Young Fellows 2017

by Samar Al-Montser

Walking and cycling down the streets of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites is one of the most exhilarating experiences, but combine that with a bunch of enthusiastic Young Fellows from all over the world and you can only imagine what burst of energy that has created in the universe for generations to come.

They say if you want to know someone better, travel with them but they didn’t tell you that through travel, the first person you’ll know better is yourself. Having learnt a lot at the WIEF Young Fellows 2017 in Melaka, Malaysia, there’s a need to share the experience of more than learning about skills and one’s potential.

What and When
This year WIEF’s Young Fellows 2017 programme from 30 April to 6 May 2017, a leadership empowerment programme, focussed on unlocking the business of culture and heritage. Not only did the participants learn more about the potential of this sector, but they learnt how to organise an event from A-Z in a matter of days.

24 young leaders from 14 countries came together on a journey they’ll never forget in the small and culturally rich city of Melaka, where they explored their business potential in culture and heritage.

The icebreaker session on the evening of their arrival in Kuala Lumpur sowed seeds of friendship. At that moment, cloaked in jetlag and disoriented by the new sights and smell of a new city, they’d no idea how their fledgeling friendships would stand the test of the intense six-day programme.

The three-hour bus ride the next morning to Melaka kicked off the programme and each Young Fellow presented something about themselves and what they expected out of the programme.

With coach Richard Dacalos

Upon arrival, their coaching sessions began: they practised how to set aside the ‘machine’ or one’s mental state that included perceptions and other drivers that influenced a person’s decisions and experiences. Also, a new understanding of restoring and redefining integrity. Coach Richard Dacalos also introduced the board game Upstart which simulates the ups and downs of starting and sustaining a business.

Their Task
The Young Fellows were divided into groups based on a personality assessment of strengths and expertise. Their task: to prepare to take on event management tasks for the next few days. The event: A tailored programme of activities and sessions, conceptualised, proposed and designed by the Young Fellows that would achieve their specified goals.

In the war room

Each group pitched their idea for the event’s programme, logo and theme based on WIEF’s Young Fellows’ focus of culture and heritage.

As in all things in life, there must be a balance. WIEF’s Young Fellows believes in the need to have a greater awareness of the vulnerabilities we face in the world and find ways to better enhance every human beings condition.

A visit to Warm Homes Care Centre collided the Young Fellows with many local seniors. They engaged in small chats and helped clear up their store room which had accumulated a lot of donated furniture and material from people and their previous home.

At the Warm Homes Care Centre

When the visit ended, they reflected on insights and solutions to elevate the conditions of homes for the elderly while not losing sight of the main task of getting an event off the ground in less than five days.

That afternoon, the Young Fellows paid a visit to the Chief Minister of Melaka, The Honourable Datuk Seri Ir Idris Haron, to discuss the issues faced in the city and the way forward. The Young Fellows engaged in a conversation about the actions taken to address certain issues such as the care of elderly and disabled, he welcomed inquiries and explained the steps taken to address this including the institutions involved.

With the Chief Minister of Melaka

The Chief Minister also touched on the steps to enhance strategies on the preservation of Melaka. He noted that the registration of Melaka in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Cities is a status that needs to be maintained by the people. One obstacle he mentioned in developing Melaka was that people needed to engage within a more diverse public sphere and not be afraid of differences and ‘the other’.


The Young Fellows took matters into their own hands to organise an event that would address this obstacle and bring a diverse crowd together to share a harmonious flow of understanding between cultures in the city of Melaka.

Let the Games Begin!
The excitement continued. The Young Fellows embarked on a heritage hunt around the historical city. The heritage hunt gave them a chance to explore Melaka and get to know the history that earned it the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing.

Also, they worked as a team to accomplish given tasks in the pressure of the limited time given, while practicing their redefined understanding of integrity, and stepping in to assist team individuals and lead when necessary.

Farhan choosing his colours

The clues during the hunt were revealed through missions that were given such as learning and performing a cultural dance in front of an audience, painted batik, made a local shaved ice dessert cendol and enjoyed its refreshing taste after an intense ground search on foot, bicycle and trishaw to at least four historical sites.

While completing these missions they explored the city, admired its eclectic architecture that housed history of the Dutch, English and Bugis settlements and the legendary heat of Melaka that gave it its red earth as well as bountiful of vividly coloured bougainvillea.

They visited the Red House, the Malay and Islamic Museum, the Stamp Museum, Melaka’s Art Gallery, Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, the Porta De Santiago (A Famosa) and the Proclamation of Independence Memorial.

Every inch of the famous Jonker Street within the heritage site was explored. The Young Fellows scavenged around the area in search for the Batik house where they designed batiks to complete last mission.

At the end of the hunt, discussions ensued and the event planning continued. The clock continued to tick. What would be the theme of their event? How would they lure in audience? Where would it be staged? What would be the content of the event?

On the Melaka river

Jom! To the Future
Young Fellows prepared their campaign – they conceptualised, they brainstormed, they debated, discussed, disagreed, agreed and finally, came up with the theme ‘Jom! To the Future – Bridging Cultures Today for Tomorrow’. The theme showed how embracing a mix of cultures helped in preserving culture. The three groups came together to plan and execute the event and they were guided by the mentors from WIEF Foundation.

The challenges faced were mainly what the Chief Minister mentioned of the local’s hesitancy to engage with others during the ground marketing campaign, which necessitated chatting with locals. Many of the Young Fellows displayed their talents on the streets of Melaka by rapping, dancing and engaging musicians and others on the streets. This was an exemplified display of the possibilities of diverse cultures working together which attracted the attention of passers-by, even cars stopped to watch.

Chief Minister of Melaka

On the day, the event was officiated by the Chief Minister of Melaka, YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Idris Haron honouring the WIEF Young Fellows with a second meeting that week. He acknowledged the significance of WIEF’s contributions and his delight to have engaged with the Young Fellows by explaining the process of heritage preservation in Melaka.

Fireside chat with Andrew Ching

The event resumed with a ThinkTalk by Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of the WIEF Foundation, stressing the human factor in our work and dealings with each other. The session was followed by a fireside chat with Andrew Ching, CEO of E-Plus Global, and Director of the Melaka Art & Performance Festival who shared his memorable experiences of the rich and diverse cultural expressions in the Melaka Art and Performance Festival each year and the significant impact it had on Melaka and the people who gathered from all walks of life from around the world.

This gave the audience insight into Melaka’s history and a sense of the leadership of Melaka and how its heritage turned into a business for the tourism sector.

The photo booth


The hall was filled with other activities to engage the audience such as the culture tree, community canvas, and Mingle Bingo.

The Point of it All
The event was not only a way to understand how culture can be turned into businesses but it was a business in itself. Tickets were sold for a small price in exchange for an experience of diverse cultures. Within a budget of around RM2000, the Young Fellows designed, marketed and executed the event, displaying what each person had to offer, gaining an experience to carry on for a lifetime.

Networking with CEOs

This was also a platform to explore more business opportunities in this sector and beyond. To help and inspire the Young Fellows during their planning stage of the event, the Young Fellows were given the opportunity to sit and break bread with actual CEOs of successful companies, community leaders and key players of corporations.

During this face to face session, they were able to extract advice from experiences lived by these game changers. The Young Fellows were inspired not only with words but took further actions in furthering their business networks and ventures.

One of the most important things they took home, in addition to the valuable skills of event management, was not to hesitate. Hesitation wouldn’t add to the end product of anything, only action will. Not only were the experiences brought home but each of them on the Young Fellows programme in Melaka created a bond that would last a lifetime.

Meet the Young Fellows 2017
Zohab Zee, Australian Poetry Slam champion performed on the streets of Melaka, and engaged locals and tourists with new cultural vibes, creating his mark in history. Everyone did, whether it was through Mendela’s (Benin) sense of humour, Abbas’s (California) charisma and spontaneous rapping sessions with Farhan (Australia) and Issaq’s (Ethiopia) help in difficult times.

Most memorable moments can’t be forgotten with Sharmin’s (Michigan) beautiful laugh, to the energy from Nash (Philippines) and Mikail’s (Cameroon) dance moves, to Daniel’s (UK) birthday spirit.

From Pamela’s (Philippines) gorgeous personality and fashion sense to Sandrine’s (France) elegant smile and poise, and Tawfiq’s (Kenya) rush of spontaneous design and tech savvy approach, to Aldrin’s (Philippines) motivated management throughout.

Jason’s (Malaysia) persistence was to be regarded, and Qhairyl’s (Malaysia) conversations about the walks of life, Farhah’s (Malaysia) loving soul and MC spirit, and Niko’s (Indonesia) innovative dream catcher tree.

The power of Naressa’s (Malaysia) crystal rocks brought an energy to always aspire to which shined through Bahaa’s (Iraq) dedication to learning new things, Abdelkrim’s (Morocco) respect and wisdom, Karren’s (Philippines) social media blush, the shy but confident Grace (Indonesia), and last but not least, the myriad of true colours that was seen throughout the programme was captured in a harmonious tune sung by Monaliza’s (Philippines) captivating voice that no one will forget.

Young Fellows concluding dinner with Tun Musa Hitam


Photo credits IG: @dycalsiahaan , @kevinsyh15.

16 May 2017
Last modified: 24 Jan 2018
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