TWO friends hope to change the perception of Chow Kit through a community service project involving children.
Lew Pik-Svonn, 30, and her friend Fahmi Reza, 36, have given children living in this community a voice through the ‘Chow Kit Kita’ project.
Lew and Fahmi are no strangers to community service. Prior to starting Chow Kit Kita, Lew, who has a degree in Mass Communications, was teaching children on the streets while Fahmi is well known for his community arts projects.
In 2010, the duo came together to start the project and chose to concentrate their efforts on Chow Kit.
“They acknowledge that many have a negative perception of Chow Kit, with the area often linked to crime, prostitution, drugs and the large number of immigrants,” said Lew.
“We love Chow Kit for its great food and bargain shopping, especially in the bundle shops,” said Lew. Bundle shops is the term used to describe outlets selling second hand or pre-owned clothes.
“Children from the community are often teased by their classmates in school.
“Even some adults have narrow and negative perception of Chow Kit.
“There is a large number of children from the lower-income bracket who live and go to school here.
“We want these children to be proud of their neighbourhood and tell their friends all the positive aspects of this place,” she added.
Lew and Fahmi approached the people behind KL Krash Pad for permission to use the community centre to conduct activities for the children.
They then conducted a survey among the children in Chow Kit to find out what they were keen to learn.
“They said they wanted to learn video-making, photography, T-shirt and graffiti-painting, acting and using the Internet,” said Lew.
The duo then used their contacts to rope in friends who could teach these skills for free.
They used their own funds to start Chow Kit Kita and borrowed items or purchased necessities themselves to kickstart the project.
They also set up a Facebook page and listed the items they needed online.
Several private sponsors came forward, said Lew. A shop donated some paint while another company offered to print materials for free.
Lew describes Chow Kit Kita as a community mapping project whereby children create a map of the society using arts as a tool to reach out to the public.
The children conduct a survey to come up with a theme to work on for the year. Previous topics include Ethnic and Religious Diversity and Food while this year’s theme is Fashion in Chow Kit. The neighbourhood is famous for its bundle shops with dozens located along Lorong Haji Taib alone.
Fahmi said the project was aimed at allowing the children to ‘discover’ their neighbourhood. “They spoke to the public, laundry operators, bundle shop operators and even barbers to understand the fashion sense here.
“The children also recycled clothes and created interesting items such as bags and fashionable accessories. They will be wearing them and showcasing their art work and creations at the upcoming Pesta Chow Kit Kita,” said Fahmi.
They will also incorporate the photography, acting, sewing and videography skills they have learnt during the event.
Pesta Chow Kit Kita is a graduation day for these children and an opportunity for them to showcase their skills and for the public to understand Chow Kit better,” said Fahmi.
“We help to facilitate the process but the event is actually for them.
“Pesta Chow Kit gives them an opportunity to discover that their community has a lot to offer.
“Based on feedback, the children say they are more confident after being involved in the Chow Kit Kita project.
“Some 70% reported that they would use the skills they have learned,” said Fahmi.
The duo also thanked the 1Malaysia Development Board for its support through the Dana Belia 1Malaysia or 1M Youth Fund.
“We recently applied for a grant and won RM80,000. We have also received help from Khazanah Nasional Bhd,” he added.
Pesta Chow Kit Kita will be held this Sunday at Jalan Datuk Abdul Razak, from noon to 6pm.
There are also other NGOs that reach out to the Chow Kit community, including:
1) KL KRASH PAD
This is a centre for teens and youth in Chow Kit to meet the needs and rights of vulnerable and at-risk adolescents and young people.
The centre offers alternatives to risk behaviour and offers activities such as art lessons, drama workshops and dance classes.
There is an on-site cafe and a mini gym, library and computer lab.
For details, log on to www.facebook.com/groups/klkrashpad/
iM4u is a non-profit organisation that helps to nurture and cultivate volunteerism among Malaysian youth.
The focus is to instil this attribute and help all needy causes. iM4U’s mission is to instil the sense of social responsibility among Malaysian youth.
In March, iM4U participated in SME Bank’s corporate social responsibility programme “A good home. A better life. A promising youth” with Yayasan Chow Kit. This programme brought together volunteers from both organisations and allowed iM4U to extend its Cook4U programme to the underprivileged at Yayasan Chow Kit.
For details, log on to www.1m4youth.com.my/dre1m-fund/