Halfway homes for youths who leave orphanages on turning 18 are hard to come by in Malaysia.
The Teratak Kasih halfway home in Sungai Buloh was set up early this year as there was a realisation that youths still need assistance, support and guidance after turning 18.
It was set up by the Rumah Kasih Harmoni Paya Jaras orphanage.
Teratak Kasih founder Jamaluddin Wahab, 38, said his own life experience spurred him to set up the halfway home.
“When they leave the orphanage, youths are without family support and are easily influenced into drug-related activities, gangsterism, become mat rempit and some even get involved in prostitution.
“I do not want them to suffer so I created this halfway home,” said Jamaluddin, who also manages the Rumah Kasih Harmoni Paya Jaras orphanage.
He said all the youths lived at the halfway home on their own volition.
The halfway house, one for boys and another for girls, is located close to the orphanage.
Brothers Mohd Akmal Mohd Kori, 22, and Mohamad Fakrunwazi Mohd Kori, 20, are among the home’s 10 residents.
The brothers, who were 13 and 11 respectively when they were sent to Rumah Kasih Harmoni, moved to the halfway home when they turned 18.
“My brother and I are from Baling, Kedah, and our family is very poor.
“I am glad we were able to stay in the halfway home and have managed to get some skills certificate.
“If it was not for the halfway home, we would be without any skills and qualification,” said Mohd Akmal has a certificate in technical studies and his brother has a certificate in accounts.
They plan to find better jobs and live independently later.
Kamaliah Kamarudin, 21, stays at the halfway home and works as a kitchen helper at a mall.
She is a slow learner and was sent to the orphanage when she was 11 after her mother died. Her father suffers from mental illness.
When she turned 18, the orphanage sent her to live with her relatives but she was neglected.
After being sent to the halfway home, she not only got a roof over her head but also secured a job.
Norhazwani Shaidan, 19, from Kedah has been in an orphanage since 16.
She holds a certificate in childcare and resides at the halfway home too.
She works for the orphanage and cares for the children and babies.
Siti Syaswani Ramli, 18, was living in the orphanage since she was 10 years old. She started work in a children’s daycare centre this month.
She decided to live in the halfway home because her father passed away and her mother suffered from mental illness.
The youths who live there are given the opportunity to pursue certificate courses or work.
Jamaluddin said the residents were required to get their driving licence either for a car or motorcycle before leaving the home for good.
He said some residents worked while pursuing certificate courses.
“At the halfway home, they are exposed to short courses at government vocational training centres such as early child care, cooking, gardening, carpentry and technical skills.
“The education and driving licence they get is sponsored by donors,” he said.
Such short courses enabled youths to enter the workforce, said Jamaluddin.
The youths pay RM50 rental each month to live at the home and also shared the water and electricity bills.
They are required to do their own laundry and help clean the halfway home.
“Some of the orphans from this home who are provided accommodation by their employers tend to come back here on weekends and public holidays as they have no other family.
“This is their family and they are safe here.
“We want them to be independent and we provide them guidance so they can live on their own,” said Jamaluddin.
He cited a case of a girl who left the orphanage after turning 18 and returned to her relatives home but was later found roaming the streets.
“The girl is a slow learner and she was neglected.
“We took her back and she lives in the halfway home and will start work soon.
“In many cases, the relatives are either poor themselves or do not care about the orphan’s well-being,” said Jamaluddin.
Based on his own experience, his relatives were not bothered about him and his siblings after his father’s death.
“My father died when I was 17 and my mother was paralysed. I did well in SPM and received an offer to study at Universiti Teknologi Mara but I had to reject the offer.
“My family was just too poor and I had two younger siblings to care for.
“My first job was as a clerk and I walked many kilometres to work because I did not have a bike.
“I sold fruits door to door and worked part-time in a furniture factory to care for my family.
“I do not want these orphans to suffer like me,” said Jamaluddin who aspired to set up a halfway home to help others like him.
He said the halfway home was in the midst of setting up a T-shirt printing shop, hair salon and bakery.
Jamaluddin dreams of providing job opportunities for youths.
“If we can set up these businesses, they can train here and later manage their own business,” he said, advising others managing orphanages to attend courses and keep abreast with the times and demands of operating a home.
“Don’t only go around looking for donations, but also focus on raising these orphans.
“It is important to make sure they are able to fend for themselves once they leave the orphanage,” he said.
He also urged orphanages to set up halfway homes to help youths enter the workforce, earn a living, have a family and in the long-run, a brighter future.