LETCHUMANAN Anbalagan who is pursuing his law degree at a private university, credits his success to the Rotary Education Fund (REF), which provided mentorship to him.
“I was in Form Three when I joined REF. It provides students with an opportunity to develop leadership skills and connect with professionals.
“Through a series of assessment activities, we received a personalised assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, ” he said, adding that he hopes to become a lawyer.
Brought up by a single father and a grandmother, Letchumanan feels that the REF mentorship has made a difference to him. The support has given him the mental strength to forge ahead in his studies.
Looked after by a single mother, Shahmuni Ravichandran became a REF mentee when she was 17.
“I was requested by my mentor to keep a journal on my daily routine so I could improve my communication skills in English.
“Other skills such as using cutlery at restaurants has given me confidence when I attend functions, ” she said.
Shahmuni said she was taught to believe in what she could do.
She did not give up when she did not do well in SPM but went on to do Form Six. As a result, she achieved a CGPA of 3.84 and was named as one of the STPM high achievers who received a prize.
“Today I am a third year law degree student at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and I would not have been able to do so without the REF programme, ” said Shahmuni.
Tan Yee Jiar known as Ashley joined REF when she was 15 and today she is pursuing Multimedia Studies at Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka.
“Although the programme provided me with monthly financial assistance, it was their guidance that inspired me to give my best. The mentoring sessions helped me figure out my problems, ” she said, adding that she works in a restaurant in the evenings to help fund her university studies.
When Dr Yee Yoke Leong and his Rotary team first conceptualised the idea of mentoring students aged between 15 to 19, he did not know that the programme, which came to be known as the Rotary Education Fund (REF), would touch so many lives over 10 years.
Most of the children were bright and talented but due to circumstances were unable to translate that into successful grades and pursue careers of choice.
Indeed, the REF motto, “A Better Start. A Better Life.” reflected the vision to make a positive difference to young lives, by helping those who want to help themselves, and putting them on the start of the road to better lives.
This award winning project, under the Rotary Club of Bukit Kiara Sunrise (RCBKS) won the Rotary International Significant Achievement Award for 2012-2013 for Rotary District 3300 and continues to be a talking point among rotary clubs. To date, 12 Rotary Clubs and a number of Inner Wheel Clubs (a part of Rotary) have adopted the REF and in 2019, the District Action Group on REF was set up to coordinate the efforts of rotary clubs.
During the 10th Anniversary Dinner, aptly named “One Moment in Time”, Yee said it was the momentous decision to go ahead with the REF in ‘one moment’ in 2009 that forever transformed the lives of so many and spurred the collaboration between HELP University’s Faculty of Behavioural Sciences and RCBKS.
HELP University vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Paul Chan was honoured for his constant support of REF and was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow Award during the anniversary dinner. The award is in recognition of individuals who have contributed substantially to Rotary. He was also made an honorary member of RCBKS.
In his speech, Chan thanked the Rotarians, saying that: “Rotarians are recognised worldwide for their service in helping communities regardless of their backgrounds.”
RCKBS is exemplary in this way, he said.
“HELP University’s mission is “to help people succeed in life and to live a life of significance through education, ” he said, adding that they shared a common mission with similar values.
The success of REF can be attributed to the close collaboration between RCBKS and the psychologists from HELP University’s Faculty of Behavioural Sciences who together conduct the one-day REF Annual Youth Mentoring Workshop.
About 60 participants comprising Rotarians, volunteer mentors and members of the public, interested in mentoring, attend the workshop.
The programme is now into its 11th year and continues to choose capable mentees from underprivileged backgrounds.
Also present were HELP Education Group CEO Datin Chan-Low Kam Yoke, RCBKS president Anthony Pinto, district governor elect Teoh Kwan Swee and past district governor Leslie Sallehuddin.