This Unique Tour Company Helps Keep KL's Homeless Off The Streets

Unseen Tours KL gives the urban poor community a voice and a place in the city.

Cover image via Instagram @yellowhousekl/Wong Yok Teng for My Malaysia

Unseen Tours Kuala Lumpur is the alternative tour that shows you the city through new eyes

The initiative was launched earlier this year by social enterprise Yellow House KL, a small community centre-cum-backpackers hostel founded by Shyam Priah.

Unseen Tours is a unique, first-of-its-kind innovation that aims to permanently solve homelessness by training the urban poor to be tour guides.

In turn, they gain financial stability and a sense of purpose. 

Here are five reasons why Unseen Tours KL is unlike any other:

1. Part of Unseen Tours' funding initially came from Shyam's own life savings

Shyam Priah.

Image via Yusof Mat Isa/Malay Mail

In an interview with Malay Mail, Shyam shared that the initial stages of Unseen Tours KL was funded by income from the hostel and her own life savings.

Late last year, Yellow House KL received a seed grant from the Finance Ministry's Volunteering International Professional Fellowship Programme (VIP).

2. The tour guides are former street sleepers themselves who have a say in the crafting and design of the routes

Candidates are picked out based on recommendation by a government-funded rehabilitation camp for the homeless called Kem Pemantapan Jatidiri.

The tour guides are required to :
- be free of substance abuse (random urine tests are conducted every month to ensure this)
- have a certain education level
- possess passion, commitment, and discipline
- attend counselling sessions
- engage in social responsibility activities

3. One of their guides speaks six languages!

56-year-old Josh Kam was a former kitchen helper who lost his job as a kitchen helper after an accident.

Josh Kam.

Image via Yusof Mat Isa/Malay Mail

In his role as a tour guide with Unseen Tours, Josh has picked up Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and Japanese.

“When I was young, I was very interested in being a tour guide, but never got the opportunity. After I was introduced to this programme, I decided to give it a try,” Kam told South China Morning Post.

4. At only RM55, tourists are taken on an adventure that lasts at least two hours and 15 minutes

The fees collected from the tours are managed by Yellow House KL, who pay their guides via a 60-40 social enterprise model.

Tour guides keep 60% of the payment, which earns them an average of RM500 monthly.

The other 40% goes into sustaining the programme, hiring and training new tour guides, and for the implementation of future programmes.

Tour guides who are under training are also paid a small token.

5. There are three tours available: Haunted Tour, Street Art Tour, and the MulticulTour - Temple & Heritage Tour

On the Haunted Tour, tourists are taken to the sites of urban legends, where unusual activity and even spirit possessions have taken place.
Route: Central Market - Bukit Bintang
Distance: 3.5 km
Estimated Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

See graffiti in new light with the Street Art Tour where tourists are brought to 10 locations where local and international artists have left their messages of independence, unity, multi-culture, and love.
Route: Central Market - KL City Centre
Distance: 4.5 km
Estimated Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes 

Through the MulticulTour - Temple & Heritage Tour, tourists are fully immersed in the cultural melting pot of Malaysia as they are walked through the city's numerous sites belonging to people varying cultures and religious beliefs. 
Route: Chow Kit - Brickfields
Distance: 6 km
Estimated Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes

You can book your own private tour with Unseen Tours KL via their website or calling 018-3674852.

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