KUALA PAHANG, 7 MARCH :Yet another success story of the East Coast Economic Region (ECER)’s empower programme was unveiled recently with the official opening of Cafe De Kuala in Kuala Pahang by the Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak in conjunction with the launch of the Rural Transformation Centre (RTC) here on March 1.

The café is operated by Nor Alisa Azam, 28, a participant of empower ECER Mahkota Kuala Pahang programme, which was launched by the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) in July last year as part of its human capital development initiative in ECER. The café’s opening was indeed significant as it marks the first local entrepreneur business which has been established as a result of the empower ECER Mahkota Kuala Pahang programme.

De Kuala Cafe offers a wide variety of affordable dishes to an already existing customer base comprising UMP students and Kuala Pahang local residents. Based on this target market, Puan Nor Alisa’s café business is expected to generate a daily revenue of between RM400 and RM500, or more than RM10,000 monthly.

Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC, Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John and Vice Chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP), Professor Dato’ Dr. Daing Nasir Ibrahim were present to welcome the Prime Minister and other VVIPs, including YAB Dato’ Sri DiRaja Adnan Yaakob, Pahang Menteri Besar, at the opening ceremony of De Kuala Café on Friday.

Consisting of Academic Skills Training for weak and average students, as well as Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for adults, the uniqueness of empower ECER Mahkota Kuala Pahang lies in the collaboration between ECERDC and UMP.

ECERDC Chief Executive Officer Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John said empower ECER Mahkota Kuala Pahang will help the target groups improve their academic achievement and their income respectively through the valuable skills provided under the training programmes.

“Puan Nor Alisa’s success in opening the cafe is a proof that, given the right opportunities, training and support, the local residents of ECER are also able to improve their socio-economic status,” he said.

“Following the success story of Puan Nor Alisa, we are confident that empower ECER Mahkota Kuala Pahang will continue to help enhance the social landscape of Kuala Pahang and allow the participants to build a better life for themselves and their families through improved academic achievement and higher monthly income,” said Dato’ Issace.

“What’s remarkable is the speed of which she gained confidence to open her own café,” said UMP Vice Chancellor Datuk Dr Daing Nasir, adding that Puan Nor Alisa is one of the 25 Kuala Pahang residents who participated in the six-month long 1Malaysia cooking course under the empower initiative.

Participants of the empower ECER Mahkota Kuala Pahang’s 1Malaysia Cooking course were taught how to prepare Chinese, Indian, Malay and Western cuisine, as well as pastry-making. The training also covered modules on hygiene, entrepreneurship and Information Technology.

Nor Alisa, a single parent, used to help her mother sell food at a canteen, but when her mother fell ill, she stopped working to care for her mother. While at home, she started to take up cooking. Later, Nor Alisa signed up for the 1Malaysia Cooking course offered under empower ECER Mahkota Kuala Pahang and the rest, as they say, was history.

“Opening my own café has always been my dream and today it has come into reality. Taking part in the empower ECER Mahkota Kuala Pahang training course has given me a tremendous boost of confidence and I will strive to make this business a success. In this regard, I truly appreciate the trust and support given to me by ECERDC and UMP all this while,” said an emotional Puan Nor Alisa.

A total of 75 adults from Kuala Pahang were selected to join the Skills and Entrepreneurship Training Programme which has been tailored to meet the needs of the local community. Other courses offered include boat repair and maintenance, as well as mobile phone repair, among others. Armed with the appropriate skills, the participants will be able to get job placements or set up their own businesses to generate a more steady and higher income.

empower is a twin-pronged human capital development initiative introduced by ECERDC which 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 accelerating the transformation of ECER’s socio-economic landscape and in this context, empower targets academically weak students from disadvantaged backgrounds, while its adult reach consists of the unemployed or underemployed, single mothers, those in low-paying jobs and aspiring entrepreneurs. empower aims to improve the academic achievement of students and introduce or enhance the skill sets of adults in order to improve their employment and business prospects. Programmes offered reflect the needs of the job market as well as that of the community.

First launched in Bentong in 2010, empower 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 programme.