day programme. The Siem Reap project was initiated by Nor Mazni Abdullah, 28, and Nur Afiqah Baharom, 29.

The Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd data governance executive and country regulatory specialist at Syneos Health (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd found that 50 per cent of Cambodians did not have access to safe drinking water or adequate sanitation. Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries.

EXA raised more than US$1,000 (RM3,920) to install water filters in a village in Siem Reap. Their partner NGO will ensure the project is sustainable.

Apart from Kumar, Ho, Nor Mazni and Nur Afiqah, EXA comprises; UKM innovation executive Izzaidah Ishak, 31; G-Mart Group business development executive Rafidah Samin, 33; Krischem Sdn Bhd chemist Lee Ee Ven, 28; Hua Wei Technologies Sdn Bhd sales manager Lin Wei, 32; RHB Bank sales executive Piveendren Rao Sri Ramulu, 26; and Hop On Holidays marketing head Munirah Roslan, 29.

“These CSR projects provide valuable experience as we progress in our careers,” said Kumar.

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