What is your role at the Ecoteer House Project in Malaysia? What inspired you to join?
Seh Ling: As the Project Leader, I develop the work of Ecoteer within the local community at Perhentian Village and collaborate with other stakeholders around the islands to organize environmental awareness programs. I manage the project and along with the interns and volunteers, implement and ensure the continuation of all the activities.
The most important role is to create awareness among the locals and encourage community participation to protect and conserve the islands. Conservation is not just about conducting research but to also get the research findings across to the public especially the local community through educational outreach activities.
I’m inspired to share the knowledge as I believe everyone can make a difference!
What makes the Ecoteer House Project such a unique program?
Seh Ling: Ecoteer House Project is unique because volunteers get the opportunity to experience and explore different things. We do a variety of community and conservation work such as teaching kids and adults English and environmental issues, painting houses and murals, mosaic painting, doing basic construction work, gardening, composting, conducting coral survey while snorkelling, briefing tourists before snorkel tours, doing beach cleanup, etc.
Ecoteer House is based in the village. By living in the village, volunteers get to mingle with the locals and learn about the culture and religion, experience Malay dinner in a local’s house and learn how to make kuih-muih (local desserts). Although the village has all the basic infrastructures, volunteers do experience living in a Malay village where everything is easy-going and laid-back.
What types of volunteers do you think would most enjoy participating in this project?
Seh Ling: I think this project appeals to a great variety of people, especially those interested in community work and passionate about conservation and definitely enjoy being under the sun and in the sea! We get volunteers from different backgrounds, ages and professions throughout the year. The village kids are always around Ecoteer House so anyone who is fond of kids will enjoy the time spent with them.
The project has different activities daily and we appreciate the skills and talents different volunteers have to offer. It is a project for volunteers who are keen to learn and experience more about marine life and its environment and be part of the conservation efforts through community engagement.
This projects also supports the Perhentian Islands Ladies Association. Could you tell us a bit about that?
Seh Ling: Most women in the village are housewives and are dependent on their husbands financially. We help them to generate some income by asking them to host Malay dinner for volunteers at their homes and to teach volunteers how to make local desserts. We started off with one woman and the number grew as more and more became interested. We helped them to set up the Perhentian Islands Ladies Association.
Currently there are 23 ladies in the association. These women do not only host Malay dinner and kuih making session for volunteers, they also prepare meals for packaged groups. We help them to promote their products to other resorts, chalets and dive centers around the island so that tourists also have an opportunity to experience the Malay food and culture. We also teach them English, educate them on environmental issues and encourage them to separate food waste and practice recycling.
Where do you see the Ecoteer House Project in 10 years?
Seh Ling: There is still a lot to accomplish to make Perhentian Islands sustainable. Within the next 10 years, we will continue to do educational activities such as school clubs, classes, camps, workshops, etc. We hope for a continual waste disposal from the islands to the mainland and continue to encourage the local communities and operators to separate food waste from recyclable waste. We would also work with more business operators to promote marine awareness to inform and tourists of the do's and don’ts in a Marine Park.
We want to educate as many people as we can so that they can continue to spread the word and play a part in helping protect and conserve the islands. In addition, we would also conduct marine research on the islands to understand the biodiversity, importance and threats to the marine environment and come up with conservation measures to ensure the sustainability of both the human population and environment.