Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Malaysiakini brings cheer to refugee children

Dozens of bags filled with toys were delivered to a Burmese refugee learning centre in Kuala Lumpur by a videographer-turned-Santa Claus from Malaysiakini yesterday.

Maran Perianen, project director at Malaysiakini's citizen journalism programme, who doubled as Santa Claus for the first time in his life, described the event as "a joyous moment".

NONE"I have seen Santa dishing out presents before, but this is the first time I had a chance to become Santa and give out presents," he said. "The experience was definitely out of this world."

Maran was accompanied by Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan and 10 team members.

The toys were donated by Malaysiakini staff, while the contact to the Burmese refugee centre was established through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

NONETwo UNHCR interns helped the Malaysiakini staff carry the bags up steep stairs lined with small shoes leading to a large classroom with brightly coloured walls and a crowd of 70 audibly and visibly exhilarated children.

Santa, to his alter-ego's relief, was immediately recognised by the children, most between four to 10 years old. The toys were given out one at a time as they queued up in orderly anticipation.

Learning centres such as this are run by the refugee communities themselves as well as by several NGOs.

NONEFor the refugees, these centres are vitally important. Without them, it is highly unlikely that the refugee children would receive any education at all.

According to the UNHCR, at least 70 schools for refugees exist in Malaysia providing basic education to over 5,000 children.

The UNHCR provides funding, training and equipment to the community learning centres.

Bringing smiles to children's faces

"The children should look forward to this kind of excitement in their lives every day, not only during Christmas or other festive season," Maran said.

"This will make them feel loved and cared for."

Gan said that Malaysiakini encourages its staff to also raise funds for a number of worthy causes.

NONEFor example, it has a strict policy of not accepting gifts of any kind from individuals and companies, and all journalists are required to declare them to the office.

These gifts are later auctioned off among Malaysiakini staff and the money raised subsequently given to charities.

"It's great to be able to help bring a smile to the children's faces. Indeed, we did more than that - the kids were squealing with delights on receiving their raised subsequently given to charities.

"It's great to be able to help bring a smile to the children's faces. Indeed, we did more than that - the kids were squealing with delights on receiving their toys," he said.