Heriot-Watt University urged students to take an active role in community development through EmPOWER Community Service Projects as part of the institution's 10th Anniversary celebrations this year.
As a result of the programme, students started a crowdfunding effort to raise donations for ten deserving humanitarian organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help more than '10,000 Lives.' Their goal is to raise 'RM10,000' for each of the organisations. At the end of the campaign, students raised close to RM70,000 for their charitable causes.
With this programme, the University wanted the students to realise their purpose, articulate their purpose, and have the courage to live it.
Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi, the University's Provost, was interviewed by WorldFuture, together with Kudzai Charlton, the Director and Principal of Fugee School, and Akilin Suhaib, an EmPOWER student.
He is leading a Crowdfunding Project: Full-hearted for Fugee’s Future. So far, they managed to raise RM 7,000.
The EmPOWER programme, says Mr Mushtak, is a four-level structured programme, anchored by six developmental domains and designed to deliver experiential learning opportunities that will provide the lifelong foundation for success, growth and happiness. The personalised and self-driven activities that the programme offers are designed to give our graduates the edge and enable them to achieve their full potential.
A key aim of the EmPOWER Programme is the intentional development of students who cultivate a sense of purpose and translate that into real impact on the world.
The Watt Level which is the first level is about Leading Self and Defining Impact., and is compulsory for all HWUM students; it is followed by the KiloWatt Level: Leading Teams and Influencing through Impact; MegaWatt Level : Leading Communities and Widening Impact, and, GigaWatt Level: Leading Enterprise and having Global Impact.
Speaking to WorldFuture, Prof Mushtak says the aim is to "educate graduates to confront the challenges, uncertainty, and complexity that the future will bring. As a result, we are aware that the future will be different. The future will be complicated, and change will be constant.
"We developed a programme that focused on the pupils' ability to progress. Our students go through a four-stage journey as part of the EmPOWER curriculum. On the most basic level, it's about knowing and guiding oneself," he says.
He says the first level puts a lot of emphasis on the personal and professional development of the students who join the programme.
"And it all comes down to giving significance to one's life since you can't be someone else if you can't lead yourself."
Indeed, with such a programme, the young minds are challenged to come up with ideas, get them approved and then raise funds for their execution.
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It takes a very structured process of self-discovery conducted over four weeks at the beginning of the first year of the undergraduate students, led by Impact Coaches for students
"This is where they find their purpose, and where they find or craft the means to mobilise their ideas and capacities into a positive impact on the world," he says.
"So at that level, people will start to say I'm passionate about education. I'm passionate about the environment. My purpose is to help the underserved and so on.
"There's also the domain of emotional intelligence, resilience and happiness. There is another domain of people's skills. There is a domain about creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, and this is the part that."
The domains also include critical thinking and decision making and employability and industrial relevance.
"So, for each of these domains, we devised some work for the students to complete that is related to the impact statement that they have identified for themselves," he explains, adding that those who are passionate about education and making education available to the underserved and marginalized, may start thinking of how can I do good while learning about it?"
The current crowdfunding idea arose from discussions with the decision to select 10 NGO's that cover everything from assisting flood victims and assisting in the provision of education and in the preservation of the environment.
The students then selected their projects based on their Impact statements. For example, those who want to assist in the education of refugee children would support the Fugee school.
The crowdfunding projects, the Professor says, has helped to teach entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation in a very experiential manner, rather than in a purely academic manner.
For Akilin Suhaib, this is his first time in the program and he says he learned a lot of new stuff.
"One of my strategies was to cope with my issues such as communication skills and time management. This project proved to be quite useful in student life and I'm sure it will help me in my working life too where this skill will be, you know, much needed," he says.
He was the president of the team behind the project with Fugee. With this, he learned a bit more about leadership.
On the other hand, Kudzai Charlton, the Director and Principal of Fugee School told WorldFuture that raising the funds, which were much needed, coming from the lockdowns was simply amazing.
"After the lockdowns, people were a bit reserved on how they would spend their money. Hence the idea of raising RM10,000 was a challenge.
"But thanks to the dedication from the university and the students, the total amount raised is close to RM 11,000 and that is more than we expected.
"And one of the key aspects that I'm personally very proud of is this is the result of the work that every student did.
"Speaking of the future, I believe that there is great potential in crowdfunding and I believe that the team and the institution have started on the right track," he says.
He also explained how every dollar raised is very important for the school because the lockdowns have depleted their resources.
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