Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Looking out for those living under the radar

PUTTING HUMANITY FIRST: The United Nations estimates that there are about 120,000 registered refugees in Malaysia. However, their existence is relatively unknown and so are their difficulties. Nuradilla Noorazam talks to a group of aspiring and passionate youngsters who are raising awareness of the plight of this 'invisible community'

WHEN a group of young, passionate individuals team up to help a community, it is bound to create a ripple and raise   societal awareness. 
Hoping to create such an awareness among Malaysians, four activists in Kuala Lumpur decided to assist refugees in the nation.
This year, they kicked off a fundraising programme to help supply a month's worth of food for 560 refugee families for the upcoming fasting month.
"Feed a Family" is a social initiative to help families of asylum seekers experience an enriching Ramadan by providing them with food and donations.
With a donation of RM200, donors are able to support one refugee family for the whole of Ramadan.
Operating under the name "Carefugees", an open group that provides care and support for the refugee community, volunteer Amin Rahman said the group's aim was to create a sustainable, fun and easy module for Malaysians to help those who were less fortunate through crowd sourcing.
"We mainly communicate with our friends and followers through social media and word of mouth.
"It is quite remarkable to see that there are many Malaysians who do not know about asylum seekers who are suffering in their own backyard.
"When they find out about the asylum seekers, they are willing to help as Malaysians are compassionate and charitable in nature."
"Carefugees" is still looking for funding to proceed with future projects, like a mentor programme for refugee children and supplying education materials.
Volunteer Amira Hisham said the group expected the number of refugees from the Middle East to increase in the next two weeks because of the political instability there.
"We started with 550 families for the campaign and now, we are preparing for 600 families."
Amira added that the voucher mechanism had been proven to be successful as people were more willing to donate using a voucher.
"For every RM50 donated, donors will get a blue voucher as proof of their donation.
"If they donate RM200, they will get four vouchers," she said, while her friend, Wajahat Meenai, displayed the voucher.
Social activist Azra Banu said "Carefugees" was working hand in hand with the non-governmental organisation Malaysian Social Research Institute and its Sahabat Centre, a service centre for asylum seekers who have registered with the institute, as well as government agencies.
"The number of refugees from the Middle East has doubled since last year.
"Last year, there were 290 Middle Eastern refugee families in Malaysia. Now, there are 560 families.
"We think that it is high time for us to help these families, so that they do not have to suffer."
Azra said "Carefugees" was planning to set up a school for 200 refugee children in the near future using the funds that they had collected.
"Refugee children deserve an education as much as anyone else.
"We have also realised that at times like these, women appear to be more resilient than men.
"We have women in the refugee community who can sew and cook.
"They want to work hard to cater to their community."
Refugee children who have no access to schools spend time at community centres and depend on volunteer teachers for an education. Pix by Muhd Asyraf Sawal