The main avenue for civic engagement at the UM campus is UMCARES – The Community and Sustainability Centre. It was founded in April 2014 as a result of a merger between the community unit of the former Community and Industry Liaison Centre (CItRa) and the UMCARES Environmental Secretariat. The centre signifies UM’s commitment to community engagement and engagement for sustainability and is manned by a passionate, eclectic team of staff who are driven by the need to do what they can to help others. Capstone projects often evolve from personal interests, fueled by centre support and enthusiastic collaborations with other units, centres and faculties in UM.
UMCares does not do its work alone, but taps the expertise and voluntary interests of many others within UM. Together the UM community feeds off an adrenaline high of giving back to ensure that we remain well-grounded, empathetic and active citizens. Led by a succession of visionary directors, UMCares also works extensively with a comprehensive network of NGOs, private organisations and businesses who have community interests and sustainability at heart. It is this heart and compassion that keeps the centre going.
In the University of Malaya, community engagement is defined as:
Active and meaningful engagement within and outside the university across local, national and international levels with the aim of exchanging knowledge and enabling learning for the benefit of society.
UM’s focus is on the quality and depth of community engagement, driven and sustained by passionate individuals who understand a need as put forward by the community, then work with that community to find solutions to meet those needs. Community engagement in UM is often quiet and subtle; emphasizing capacity-building, the training of trainers and multiple levels of recipients. It is long-term and enduring, requires a deep respect for the community and takes time, resources and ingenuity. It is only by helping communities to help themselves so that they can take ownership of programs and have real self-determination that we can truly say that empowerment has been successful.
UMCares as a centre has its own capstone projects including:
1) The Kelab Sahabat UM Network (UM adopted school programme)
2) Low-income urban projects and community empowerment
3) Kelab Alami: a rural youth empowerment programme – using environmental knowledge and ecotourism as tools
4) Fat to Fit – a university and community wellness program
The rest of the university covers a huge scope of community engagement work stretching from empowering youth and juvenile offenders with sexual and individual rights, as well as skills to cope in the world beyond their village, prison or shelter; indigenous environmental/cultural practice documentation and preservation; medical and dental capacity-building for elderly and special needs’ caregivers; community capacity-building for food processing, entrepreneurship, tourism and marketing and many more.
UM’s work with communities helps them through skills development, alternative income opportunities, community spirit-building and sustainable options for nutrition and food sources, as well as recreation. Programs that incorporate a physical sustainability component include green school training and certification, organic farming and aquaculture initiatives and ecosystem monitoring and guiding.
To be a leader in absolute engagement through impactful action for inclusiveness and the environment.
To inspire and drive UM towards being a renowned university for its impactful, inclusive engagement and action for communities and the environment.
Engage, Sustain, Lead, Inspire.