Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Myanmar teenage refugee dreams of being a rock star

KUALA LUMPUR: Like most teenagers his age, Myanmar refugee Gideon Ni Ssi Ki Dawng also has ambitions and dreams of becoming a professional musician as great as Kurt Cobain of rock band Nirvana.

But being merely a refugee living in Malaysia, he knows such a wish was next to impossible.

“But it would be great if I can get a professional qualification from a university so that I can learn music further, then work hard to make a lot of money,” he told Bernama at the “Everyone Has Hope” gala night here on Saturday.

Still, the 17-year-old said even though he did not have the opportunity to attend formal music lessons, nothing would stop him from learning and pursuing his dream in music.

Gideon, who received his basic education at Fugee School, Gombak, said he loved to play guitar and sing. He learned to play the instrument by himself without proper guidance from anyone.

“I always wish volunteers with a music background would come and teach music regularly at my school.

“I want to showcase my talent all over the world, showing that there is hope to end war someday. Through music I’m making my spirit come alive.

“There are four used guitars in the class; actually we’re figuring out how to earn enough money to change the broken strings, but it’s okay, I’ll make the most of it,” he said.

Gideon is one of 35 participants in the “Everyone Has Hope” photography and fundraising initiative by Taylor’s College Canadian Pre-University and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The programme involved Myanmar, Syrian and Somalian refugee youths living in Malaysia.

About 50 pictures taken by the refugees were displayed at the exhibition as they had been taught basic photography skills by volunteers comprising college students, local photographers and UNHCR through a six-month workshop.

Gideon came to Malaysia with his elder brother about five years ago, and deep in his heart there is always the hope he will be reunited with his family members who are still living in their home country.

“Both my parents and little sister are still living there, in my village… there is only one telephone and so our contact is very limited,” he said.

The teenager, who is from the ‘Chin’ ethnic race in Myanmar, is positive he will have a better future living in Malaysia.

“I wish the conflict in my country will be over soon. I wish I can live peacefully with family and friends,” he said.

Like Gideon, Syrian refugee Tuka Sahyoun, 13, also has big dreams and wants to become a famous artist.

The bubbly girl believes she can, through her passion in painting and drawing art, deliver messages for world peace and unity.

“I hope through my artwork I can inspire people and encourage them to be kind and to love one another,” she said.

Meanwhile, project founder Paula Reyes hoped the project would ignite endless passion for learning and growing among refugee children, besides optimising their full potential.

“Everybody deserves access to education and exposure and so do they (the refugees); we hope the community can open their eyes and not think negatively of them,” she said.

Based on UNCHR statistics, 154,140 refugees and asylum-seekers were registered with UNCHR in Malaysia as at end April this year, with 139,780 of them from Myanmar.