Laughter and hope springs eternal in Bukit Harapan thanks to kind-hearted souls

KOTA KINABALU: Laughter and the pitter-patter of feet can be heard as one nears the Bukit Harapan charity home for abandoned children near here, not just any children but those with special needs and mental disabilities.

They are oblivious to the pandemic and economic downfall as well as other worldly concerns faced by others, or that of their caretakers.

For them, their meals are laid out on time every day and their daily lives continue in pretty much the same way, minus some outside playtime.

“We make do with what we have. Financially, we are struggling but thanks to some of our regular donors and other kind-hearted individuals, we are able to feed them, ” said Audra Keyworth, who manages the centre with her husband.

The 50-year-old said as funding has been tight following the Covid-19 pandemic and the standstill in various economic sectors, they had to alter some operational activities and tweak their finances to make sure funds would not run out to pay staff salaries and buy food.

She said while cutting down their expenses, they made sure the children won’t go hungry and their nutrient intake remains the same even though the menu has changed.

Audra said they are able to pull through thanks to all their donors, some of whom are regular individuals who think of the Bukit Harapan children when they go grocery shopping.

“We also have some friends from Sarawak who have helped a lot and continue to assist our operations, ” she said.

She said Bukit Harapan - which was set up in 1988 by her mother who is fondly known as Mama Anne or Datuk Anne Keyworth née Anne John, 73 - now houses 44 disabled children and adults.

Audra is hoping that those with a little extra to spare can help them run their daily operations by donating funds or even food and other essentials.

“We understand that many are struggling to put meals on their own table, let alone have extra to help others but if there are those who can, we hope they would consider helping our children in Bukit Harapan, ” she said.

The children who have been getting a lot of invites for Chinese New Year, Christmas and other celebratory functions over the past years seem to notice the difference this year, where they have yet to go for any "parties in hotels".

“They actually remember that people, hotels and restaurants use to invite them for dinners especially during the festive season so when they ask, we tell them that there is none but they still hope and ask when they’ll go for parties, ” Audra said.

She said they have started singing Christmas carols on their own because normally they’ll perform in hotels so the staff just allowed them to "pretend" practise their carols in the centre.

“Most of them cannot understand that we are not going out at all but luckily, there is already a doctor who is sponsoring an in-house luncheon here in Bukit Harapan for them, ” Audra said.

She said hotel operators are also sending some gifts, cakes, turkeys and other Christmas cheer to make up for the lack of parties for the children this year.

“We are thankful for all the kind souls who remember and think of Bukit Harapan folks, even during these trying times, ” she said.

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