By Fadzli Ramli
ALOR GAJAH (Bernama) -- Urbanisation can be a double-edged sword for the people.
While it brings them closer to modern amenities and enables them to enjoy a better quality of life, it can also lead to the deterioration of community cohesion.
It is with this in mind that the Information Department has made fostering of unity an important component of the Young Leaders Programme that it organises annually for students of institutions of higher learning.
Introduced in 2003, the programme was initially held at the state level before it was implemented at the national level since 2013. It is aimed at nurturing and developing the capabilities of Malaysian youths and grooming them to become responsible and outstanding leaders.
A total of 101 students participated in last year's edition of the Young Leaders Programme, which took place from Oct 31 to Nov 3 at Felda Tun Ghafar in Hutan Percha, here. Among the participants was Surendra Louis, 23, who is pursuing a degree in chemical engineering at Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
The highlight of the programme was the placement of the participants with 37 host families at the Felda settlement for four days.
Surendra, who stayed with a Chinese settler and his family, said the whole programme was a new and unforgettable experience for him and that he was impressed by how well all the settlers and their families bonded with each other. They knew each other well and behaved as if they belonged to "one big happy family", he told Bernama.
Relating his experience, Surendra said the people in the town of Bukit Katil, Melaka, where he lived with his family, were not close and kept to themselves.
"Here (Felda Tun Ghafar), the people are more community-centred. For example, should any of them want to hold a function or kenduri (feast), the whole community gets together to organise it.
"More than anything, their spirit of unity and sense of camaraderie really touched my heart," he said, adding that city folks can learn a thing or two from the villagers about how to coexist harmoniously.
He said his stay with his Chinese hosts enabled him to learn about their culture, food and way of life.
"At their house, I got to eat bak kut teh and pak choy, which I usually only eat at restaurants," said Surendra, who is of Indian and French parentage.
He added that the government should organise more initiatives like the Young Leaders Programme to enable youths, especially those from urban areas, to interact with rural families and learn from them.
PROUD TO BE MALAYSIAN
Mohd Karim Atan, 74, a first-generation settler at Felda Tun Ghafar who hosted two students, said the settlers were only too happy to host the university students under the Young Leaders Programme and share their way of life with them.
"Regardless of their race and background, we treated them all like our children and grandchildren. It's our responsibility to do our part to help mould the character and identity of our nation's future leaders. I think their experience here (in Felda Tun Ghafar) will help the students to become successful someday," said Mohd Karim, who joined the Felda settlement in 1962.
He said although the younger generation prefers to mingle with people in their own age group, the participants were excited to take part in rural activities like fishing, farming and food processing, as well as traditional games.
Ministry of Communications and Multimedia deputy secretary-general (Strategic) Shakib Ahmad Shakir, meanwhile, told Bernama it is important for youths to develop a strong sense of identity so that they would always be proud to be Malaysian.
He said the government has implemented various initiatives to improve the quality of life of the people. The initiatives include the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, a 10-year plan to ensure fair and equitable distribution of economic development at all levels.
"It's important for youths to be aware of and understand government policies," he said, adding that this is vital to preserving and sustaining the nation's leadership pattern and policies.
Translated by Rema Nambiar
Malaysia National News Agency
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