Malaysian NGO empowers children and improves lives through education

Participants and volunteers of the Star Volunteer Programme event at Pulau Carey. Photos: Izzrafiq Alias/The Star

This story is part of a series of articles featuring past Star Golden Hearts Award winners and the award’s newly introduced categories of causes which include community empowerment, education, environment and wildlife, social welfare, and disaster and crisis relief. Nominations for this year’s award are now open. Tell us about your heroes at before July 31, 2022.

When general manager Chan Kien Ming heard about the Star Volunteer Programme event at Pulau Carey, he jumped at the chance to lend a helping hand to the community project.

He was just as curious about meeting the children who were part of this community as he was to check out the venue, located in the Kuala Langat district of Selangor, off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

“This was my first time being a volunteer for a community programme. The location attracted me and I wanted to take this opportunity to pay a visit to the place and at the same time get to know the community. What could be better than spending a good few hours with the children there?” says the Star Media Group employee.

The children in his group were initially shy but after some ice-breaking games, they quickly warmed up to him and by the end of the session, they were so enthusiastic and boisterous that he had to calm them down just so they could hear the announcements from the programme coordinator.

“They told me about themselves, what they liked and what their favourite subject in school was. They also helped the two younger members in the group, both three years old, to introduce themselves. The most rewarding part of the day for me was to see the laughter and joy on their faces. I think they will remember this day fondly, and so will I,” he says.

Star Media Group marketing executive Ariessa Razali, no stranger to volunteer work, also took part in the event.

Happy faces at the Star Volunteer Programme event at Pulau Carey, held in partnership with Suriana Welfare Society. Happy faces at the Star Volunteer Programme event at Pulau Carey, held in partnership with Suriana Welfare Society.

“This was my first time volunteering with children, so it was very exciting for me. I hope they had fun during the short programme and, in the long term, benefit from the reading materials we gave out to them,” says Ariessa.

She adds that the children really enjoyed the game of musical chairs.

“You can see the small children and even the older ones showing their competitive side while having fun. I don’t have much experience with children, so this is definitely a good experience for me.

"I learned that it isn’t hard to bring some happiness and joy to a child and I would definitely consider doing more volunteer work with children in the future,” she says.

The event, held in partnership with Suriana Welfare Society, focused on playing and learning with the children through art, recycling, music and games.

Suriana Welfare Society is a non-governmental organisation that protects the rights of children and single mothers in crisis through various educational and upskilling programmes.

Children from Pulau Carey engaging in fun activities with a volunteer during the Star Volunteer Programme event recently.Children from Pulau Carey engaging in fun activities with a volunteer during the Star Volunteer Programme event recently.

Its core activities include preventive and rehabilitative programmes to help vulnerable children, single mothers and families living in Desa Mentari PPR (People's Housing Project), a high-density, low-cost flat complex in Selangor with over 10,000 families.

Among its main initiatives are the food aid programme, wellness/mental health programme, and Play and Learn (PAL) Centre where children learn through play. The NGO recently expanded its activities to Kepong (Kuala Lumpur), Balakong (Cheras) and Pulau Carey.

“Our aim is to empower the community to improve their living conditions, increase their standard of living, eradicate poverty and provide children with hope for the future. We strive for a community free from exploitation and poverty, where children can grow and develop in a safe and secure environment, and where women and girls have their rights protected and upheld,” says Dr James Nayagam, the NGO's founder and chairman.

Suriana Welfare Society is one of the Star Golden Hearts Award (SGHA) 2021 winners and also a Gamuda Inspiration Award 2021 recipient. Each year, the SGHA honours 10 deserving Malaysian unsung heroes. The Gamuda Inspiration Award winner is selected from this pool.

Nayagam notes that the awards have strengthened the NGO's credibility as a welfare organisation and helped spread awareness among the public about the work it does.
“These awards have affirmed Suriana’s effort in helping children and their families. It has also attracted more volunteers to come forward to help us with our projects. During the lockdown, we provided food to 25,000 people.
"We were able to feed hungry families at a time when people faced business (problems) and loss of daily income,” he says.
Currently, the NGO is in the midst of setting up homes for orphans and abused children. The plan is to have at least one orphanage in Petaling Jaya and possibly another in Kuala Lumpur.

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