Incitement is the implementing agency for the Volunteering International Professionals (VIP) Fellowship Programme 2017, a National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) project monitored and overseen by the National Strategy Unit (NSU) of the Malaysian Ministry of Finance. More information about this collaboration between Incitement and the Malaysian Ministry of Finance can be found here.
The VIP Fellowship programme took place from August 19th till December 17th 2017. During these 4 months, a total of 10 social impact projects were implemented with the help of 50 international professional volunteers, touching the lives of 12,840 beneficiaries.
This is Impact Project 1: Xtreme Academy
This project provided underprivileged young adults with the soft and hard skills needed to become employed in the growing tourism and adventure industry in the region of Kota Belud.
Key project outcomes
- 22 students trained and employed
- 150 family members impacted
- 100 individuals in the community benefited from a 70% increase in salary
- 17 partnerships with relevant organisations were established
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Xtreme Academy is a pilot project by Travel Rite Tours aimed at transforming underprivileged young adults into white water rafting professionals. The beneficiaries of this project were young women and men between the ages of 18-35 years, from a variety of different backgrounds and work experiences. Mostly, they came from low income families, as their parents worked as farmers or rubber tappers.
Xtreme Academy equips local young adults with the soft and hard skills needed to become adventure tourism professionals, qualifying them to pursue jobs in the growing adventure tourism industry in the region of Kota Belud. With the professional help of the VIP 2017 Fellows, Xtreme Academy aimed at providing solutions for the following societal issues in Kota Belud:
- Isolated, underprivileged communities in rural areas lacking the opportunities to pursue tertiary education.
- High rates and increasing young adult unemployment despite a growing adventure tourism industry.
- Lack of qualified and trained professionals in the adventure tourism industry.
- Lack of self-esteem due to language barriers and lack of basic soft skills in potential employees.
- Unstandardised risk- and safety management for white water rafting in Kota Belud.
In Sabah, adrenaline junkies and sports enthusiasts are spoiled for choice in the broad variety of adventure- and sporting activities available, one of which is white water rafting. However, Sabah is also a place where young adults struggle to find jobs, according to Travel Rite Tours (the Host organisation).
The lack of access to tertiary education as well as language barriers leave the young adults unmotivated and unemployed with little to no access to job opportunities. While the employment rate among young people is dipping, the adventure tourism industry in the region is booming, yet lacking qualified personnel for this industry. Xtreme Academy and the Fellows addressed this gap in Kota Belud. This project trained young adults to become qualified professionals who are more employable, which capitalises on the growth of the tourism sector in the region of Kota Belud, Sabah.
By giving the beneficiaries new abilities, techniques, and knowledge about white water touring and rafting, we helped transform them into qualified employees.
Xtreme Academy prepared twenty young adults from Kota Belud with the qualifications needed to become officially certified in the field through a six-week crash course. Through Xtreme Academy, the VIP Fellows also taught the students the soft skills needed to communicate with tourists, and pursue and maintain jobs in the growing tourism industry in the region of Kota Belud. The entire programme was aimed at transforming these unemployed young adults into professionals in adventure tourism. And since Xtreme Academy was a new project, the VIP Fellows recruited the twenty students via direct contact, word of mouth, and by reaching out to friends and family of the Travel Rite Tours staff.
Xtreme Academy provided sustainable solutions for young adult unemployment and the lack of qualified staff in the adventure tourism industry, making young adults more employable while creating real impact in the region. “By giving the beneficiaries new abilities, techniques, and knowledge about white water touring and rafting, as well as English communication and hospitality/customer service skills, we helped transform them into qualified employees”, explains Gabriela Chavez, an International Fellow from Salvador, who previously taught English in Chiang Mai, Thailand for five years. “Some of our beneficiaries were very shy in the beginning, but after the programme, they were able to express themselves, which I believe is an achievement.”
During the VIP programme two batches of ten students completed the Xtreme Academy training, with all of them finding employment in the adventure tourism industry.
All these young people have high aspirations and are very lively. By equipping them with these skills, we instil a sense of self-belief and inspire them to dream bigger.
“The classes and trainings provided do not only benefit them directly, it also benefits their families”, Gabriela explains. “I’ve heard many stories where our Xtreme Academy student’s family members were so enthusiastic about learning English or about rafting, that it actually motivated them to start learning themselves, coming to us and asking to join the programme. That is the spark of self-teaching that we’re trying to ignite: that you can be self-sufficient and learn independently from the Academy. All these young people have high aspirations and are very lively. By equipping them with these skills, we enable them to pursue career paths different from the ones they thought were set in stone (farming/rubber tapping, etc.), while at the same time instilling a sense of self-belief and inspiring them to dream bigger.”
Michael Levenson, an International Fellow from the U.S.A., acknowledges what Gabriela says: “For our beneficiaries, this opportunity means that they can now look forward to a potentially better future, instead of being limited to the prospect of continuing their parents’ work. Graduating from Xtreme Academy’s six-week crash course looks great on their resume and can really gain them access and exposure to new careers that can help benefit not only them and their families, but also to contribute to the economic growth of their locality and promote Kota Belud as a great tourist destination.
That you can be self-sufficient and learn independently from the Academy. That is the spark of self-teaching that we’re trying to ignite.
Because of its soothing nature and expansive greenery, complemented by its unhindered access, the region of Kota Belud is strategically poised to lend momentum to the development of extreme water sports. Specifically because of this development, it is necessary to ensure that the accelerated growth goes hand in hand with the implementation of proper safety measures. VIP Fellow Amira Hassan, 25, from Sarawak, helped Xtreme Academy to focus on establishing safety standards for the adventure tourism industry and forged relationships with the accredited licensing organisations, like the International Rafting Federation (IRF).
But the impact didn’t stop there. The training modules that were created by the Fellows are now awaiting approval from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment in Sabah. On top of that, the Fellows were also successful in engaging and creating strategic alliances with tourism and hospitality related organisations in the region, in their effort to collaboratively create awareness, new business as well as job opportunities, and to improve the safety standards for the adventure tourism industry in the region.
During this project, the Fellows ensured that twenty underprivileged young adults, trained in two groups of ten, managed to successfully complete the programme. All of them were quickly employed in adventure tourism by the end of the project. They are expected to see a 70% increase in their monthly income, which not only affects their personal livelihood but also of 150 of their family members.
The Fellows were also successful in establishing 17 new partnerships with local employers in adventure tourism in Kota Belud, helping the students to easily connect to relevant jobs. In the long term, and perhaps more importantly, the VIP 2017 Fellows managed to produce a scalable model that will continue to provide training in hard and soft skills, and provide better job opportunities for the youth of Kota Belud, ultimately uplifting the livelihood of the entire region.
Learn more about the VIP 2017 Fellowship Programme: VIP.org.my