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A project to educate refugee kids


Giving a helping hand: Volunteers also give vocational training to students at the refugee education centres to ensure they pick up some basic life skills. (Inset from left) Teoh and Kim.

Giving a helping hand: Volunteers also give vocational training to students at the refugee education centres to ensure they pick up some basic life skills. (Inset from left) Teoh and Kim.

KUALA LUMPUR: Fresh from getting their social enterprise The Picha Project off the ground, the same founders are now focusing on helping refugees’ kids get educated under Project E-lluminate.

With this sister enterprise to Picha (the project that empowers refugee families via food catering and delivery services), Kim Lim and Teoh Min Chia aim to improve the quality of education for refugee children through sustainable funding and long-term efforts.

It’s no easy task, though, the two explain, as one main challenge is educating potential donors that such an endeavour is not something with a short-term “return on investment”.

“Many people we approach go for the short term and physical stuff such as contributing furniture, toys and food but what we need most are dedicated full-time teachers to educate children in the refugee communities,” said Kim.

Noting that depending on external funding such as donors is not a viable long-term solution, she said another component of E-lluminate is to explore entrepreneurial skills among the students.

“With that, we hope to raise funds for the schools and community learning centres.

“One way we can do this is to leve­rage our own resources,” she said.

She noted how Picha founders have taken advantage of its network of university students and friends, along with their purchasing power, to spread the word about The Picha Project and kick off sales and bring in revenue, over two years back.

“In the same way, we’ll have to find out how to turn E-lluminate into a self-funding operation itself,” Kim added.

They hope to find more qualified, full-time teachers for the initiative.

Currently, they have two teachers accredited from Myanmar, said Teoh.

“We now have three full-time teachers in two schools and community centres educating refugee children,” she said.

The team, she added, is also facing other challenges like outdated textbooks and language barrier between teacher and students.

To fund the teachers’ salaries and purchase of teaching aids and materials for this year, E-lluminate needs to raise about RM150,000.

“For a lot of the refugees, resettlement is not so likely, so rather than neglecting them, we would like to try and impart skills and knowledge to them.

“At least if they get to go back to their home country, they’ll be equipped with skills to make a future for themselves,” said Teoh.

For many refugee children who fled conflicts back home, they now live in a disadvantaged environment with limited access to opportunities such as legal work and formal schooling.

Sang Bik who teaches at a community centre in Cheras, said refugee children are often left on their own while their parents are out working.

“They just play around the compound. We worry that they will be left behind, and grow up without any work skills and can’t find a job,” he said.

For details, go to e-lluminate.my.

   

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