Ridding a sector’s negative image
Published on: Saturday, December 06, 2014
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HEN it first got off the ground, local women came knocking on the doors of Jari Jari Spa seeking jobs as spa therapists, from school-leavers to mothers, single mothers and grandmothers.“Some had a little bit of experience but most without formal training in their own cultural heritage of these time-honoured traditional therapies,” said Jari Jari Spa Co-Founder, Datin Jeanette Tambakau.

Prior to the establishment of the Jari Jari Spa Training Academy, on-the-job training was provided with Co-Founder Jennifer Chan, a CIBTAC-certified trainer, conducting in-house training. Today, she conducts the Borneo Ethnic Massage Training Courses which have accreditation from the Federation of Holistic Therapists Association (FHT) in the UK and Ireland.

Jari Jari’s signature traditional treatment is the famous indigenous Dusun Lotud Inan therapy derived from traditional massage as practised by the Lotud Dusuns, an ethnic group from the Tuaran District (just north of Kota Kinabalu). In this rice-growing region, the women learned from generation to generation how to soothe away the aches and pains left after a hard day of back-breaking work in the paddy fields.

“Indigenous means that the technique employed and ingredients used in the process are peculiar to Borneo. For Dusun Lotud Inan Therapy, we use thumbs to apply pressure on various pressure points in the body, particularly the neck, shoulders and back. This technique unblocks the flow of energy, releases tension and relaxes the muscles,” Tambakau explained.

“But Jennifer and I have succeeded in incorporating the uniqueness of our indigenous therapies into the principles of modern spa management. This is what Jari Jari Spa is all about.”

Today, Jari Jari Spa Training Academy offers two different training programmes – Borneo Ethnic Massage Training Courses with accreditation from the Federation of Holistic Therapists Association (FHT) in the UK and Ireland, and the Spa Therapy Training Programme funded by the Federal Ministry of Tourism.

“At the Academy, we have a specially designed training programme to impart our traditional therapies to participants from all over Sabah, especially rural girls and women.

“We teach locals the techniques and use of familiar local ingredients such as cinnamon, lemongrass and ginger as well as cocoa, coffee and coconut milk,” Tambakau said, adding that trainees are also taught the high standards of customer service.

Great grandmother Nafiah Abdul Rais, 54, is financially independent today, thanks to a permanent job offer from Jari Jari Spa on completion of training at the institution nine years ago.

Incredibly, she not only supplemented the family’s income in the early days but also managed to send all her children for higher education.

“I am now a proud mother of 10, a grandmother of 20 and a great grandmother of one,” declared Nafiah who specialises in abdominal massage, baby massage, pregnancy massage and post-natal treatment and care.

What makes her a loyal and one of the longest-serving staff?

“I am very comfortable with my workplace. It’s a good working environment plus a satisfying salary. I have good colleagues and most importantly, a wonderful employer (in the person of Datin Jeanette Tambakau) who cares for the welfare of staff.

“I am grateful for the training provided, and it doesn’t stop as the lady boss constantly upgrades our skills,” she said.

“Believe it or not, I have learned to converse in basic English and how to provide hospitable service to international guests. I will continue to work as long as I am able-bodied.”

Earlier, when the family could not make ends meet because her husband’s low wages was inadequate to support the members, Nafiah decided to become a freelance masseuse with her experience in midwifery. Apparently, she had picked up indigenous massage skills from her grandmother for over 30 years since a teenager.

“Life was really tough in those days. I went from house to house to provide traditional massage. I didn’t earn much as it was basically just on call for home service,” she recalled.

So Nafiah seized the opportunity on learning that Jari Jari Spa had just opened and was recruiting skilled and semi-skilled therapists. “That was in 2005, and the rest is history. It was here that I picked up the Dusun Lotud Inan massage technique.”

It is a bright career path as discovered by Doreen Maria Gorethy Estrop who is being groomed to be a supervisor in charge of spa operation at Jari Jari Spa.

“It’s a gradual woman empowerment process when you rise through the hierarchy from supervisor to assistant spa manager and ultimately spa manager,” noted the 28-year-old mother of three.

After completing SPM in 2004, she was not allowed by her policeman father to work in a spa, forcing her to work in a hair saloon.

“Fortunately, he relented after some coaxing when he realised that spas are properly managed by genuine operators,” she said.

When Estrop learned about the Jari Jari Spa Training Academy from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, she immediately enrolled for the Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM) or National Skill Certification course. She graduated with a SKM Level 3 qualification from the Academy in June last year.

Joining Jari Jari Spa as an employee has changed her life socially and economically speaking.

“What a big difference at Jari Jari after working as a hairstylist for more than five years. I have a stable career, and together with my self-employed husband, I am supporting the family.

“I get to meet people from all walks of life. Not only that…there are ample opportunities for personal development and international exposure, all contributing to woman empowerment,” she shared.

According to Estrop, the management encourages staff members to attend short courses on customer service, goal-setting and how to negotiate, among other aspects. Apart from the Spa Seminar in Kuala Lumpur, she cited her participation in the Mandela Women Expo held in Perth, Australia in June this year.

Since April this year, she has been a multi-tasker as a qualified spa therapist, a frontline staff to welcome guests as well as overseeing the entire operation of Jari Jari Spa.

“I am proud to say that the lady boss (Datin Jeanette Tambakau) has confidence in my capabilities. I couldn’t have asked for more,” she said.

39-year-old Lesibit Jahini Abie, a Dusun housewife from Ranau, had no inkling that she possesses the right attributes to be trained as a spa therapist, not until she registered as a “student” of the Jari Jari Spa Training Academy.

For 17 years, she had laboured at the district’s hospital canteen as a worker after completing the SRP Examination at SMK Mat Salleh in 1990.

From zero experience to a skilled therapist upon her graduation in December 2012, the mother of seven (five boys and two girls aged between four and 20) is armed with skills in seven components of spa therapy, namely foot massage, body massage, facial treatment, ear candling, hot compress, hot stone and body scrub, apart from manicure, pedicure and housekeeping.

With good spa vocals, Lesibit is highly in demand following her rating as the best customer service provider.

“Now that I am empowered, my skills are an integral part of me. I have a steady career which is also a regular source of income for the family. I still have school-going children to support,” said the single mother.

From another perspective, Lesibit is proud to contribute to the growth of the tourism and hospitality industry.

“I am glad to be able to put my skills into practice for the benefit of other people.”

Addina, a Dusun from Keningau (a rural district in Sabah), is proud to acquire knowledge of age-old traditional treatments that have been passed down by her foremothers.

“These are part of my own ethnic culture but without Jari Jari Academy, I would not have known how to go about these massage techniques,” she said.

Today, she is skilled in the traditional massage technique called Tanggara (also known as Mountain Dusun Therapy), regarded as a perfect solution to aching legs and physical tiredness.

“Originally developed by the Dusuns living on the slopes of the Crocker Range around the majestic Mount Kinabalu, Jari Jari’s Mountain Dusun Therapy is ideal for visitors who may have climbed to the summit of the mountain or have been jungle trekking,” she said.

In applying this ethnic therapy, Addina concentrates on the lower legs before moving towards the torso, upper back and shoulders.

“It is both relaxing and invigorating because it soothes sore muscles, improves blood circulation and reduces stress.”

The spa therapist is also well-versed in Palad Therapy (Palm of Hand), using the palm of the hand to apply pressure on the body. The Bookan Muruts (a Dusunic tribe living in Sabah’s southwest) reportedly developed this massage technique known as “Palad”.

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