SPORTING a pixie haircut and a bright smile, Ananti Rajasingam walks through the halls of Yayasan Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur like a mother on a mission.
The 34-year-old chief operating officer of Yayasan Chow Kit devotedly watches over her young charges who come to the foundation seeking a safe environment.
Ananti and her team of trained teachers, social workers and counsellors dote on each child. The children are home-schooled and assessed individually, and the foundation provides services to cover their basic needs.
Ananti and her team also fight for the children’s rights; going to court to fight for the children’s citizenships and overseas placements for stateless children. More importantly, they save the children from the grasp of drug dealers and predators.
Hailing from Johor Baru, Ananti, who has a postgraduate degree in rehabilitation counselling, said the children were at risk because of the unhealthy environment in Chow Kit.
The children have seen and heard things that would make adults cringe, and most times, they are used as shields by their own family to avoid arrest.
“We deal with so many different types of children, from children of sex workers and drug pushers to unaccompanied minors who have been trafficked into the country.
“We counsel some of them and try to place the refugee minors in a caring home. Last year, we managed to place eight children in the US with families,” she added.
For Ananti, the positive results from every successful case fuels her love for the job.
“Sometimes when you help resolve one case, it leads to a positive change in others.
“It is that ripple effect that makes me want to continue helping,” she said.
Her work, however, does not end there as she continues to monitor each child’s progress through their adoptive parents.
Some of the children she has worked with continue to seek her advice as most are seeking career opportunities.
Ananti said she is lucky to have a full-time position at Yayasan Chow Kit that she loves.
She said her most memorable moments happened when she worked with people on the ground full-time. Now that she has been promoted, Ananti is handling tougher cases.
It was not easy when she first stepped into the foray of public service.
For one, her family was unsure about her decision to become a social worker. She wanted to be a nurse despite the fact that one sister was a doctor and another an accountant.
“Most families of Indian or Sri Lankan descent choose to do medicine, engineering, accounting or law. So my family could not understand my passion to be a nurse,” she said.
Ananti then dropped the idea of pursuing a degree in nursing and tried other courses including business but they did not work out.
She finally pursued a degree in psychology before continuing with postgraduate studies in Australia where she worked alongside disabled children.
Two years later, she returned to Malaysia hoping to incorporate the ideas and systems she had learnt. However, she realised that the organisations here were still lacking in catering to basic needs.
“I then decided to join the network here and learn the social work landscape. Today my parents are proud of me, especially when people walk up to them and talk about the work that I have done,” she added.
For Ananti, charity begins at home. She dedicates her weekends to her family, ensuring a work-life balance which she also teaches the children.
Her next project involves her dream of incorporating the system she had learnt in Australia.
She believes Yayasan Chow Kit is able to share some tips with other organisations to help them get a better start.
“We do not want them to go through the same problems we did, so we want to share our experiences with them.
“Next, I would like to work on programmes with children at low-cost housing schemes,” she said.
Ananti believes compassion begins from the heart – just like Mahatma Gandhi quoted “Be the change you want to see”. She hopes many other Malaysians will follow suit.