YSEALI workshop tackles environmental issues, moulds youth leaders

THE first ever YSEALI Borneo Eco Warriors workshop concluded on July 13 with a closing ceremony at the Courtyard Hotel, Kota Kinabalu.

The ceremony also saw the presentation of certificates to the participants by Professor Madya Dr How Siew Eng, Personal Assistant of the Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Malaysia, Sabah, as well as the Director of the Eco Campus Management Centre.

Thirty youths from various backgrounds, comprising eight delegates from Brunei, eight from Sarawak and 14 from Sabah participated in the four-day workshop from July 10-13.

According to a press statement, the workshop aimed to raise awareness on environmental issues in the region and enhance individual skills such as leadership, project management, creative thinking and public speaking. Eight speakers were invited to share their views on ocean threats, and initiatives which hope to empower youths to initiate ocean conservation in their region.

Topics covered were Climate Change and the Marine Ecosystem by Marine Biodiversity Research Centre, Universiti Malaysia Sabah; Environmental Issues in Sabah by Environmental Protection Department, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment; The Environmental Law and Conservation of the Wildlife by Sabah Wildlife Department; Turtle Conservation by WWF Malaysia; Shark Conservation by Sabah Shark Protection Association; Sustainable Marine Tourism by Scuba Junkie, Coral Rehabilitation by Reef Check Malaysia; and The Power of Storytelling by Borneo Eco Film Festival, the press release said.

The highlight of the programme was the trips to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and Sabah Wetland Conservation Centre. Participants cleaned one of the beaches in Gaya Island and collected 70 bags of mainly plastic bottles. David McCann, Conservation Manager of Scuba Junkie stated that this endless cycle of plastic debris has to stop to avoid harming marine wildlife.

Participants pose for a photo at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
Participants pose for a photo at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
During the clean up
During the clean up
Participants collected 70 bags of mainly plastic bottles in Gaya Island
Participants collected 70 bags of mainly plastic bottles in Gaya Island

Anis Bazilah, one of the delegates from Brunei said, “It was an eye-opening (experience) to see the effects that we have on the environment first hand during our field trip on the second day. It is very disheartening to see parts of our homes become ‘dump sites’. But with that, it is also nice to see that there are amazing people taking initiative to tackle these problems.”

Lectures from experts and direct field trip exposures have made the participants to come up with a proposed follow-up project after this programme. Seven group of participants pitched their ideas emphasising on education and conservation programme to instill awareness to our generation. This project will be supported by the Borneo Eco Warriors Team in terms of mentoring and funding.

Mohd Firdaus bin Haji Ismail, Project Manager of YSEALI Borneo Eco Warriors, stated that it was an honour to be the first YSEALI members from Brunei to receive the grant. During the closing ceremony, he said, “Ocean conservation is not limited to researchers and environmentalist, but it is everyone’s responsibility.”

He urged participants to take action in mitigating the ocean issues and become role model. “I hope you to become a proactive youth leader in tackling such issues which contributes to environment, and socio-economy,” Mohd Firdaus added.

The workshop was funded by the US Mission to Asean through YSEALI Seeds for Future Grant, and supported by Cultural Vistas, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Active Creation, and The Scuba Junkie.