KOTA BHARU, 20 JANUARY 2013 :Seven top achievers of the East Coast Economic Region (ECER)’s empower programme in Kelantan beamed with pride when they were awarded certificates of merit by Prime Minister YAB Dato’Seri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak at the Jelajah Janji Ditepati here today, in recognition of their outstanding achievement.

The Prime Minister did the honours when visiting the booth of the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC), at the event which showcased the achievements of government bodies and agencies. YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib was accompanied by ECERDC Chief Executive Officer, YBhg. Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John.

The seven empower participants include two housewives turned entrepreneurs and five top scoring students in the 2012 UPSR and PMR examinations. empower is a human capital development programme implemented by ECERDC for the ECER locals, which consists of the Academic Training Programme for students, as well as Skills and Entrepreneurship Training Programme for adults.

At today’s event, the Prime Minister met Puan Halimah binti Che Harun, a full-time housewife from Jeli with five children, who is now able to supplement her family income with her cake business which earns her a net income of between RM6,000 and RM7,000 a month. Her cupcakes, chocolate cakes and muffins are currently being sold in restaurants in Jeli. With the help of her trainers from the empower Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme, she also sells her cakes online, and has a dedicated Facebook page. Halimah was judged as the overall winner of the empower Skills and Enterpreneurship Development Programme in 2011.

“The empower programme has already proven to be successful in terms of its contribution to the development of the local community and the socio-economic well-being of its participants,” said YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib.

ECERDC Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John said empower was launched in 2010 to raise the quality of human capital of rural and disadvantaged communities and enable them to play an active role in the rapid transformation of the region.

“Based on the philosophy that no one should be left behind, empower aims to unlock their potential. Adults are taught skills to improve their employment and business prospects while students are taught learning skills to improve their academic achievement.”

Another female entrepreneur who was honored is Napisah binti Said, who owns and manages Bayu Beauty House, a bridal beauty shop in Bachok, Kelantan. Her husband is a businessman, and she was encouraged to follow in his footsteps. The enterprising Napisah also offers mobile phone services at her shop. On average, she earns RM2,000 a month from the bridal business and another RM1,500 from the mobile phone-related services.

The Prime Minister also congratulated UPSR top scorers Iskandar Hariz bin Mohd Zulkifli from Sekolah Kebangsaan Jeli and Muhamad Afiq Adhwa bin Zunaidi from SK Beris Kubor Besar in Bachok; and three PMR top scorers Wan Siti Aisyah binti Ahmad Yarani from SMK Ayer Lanas in Jeli, and Nur Nabilah binti Mohd Zaim from SMK Kandis in Bachok and Orang Asli student Asrina Salim from SK Sg Rual in Jeli for their outstanding results in their respective public examinations. Each received a Certificate of Merit.

In addition to its Skills and Entrepreneurship Training Programme, empower also involves the Academic Skills Training module for disadvantaged rural students sitting for the UPSR, PMR and SPM examinations. Every year, 400 students from each of the selected districts in the East Coast Economic Region are enrolled in empower’s remedial and motivational classes. In addition to the examination syllabus, they are taught learning skills such as mind mapping, speed reading and photographic memory-power to boost academic performance. Equal emphasis is given to confidence-building, self-motivation, soft and social skills. Teachers have reported a marked change in the attitude of Empower students, whereby they have also become more attentive in class and are able to study with little supervision.

Another significant ECERDC achievement in the state is the South Kelantan Agropolitan Project, a poverty eradication initiative in the district of Gua Musang. In March 2012, over 200 hardcore poor families moved into the newly developed Taman Agropolitan Rantau Manis, Gua Musang, which comes with full-fledged community and recreational facilities. Each family is now living in a comfortable, 3-bedroom home which also comes with its own cocoa cultivation plot. Cocoa cultivation acts as the secondary economic activity in SKA, while oil palm plantation serves as the primary economic activity for the project participants. Each SKA participant is expected to generate a monthly income of RM1,100 per month through both economic activities.

Encouraged by the success of Phase 1, ECERDC has embarked on Phase 2 of the SKA in 2013, with a similar development for another 300 hardcore poor families in Rantau Manis.

One of ECERDC’s strategy in Kelantan is to tap into the vast agricultural potential of Kelantan for the socio-economic benefit of the local population. The ECERDC booth at Jelajah Janji Ditepati programme also showcased key ECER projects in Kelantan such as the Pasir Mas Halal Park and the Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park. Pasir Mas Halal Park will be focusing on the food sector, including value-added ingredients and additives, and will leverage on its close proximity to the Thai border to play a vital role in the cross-border trade. Meanwhile, the 101.7 hectare Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park will be focusing on the fisheries sector value chain, especially in the downsteam industries, and tourism sector.