“I want to go to school like my friends, but my parents cannot afford it. How am I to achieve my dreams? I cannot change my situation,” This is just a fictive example of what a disadvantaged child might be experiencing. Poverty hurts children by destroying their dreams and future. It becomes a huge barrier for them to obtain education and other necessities in life.
This issue became my concern when I met two Myanmar kids at the alley behind my house, collecting recyclable materials to be sold for money. Their clothes were torn and dirty. As I gave them water, I asked about their parents and whether they were schooling. The older girl said that their father had passed away in an accident and their mother, a housewife, is expecting a third child. The girl is now obliged to become the breadwinner of the family.
Listening to all this, I teared up. I had never felt so helpless in my entire life. That was when I decided to do some volunteer work while waiting for my SPM results. I did some research and found a volunteer centre close to my place — the Dignity for Children Foundation. I was amazed by how two noble people, Rev. Elisha Satvinder and his wife Petrina started this foundation from scratch.
In 1999, through the outreach programme of New Covenant Community Church, Rev. Elisha Satvinder and his wife Petrina discovered many underprivileged families in the Sentul area. Concerned over their plight, the church began to provide basic home improvement services, grocery distribution, arrangement of free medical check-ups, raising support for school supplies, job placements and counselling. But they realized that with limited resources and man-power, this work, while helpful, would not have the lasting impact they wanted to see.
Believing that quality education was the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, they focused solely on education. I arranged to start volunteering there the very next week.
The first two weeks, I helped in the direct mailing section where I made friends of different ages. Although, the primary school students and secondary school students came from poor family backgrounds, they always had smiles on their faces. I sensed that it was the joy of meeting their friends and the excitement of learning something new each day. I was assigned to help out in the toddler class after the direct mailing. At first I was a little nervous about dealing with children aged 2-4. But the friendly teachers welcomed and guided me on how to deal with toddlers.
The toddler classroom is equipped with tools to help the little ones explore and learn new things. Creative displays are set up to give the toddler’s classroom a lively atmosphere. The toddlers are exposed to handicraft and hands-on learning. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we would bring the children outside to do some sports. It is ever so entertaining to watch them learn a new game. At the end of each class, there would be a session called “Circle Time” where the toddlers would gather around in a circle and sing nursery rhymes together.
I am grateful to have met people with positive personalities at Dignity. Aunty Rem, Teacher Tara, Teacher Durga, Teacher Kim Nu, Teacher Suziana, Teacher Rennea and Aunty Naghma are just a few out of the many there whom I got to know. They taught me how to deal with toddlers and that is something which I will never forget. The three months experience I gained in Dignity is an unforgettable one. Hats off to all the people here in Dignity for Children Foundation who come together for one purpose only, that is to transform the poor through education.
By Arvena Sivaganese, 18, Selangor
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