After school tuition: SI Ipoh President Lanka Devi Sinniah (right) helps the children with their homework at the Edufun Learning Centre in Buntong.
The Soroptomist International Ipoh’s drop-in centre for underprivileged children was recently recognised for its good work.
A woman's group has set up a learning centre to get kids off the streets, believing it will lead them to a brighter future. Two years ago, members of the Ipoh Siroptimist Club (SI) went to a local neighbourhood, Buntong, to deliver aid to the families of two accident victims. There, they also noticed that the neighbourhood kids were out on the street.
“We were there to provide provisions for six months for two families, but soon decided on a larger project to help the community. Edufun Learning Centre is our long-term solution to keep these kids off the streets and offer them activities that will benefit them,” says SI Ipoh president Lanka Devi Sinniah, 67.
First, the retired schoolteacher and other Ipoh SI members had to gain the trust of the community. They initiated small projects, such as gotong royong, to meet the locals and get to know their problems. It was at one of these sessions that they came across a flat for rent, and proceeded to set up their learning centre there last year.
School-going kids come to the centre on weekdays from 2pm-6pm, where two trained teachers help them with their homework. The centre holds fun activities like arts and craft classes, dance lessons, as well as talks on personal hygiene and safety to equip the kids with practical knowledge. For example, the kids are now aware of what a sexual predator is and how to protect themselves.
“We have organised medical camps and have taken the kids for eye check-ups. Since then, these kids have shown a vast improvement in their school grades and social skills. They look forward to coming to the centre everyday and are excited to participate in the activities,” says Lanka. “The uniqueness and diversity of our project lie in its constituents and content. It addresses the needs of disadvantaged children from multi-ethnic and multi-religious backgrounds.”
SI Ipoh hopes the centre will not only help the kids academically but provide some stability to those from impoverished or even violent homes. In the past year, the number of kids who visit the centre has grown from 12 to 20.
Seeing the improvement in their kids has attracted other family members to the centre. SI Ipoh has since hired a teacher to offer sewing classes to mum at the centre to perhaps help them generate some income. “We are also training the older girls, so that they can one day mentor the younger ones,” says Lanka.
It costs SI Ipoh RM2,500 a month to run the Edufun Learning Centre, which goes to paying the teachers, the utility bills, and buy treats for the children. Thankfully, the SI Ipoh club members’ work hasn't gone unnoticed. In May, their efforts were recognised at the recent 19th SI Biennial Conference of Clubs in Kuching, Sarawak, where SI Ipoh’s Edufun project won the award for Uniqueness In Diversity.
The international conference was attended by over 350 delegates from 13 countries in the South-west Pacific, namely Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and Mongolia. SI Ipoh’s Edufun Learning Centre was one of 14 projects presented by SI clubs to vie for the award. Each SI club presented projects specific to their local communities.
“Winning this award has been an exhilarating and overwhelming journey for those involved in the Edufun project,” says Lanka who is proud of the people who have sacrificed their time and effort in making the project a success. “Buntong is only one area in Ipoh that houses families from such poor backgrounds. Now that we know the Edufun project can help the community, we are keen to expand and venture out to help more people in need.”
Lanka adds that they are planning to set up more Edufun learning centres in Ipoh.
> Know more about Edufun Learning Centre by contacting Lanka at 012-519 0189.