New lease of life for homeless who are now tour guides

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Sin Chew Daily/ANN) – She believes in offering sustainable help to the homeless for them to be able to earn.

With the Unseen Tour of KL, she helps the homeless to turn a new leaf by becoming tour guides, taking tourists to streets and corners in Kuala Lumpur for a haunted tour, street art mural tour or a mutli-cultural tour.

Instead of offering the homeless food and materials, she thought of giving them sustainable help.

That was how Shyam Priah mooted the idea of Unseen Tours Kuala Lumpur, train the homeless who are familiar with every corner of Kuala Lumpur and turn them into tour guides.

Once they earn income, they are able to start a new lease of life.

A tour guide (R) introduces street art in Kuala Lumpur to a tourist. – SIN CHEW DAILY/ANN

She is the founder of Yellow House KL. Since 2012, these tour guides served more than 600 tourists from all parts of the world.

In an interview with Sin Chew Daily, Shyam Priah said homeless in Kuala Lumpur look for places to spend their nights.

Among them are drug addicts and alcoholics. They could have left rehabilitation centre but unable to part with the life as homeless.

During the entire interviews, she refers the homeless as street friends, showing friendliness and fair treatment to them.

Unseen Tours Kuala Lumpur is a social corporate project where majority of the tour fees are reserved for homeless who work as tour guides. Each one gets to receive 60 per cent while the remaining 40 per cent is kept as fees to conduct training in future.

Apart from the tour guides, all staff working under these projects are volunteers.

She has been hoping to offer needy sustainable help. In 2015 she started to organise Unseen Tours of Kuala Lumpur but the project only managed to kick start last year after interviewing suitable candidates.

“I told the street people that I want to train them to be tour guides. I did not have any volunteers with me. I have limited funds too. I also needed to look for suitable place for them to live.

“Later I found a place for them to stay but then I realised even during training period, I still have to look after their meals.”

It was not until she joined the Volunteering International Professional Fellowship Programme (VIP) under the Finance Ministry that this programme joined her to train the street people to be tour guides.

To her, the street people know the city the most.

The Unseen Tours Kuala Lumpur offers three packages – haunted tour, street art tour and multicultural tour.

The tour guide would take tourists to visit buildings and locations known to be haunted in the city, street art in the city and the cultural sites in the city, depending on the package.

Shyam Priah also said tour guides would share some small stories of Kuala Lumpur for tourists to have more understanding about streets.

All operating costs are currently paid by her savings at initial stage.

The street people go through stringent interview process for the job, including urine test.