LIPIS, PAHANG, 8 APRIL:Some 500 Orang Asli students who are participants of empower ECER programme had the opportunity of a lifetime when they met Malaysia’s first astronaut, Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, at a motivational session specially organised by East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) here today. Also present at the event was Y.B. Dato’ Wan Rosdy Bin Wan Ismail, Member of State Legislative Assembly for Jelai.

The primary students of SK Betau, aged 7 to 12, together with their parents, gathered at the Dewan Pos Betau in Lipis to spend a day with the astronaut during an interactive session themed “Discover Your Potential”.

“We firmly believe that students learn best from example. We also realise that rural and remote communities tend to be cut off from positive mainstream influences, and to address this, we decided to bring a towering Malaysian to them,” said ECERDC Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John.

“Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar is a stellar example of someone who has achieved his dreams by setting his mind to it. Of the many barriers he had to overcome, the hardest probably was self-doubt and personal limitations.”

“That is the point we are making here today. We are convinced that every one of our empower ECER participants has the potential to shine, and motivation and encouragement goes a long way in ensuring their future success. Being able to meet someone like Malaysia’s first astronaut who is considered a hero will definitely serve as an inspiration for them to excel in their studies.”

“The presence of parents alongside their children is deliberate. We believe children need the support and encouragement of their parents to perform well. We hope this session will inspire parents to become pillars of support and guidance to help their children realise their dreams too,” he added.

While Sheikh Muszaphar’s appearance was undoubtedly the highlight of the day, the students also participated in interactive activities and games conducted by a team of motivators led by Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar himself.

Sheikh Muszaphar shared his life experiences with the students and the difficult choices he had to make to achieve his ambition. It was motivating and meaningful, and the students were delighted with the chance to meet him face-to-face and hear first-hand accounts of his out-of-this-world experiences. They also had a chance to view the astronaut’s special space suit, gloves, parachute, the mini Qur’an and other personal effects that were part of the historic space mission.

empower ECER is a twin-pronged human capital development initiative of ECERDC that focuses on Academic Skills Training for examination-year students and Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for adults in the ECER. Human capital development is vital in supporting the rapid transformation of ECER’s economy and in this context, empower ECER targets academically weak students from disadvantaged backgrounds, while its adult reach is the unemployed or underemployed, single mothers, those in low-paying jobs and aspiring entrepreneurs. empower ECER aims to improve the academic performance of students and empower the adults with marketable skills which allows them to have better employment and business prospects.

First launched in Bentong in 2010, empower ECER is currently being implemented in nine ECER districts namely, Bentong, Temerloh, Raub, Cameron Highland, Lipis, Kuala Pahang in Pahang; Bachok and Jeli in Kelantan; and Kemaman in Terengganu. As at end-2012, a total of 11,426 participants, comprising 6,776 students and 4,650 adults have benefitted from the empower ECER programme.