Charity work was always something familiar to Roland Edward when he was growing up.
The Kuala Lumpur-born Roland remembers how his mother used to pour her soul into helping others.
“My late mum worked for a home for underprivileged children for many years and for a season, we used to take care of foreign students at our church who were away from home, especially during Christmas, ” he recalled, referring to his adoptive mother who passed away from cancer in 2010.
Roland was adopted when he was just a month old by a Eurasian couple. Although he was the only child and the family suffered financially, Roland says he grew up in a happy home.
“I’ve always believed in doing good work. It’s not just part of my beliefs but also what my parents did when I was growing up. I guess you could say I had good role models at home.”
Roland only found out that he was adopted after his mother passed away and after a lengthy and what he calls a “miraculous” search, he was reunited with his birth mother and two half-brothers four years ago.
Currently, the 38-year-old works as the engagement and partnership manager for Be My Protector (BMP), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that fights against modern day slavery in Malaysia.
A joint initiative of human rights organisation Tenaganita and social enterprise Change Your World (CYW), BMP was originally launched as an app in 2018, offering every Malaysian the opportunity to report human trafficking and child exploitation. It was later registered as an NGO in 2019.
Roland first joined CYW in 2014 on a voluntary basis. With an affinity for the performing arts, Roland trained other volunteers in performing short skits that were part of CYW’s awareness campaigns.
“In church, I picked up drums when I was 16 and also got involved in acting in church plays, ” he shared, adding that he has also dabbled in standup comedy (under the moniker Random Roland), dancing and other plays outside of church.
In January this year Roland, who stays in Kampung Pandan with his wife, joined BMP full time.
While many businesses and activities experienced a slowdown with the government’s movement control order (MCO), Roland says things just got busier for BMP during this period.
“We changed our scope to heed the current needs of our people and nation. I think we always have to remain relevant to the community around us.
“Working alongside another NGO called The Giving Bank, we have been running two initiatives, namely feeding those in need and raising funds to get personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners.
“We also just added an emergency food assistance function into the BMP app as we notice this could be something needed as well during these times, ” explained Roland, who also keeps busy with his own YouTube channel where he shares his unfiltered thoughts for the day.
Although Roland enjoys what he does, he admits that working for an NGO has its own set of challenges.
“In general, some policies in place are not relevant or ineffective in putting human lives as a priority. So, having to work around this or having to wait can be very frustrating when lives are on the line.
“It’s also a 24/7 job because you never know when you will be called into action to save lives. It can be tiring physically and emotionally.
“Furthermore, awareness of modern day slavery is low in our country. I find that people are desensitised to the point that it’s just another story or just another statistic, ” he bemoaned.
Nevertheless, Roland has never entertained the idea of throwing in the towel.
“Working towards saving lives alongside people who want to make a change, real change, gives me hope that Malaysia can be a country that sets a standard for others to follow, ” he shared.
“At the end of the day, when we leave this planet, we bring nothing with us except knowing how we have impacted the community around us.
“I sincerely believe that all of us have been blessed with different gifts and talents which are not just for us, but to also bless those around us. And we can bless knowing how much we have already been blessed, ” he concluded.
For more details about BMP, visit bemyprotector.com.
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