GOOD news! Rakan Muda, the late 90’s to early 2000’s programme designed to mould young people into nation-builders, has recently been revamped!
The new and improved Rakan Muda was launched in February 2015, with a new focus – to encourage creativity among young Malaysians.
But what was Rakan Muda all about anyway? For the average early twenty-something, it might not ring a bell, so here’s a refresher course.
When Rakan Muda was launched in 1994, it had ten youth lifestyle activities including environment and culture, martial arts and community service and sports and other physical activities. Essentially, there was something for all young Malaysians, even though most people associated it with outdoors activities.
But over the course of its 21-year history, Rakan Muda has run some epic youth-building activities like Rakan Muda Team Malaysia (RMTM), a programme dedicated to giving young Malaysians an opportunity to travel overseas and learn more about international business and trade.
Daniel Cerventus Lim, the founding curator of TEDxKL, participated in RMTM in 2002 and had the chance to go to Canada!
“I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about international business and trade, and as a 21-year-old, it was a huge deal to be able to represent Malaysia with other young leaders, helping to forge international trade,” he said.
The programme, which brought together about 20 young people representing industries like petroleum, construction and the education sector, was a joint effort between Rakan Muda and a Canadian youth development NGO called Global Vision. While there, participants played a role in doing market research for Malaysian businesses keen on expanding to Canada.
For Lim, the RMTM programme was instrumental in developing his ability to interact with people from across the world.
“The programme helped grow my leadership skills and helped me build international connections,” said Lim. As the founder of TEDxKL, this experience has proved invaluable, as he now works with a whole host of international speakers, so a wide network is extremely helpful.
Mohd Hafeez Mohd Hanafiah, head of business development at Qwork.my, also took part in the same programme at 21, representing the science and technology sector.
“It was awesome!” he said. “Not only did we get to experience a new culture, we also got to meet youth leaders from other countries, professionals, and even government leaders.”
Through RMTM, Hafeez had a rare opportunity few Malaysians have had – meeting the then-deputy prime minister of Canada, John Paul Manley, and engaging with representatives of the Canadian science and technology industry.
All that at 21, an age where most young Malaysians are relatively insulated. But Hafeez believes this can be easily fixed.
“RMTM can help our Gen-Ys become more internationally involved,” he said.
“I’m willing to admit that before joining, I was quite oblivious to other opinions, but I learnt how to communicate effectively with people from different cultures, and be receptive to different beliefs and understandings.”
Rakan Muda 2.0
At Rakan Muda’s relaunching earlier this year, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said: “(The new programme) will be open to all to be involved if there are talents to be highlighted since youths are known to have many creative ideas.”
Khairy also confirmed that the Government had allocated RM10mil this year for the programme, which will no longer follow categories like Rakan Sukan or Rakan Wajadiri as it did in the past.
He said the move would attract more young people as there would be more opportunities for them to contribute and realise their ideas for society and national development.
What he said resonated with Thivina Thanabalan, 17, who is currently doing her International Baccalaureate diploma programme at Taylor’s College.
Thivina recently joined Anugerah Remaja Perdana Rakan Muda, a Rakan Muda collaboration with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
Participants complete tasks in five sectors like physical recreation and service, in order to win Gold, Silver or Bronze awards.
Thivina and her batchmates are currently trying to achieve the Gold award. There are no prizes, only self-improvement, but isn’t that the biggest prize of all?
“When we were first introduced to Rakan Muda, we were a bit apprehensive,” she said. “But along the way, I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone. I’ve learnt how to make new friends, build social relationships and work in teams,” she added.
This month, she’s working on the physical recreation, skills, and service sectors, and has found the entire experience enriching, despite having to juggle her studies and Rakan Muda commitments.
“For our August project, we will be teaching Myanmar refugee kids how to make exploding volcanoes – don’t laugh, it’s science! – and how to amuse themselves by making paper aeroplanes,” she said. “Next month, I will probably join the Rotaract Club and take on more social projects.”
She also talked about how working towards the award has brought her and her friends closer.
“It’s like we’re going through this together,” she said. “This award has made us feel like a proper team. Even though it can be difficult at times, Rakan Muda is helping us build character, and I think it’s a great programme to join.”
Lim agrees. “I think young people should find programmes where they are exposed to the industry and other youth.
“This is the time when you develop the most and joining programmes like Rakan Muda enables you to make the most out of it.”