AT TAYLOR'S: Shantini Karalasingam (ShantiniS.Karalasingam@taylors.edu.my)
PROJECT PARTNER: Dana Belia 1Malaysia (info@1mdb.com..my)

WHEE! is the acronym for an acrostic poem that reads: "We the youth; Helping those in need; Exceeding expectations; Empowering others." Working on a grant from 1 Malaysia’s Dana Belia fund, Project WHEE! seeks to assist rural communities in developing local entrepreneurial projects geared to the growing eco-tourism market. The intention is to support local communities and strengthen their economic opportunities so they can remain in their homes and on their historic lands without having to leave and move to the cities for  jobs.

Although involved in many community activities across Malaysia, in this particular project WHEE! sought to develop the capacity of rural communities to develop their eco-tourism potential through the teaching of English to local women. As part of this government funded initiative in 2014, Malaysian youth nationwide travelled to Bario, Sarawak and lived in local homestay residents while they conducted the program. The first batch of community service volunteers was from the School of Education at Taylor's University. Taylor’s University also provided the training for their students in a weekend workshop. The students left for Bario in May 2014 and stayed in the village for two weeks with local residents.

While they were in the village these eleven students from Taylor’s University shadowed the women in the village as they went about their daily activities and carried on informal conversations in English. Students also helped the family in light farm and cleaning work to educate and sensitize them to the pressures and responsibilities that the ladies of Bario face.  Over the weekends, the group participated in community activities. Through this constant interaction and their own friendship, these students helped to bring some English proficiency to the women involved, boosting their confidence to be better community guides and homestay hosts in Bario.

Training for this project in 2014 took place over two weekends in April. Participants learned about cultural adaptation and sensitivity to Bario by two leaders of the WHEE! team, and learned the basics of teaching English through a curriculum developed by the School of Education, and taught by Ms Shantini. Students who participated in this project were asked to contribute five blog entries into a collective blog (www.theprojectwhee.blogspot.com), and interested staff and students were encouraged to follow their progress during the course of the project by accessing their blog. Those who are interested in further information about the project may contact WHEE! through their email at theprojectwhee@gmail.com