Monday, October 7, 2013

Divas come to the aid of Rohingya children Read more: Divas come to the aid of Rohingya children


COMMUNITY WORK: Soroptimist International Club of Johor Baru holds glittering fundraiser for its projects to equip the children with education and life skills

JOHOR: THE Soroptimist International Club of Johor Baru (SIJB) hosted a "Diva Evening" recently.
The glittery affair had guests arriving dressed in glamorous gowns and tuxedoes for a good cause.

They came in support of SIJB's community projects, the main one being Project ABC, a school project that had its humble beginnings in 2007 at a surau in Kota Tinggi.

At that time, 61 Rohingya students between the ages of 6 and 15, attended classes sitting on the surau's concrete verandah floor for about 6 months.

In line with the United Nation's Millennium Goals, the SIJB's Project ABC I & II was established in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help Rohingya refugee children get a basic education.

While the Rotary Club of Kota Tinggi contributed towards the extension of the verandah and provided students with schoolbags in 2007, it was hardly a conducive environment for learning so SIJB worked hard to raise funds to acquire a proper place for a school.

Through the generosity of donors, sufficient funds were raised to rent the top floor of a new shophouse in Kota Kechil that was renovated to create four classrooms and the first SIJB education centre which started in May 2008.

Today, Project ABC has expanded to two education centres in Kota Tinggi and Kulaijaya with over 150 students studying a syllabus that includes English, mathematics, Bahasa Melayu, science, moral, physical exercise and life skills.

Handicraft skills in sewing, embroidery, cross-stitch as well as baking and cooking are taught in the life-skills classes.

During the Diva Evening, some of the handicraft items and food baked by the students were also on sale.

The highlight of the evening's programme was the Rohingya Children's Choir who delighted the audience with songs in English and Bahasa Melayu.

Guided by musician, conductor and composer Juliette Lai, the choir presented their rendition of, We Are the World followed by local favourites, Lenggang Kangkong, Rasa Sayang and Geylang Sipaku Geylang.

It was their first time performing for a large audience and they were encouraged by the support of several teachers as well as SIJB president, Soraya Alkaff-Gilmour.

"It's not so much about their talent but their participation which is important," said Soraya who was also the event organising chairman.

Working closely with her committee, they coached the students and provided an entertaining programme for the audience.

Aside from the choir, a group of boys presented a Nasyid or religious song while another group of boys showed off their hip-hop dancing skills.

At the close of the presentations, 13-year old Mohd Zubai Abu Tahir and Nur Hafizah Fir Mohamad, gave a thank you speech to express their gratitude to generous donors and sponsors.

Speaking in flawless English without referring to written notes, their clear enunciation and confident voices was quite admirable.

The evening continued with performances by guest artistes, Tengku Atiah, Nadhirah and Chin Pei Jia who performed on the erhu, a Chinese musical instrument.

To raise funds for SIJB projects, three oil paintings by artist Sunil Chitrakar @ Sun Chitra entitled, Nepalese Women Bathing in Bagmati River, Kathmandu, Nepal, Dancing during Teej and Daily Life in Kathmandu, Nepal were successfully auctioned off.

To end the evening, a musical comedy skit was presented by popular Singapore comedian, Hossan Leong, who captivated the audience with his brand of humour.

SIJB is aware that helping Rohingya students does not end when they are past school-going age.
To help them become financially independent, they should be equipped with marketable skills and in view of this SIJB is seeking ways to provide them with further education and equip them with life skills.

At the moment, SIJB is working in partnership with HELP University to train and equip students with certificate and diploma courses in culinary, plumbing, carpentry, tailoring, mechanical and electrical wiring skills.

For their commitment to the Rohingya School Project in Kota Tinggi, SIJB was awarded the 2008 Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia (SIROM) Best Practice Award.

SIJB needs sponsors because the education centres operations depends solely on public funds for monthly expenses such as staff salary, rental and utilities as well as volunteers for future projects for students.

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