Text: Law Siak Hong
The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) public relations programme on Volunteerism Campaign for Culture and Heritage had the makings of a reality TV show. Despite early jitters, the students managed to pull it off in style. The challenges were reconciled; their course assessment, pass or fail, had depended on their execution. As I see it, while they might not have excelled in all the challenges, the students did apply themselves satisfactorily. Even though there was no crowd at the exhibition, the performances of the charity night enjoyed a tremendous response from an enthusiastic audience, 250-strong.
PHS’s participation in this university programme goes back to November last year. The UTAR tutor, Pong Kok Shiong, acquainted through his proposed survey on a visit to the UNESCO World Archaeological Heritage Site of Lenggong Valley, had asked if PHS would be one of the NGOs in his UTAR public relations student project. At the eleventh hour, Yeow Jian Hui replaced him, but that posed no problem. However, in all honesty, it was clear from the start that the students were too ambitious or perhaps too idealistic. Still, in the end, good sense prevailed to save the day.
We met the very hospitable Mr Loh of the Perak Chinese Chamber of Miners who delivered a brief history of tin mining in Perak. Each of us also received a gift of his book.
Students at the very old STAR Printing Work; they were fascinated by a tricycle, an old mode of delivery of goods and a rare sight today.
Since they chose to do the project on culture and heritage, I thought the students must know more about these topics. It was the morning of the first Friday in January when we took a walk in Ipoh Old Town. It is gratifying that the experience turned out to be the inspiration for their main exhibit – the Time Tunnel which depicts the history of Ipoh in snippets of social history, material culture and landmarks.
The weeks that followed were a little uneasy for me. In late February, we had one last meeting on campus when the photography competition had already been launched. Three weeks later, it was the official launch of the students’ programme, at which the PHS delegation, comprising President Mohd Taib, members Normiah and Jayaraj, volunteer Vera and me, were treated like real VIPs.
Group portrait after the programme launch at the Students Pavilion.
Team united: group portrait after the walkabout and a night out in Kampar New Town.
After this experience, it was necessary for me to step up my game. Our exhibition featured a total of five groups of displays. For visual impact, with the help of Sam Tan of UTAR’s Green Technology Faculty, we showed the architectural models on the Kinta Valley town of Gopeng produced by his construction management students. The exceptional feature was a large map of the Dr Sun Yat Sen Ipoh Trail, and a print of an oil painting depicting the Chinese revolutionary leader among his supporters in Kampar, reproduced with the permission of the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Singapore. For culture, on a table with items for sale, colourful handicrafts and soft toys supplied by Ipoh Craftsnerds found buyers. That evening, Vera and I were invited to a light dinner among the VIPs, and later to enjoy the performances at the charity night.
Vera at the sale table.
Vera and student volunteer hold fort at the sale table.
Models of Gopeng reneal project by students in construction management plus panels of information – courtesy of Faculty of Green Technology, UTAR.
The display on Perak Heritage Society and shophouse typology, and heritage maps.
The display on the industrial heritage of charcoal making heritage
The display of children art is an encouraging sign of the culture of creative development.
The display of containers and holders to echo culture and heritage: baskets of bamboo, rattan, straw and plastic, paper bags, and containers in metal, ceramic and wood.
“Revive The Forgotten” is the slogan created by the students for the charity night. The show, featuring singers, musicians and dancers from UTAR and Kampar was graced by the Vice President of UTAR, Professor Dr Teh Chee Seng.
All the way from KL, International Salon Chairman of The Photographic Society of Malaysia, Mr Harry Woo, Vice President Mr C T Goh and Head of Competition Department Mr W H Koh, gave away the prizes to the winners of the photography. On the screen to the right is the winning entry.
Here on stage with the emcees, the mascot appears in all the programmes of the campaign.
The impressive student choral singers.
The well-adorned Orang Asli flutist is a native of Kampar.
As Mohd Taib was otherwise engaged, I represented PHS at the public relations programme’s closing ceremony the following Wednesday. All four teams that took on their own NGO in the UTAR programme gathered together with a representative from their respective NGO. A sense of achievement and fun saturated the academic air. It looks to me like most of the students would all pass with flying colours.
Was it not Vice President Associate Professor Teh who told me during the show that 97 per cent of UTAR graduates find work, mainly in Singapore? The others, he intimated, had chosen to take time off to travel and perhaps, I venture to say, join the entertainment industry.
Footnote: PHS is grateful to Assistant Professor Dr Cheah Phaik Kin, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Mr Ng Eng Kiat and Ms Lee Lai Meng, Mr Pong Kok Shiong and Ms Yeow Jian Hui of the of the Department of Public Relations as well as all the students under their director Lo Vui Che who worked to raise some money for PHS. Let’s do it again next semester!