Kamilia Mohammad Khatib has dedicated every alternate Sunday to teaching children living with HIV at PT Foundation, a community-based non-govermental organisation that gives support services to the disadvantaged in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur. Among their clients are the homeless, drug users, sex workers and those infected and affected by HIV.
“Part of my three-hour volunteer work involves teaching kindergarten children how to read, write and count. These children are always so excited to absorb new information,” says the 24-year-old psychology graduate.
Kamilia is among 30 active volunteers at PT Foundation’s Youth Mentorship Initiative 2nd Chance Programme. It is a psycho-social, educational coaching and welfare initiative to help HIV-infected and affected children and their caregivers. These volunteers all work to build resilience and optimism in these children.
Kamilia has been a volunteer since April. She signed up after completing her three-month internship as an academic mentor – which was part of her undergraduate studies – at PT Foundation earlier this year.
The internship was an eye-opening and moving experience for Kamilia, who made home visits and taught at squatter areas around Segambut, Sentul and Gombak.
“Many of these children come from poor families. Some of them struggle in school and are not interested in their studies.
“Sometimes this is due to a lack of resources and the lack of a conducive environment to study. This is where PT Foundation comes in.
“I play the role of a friend who coached them in their studies,” says Kamilia.
Volunteer work has taught her to work with communities from different socio-economic backgrounds, regardless of colour or creed, says Kamilia who also learnt about empathy, respecting a person’s privacy and being non-judgmental.
“I hope more individuals will step forward and volunteer with the 2nd Chance Programme,” says Kamelia who hopes to be a clinical psychologist.
The 2nd Chance Programme, which has been running since 2016, is dependent on volunteers like Kamilia.
PT Foundation trains volunteers to tutor HIV-infected and affected children.
They also run a volunteering/internship for undergraduates pursuing social sciences especially psychology or education.
These interns, known as academic mentors, are paired with several children over three to six months to build their academic confidence, develop a positive attitude towards reading and learning and cultivate good study habits.
They also have psycho-socio mentors who are counsellors, psychologists, or students who are pursuing a degree in counselling.
They carry out 36 sessions over the year with children to help them cope with trauma, build their self-esteem, and improve the children’s relationships with family and peers.
PT Foundation estimates there are about 5,000 HIV-infected or affected children and youth in Malaysia, and the foundation works with about 120 clients (children and caregivers).
Many of the HIV-infected and affected children face issues such as domestic abuse, discrimination, poverty and neglect.
Due to these problems, the children have poor academic and emotional development, says the 2nd Chance Programme programme manager Supreet Kaur Maniktala.
The objective of the 2nd Chance programme is to help these children break away from the cycle of poverty, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, and domestic violence.
“Our services focus on ensuring that the children complete secondary school to pursue further education or vocational training,” says Supreet.
Their biggest challenge is recruiting volunteers.
“The problem is PT Foundation only has a handful of active volunteers – and while that is better than nothing – we need to make sure that the children can get the care and attention they need.
“The other issue is that many people do not stay for the long-term. We need committed volunteers who are willing to mentor these children,” says Supreet.
The foundation is currently on a recruitment drive for more volunteers. Since the programme’s launch, over 100 children have benefited from the programme, becoming more confident and resilient.
“By providing them with mentorship and counselling, we have seen positive improvements. The most significant outcome is a happier group of children. Many are more interested in attending classes too.
“Our goal is to elevate and motivate them to have a better life,” adds Supreet.
Taylors University Associate Professor (School of Liberal Arts & Sciences) and 2nd Chance Programme advisor Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan says the progamme’s mentoring scheme benefits the volunteers too.
“Our volunteers’ work is valued by groups that very much need the support.
“Over time, volunteers can see the impact they have on the individuals involved, and have a better understanding of the challenges faced by them,” says Dr Anasuya who is in charge of overseeing the mentorship scheme, and providing psycho-social support to parents of at-risk children.
“Volunteers become mature individuals, and in the long run, it helps them to be better counsellors and individuals,” adds Anasuya who hopes retired psychologists and counsellors could serve as volunteers too.
For more information, call 03-4044 4611 (Supreet) or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, browse ptfmalaysia.org.