Music was blaring full blast and a huge scrumptious cake waited in the wings to be cut. Judging by the elated looks on the faces of the kids as they ‘hip hopped’ and gyrated in a performance to impress the few adults present, they were having a whale of a time showing off their talents; to the extent that they did not want to leave the dance floor even for food. The fact that they were all having such a great time, the average passerby at these low-cost flats in Buntong would think it was a fancy birthday party.
In fact, what was happening was the Edufun party for underprivileged kids from broken and problematic homes. Organised and funded by Soroptimist International Ipoh (SII), the occasion was to provide an avenue to take these children away from the stresses of their mundane routine and stressful home environment and give them an opportunity to have fun.
This they had in megadoses, with games led by Louis Sebastian, followed by lunch and culminating in the cutting of one of the biggest cakes the kids had ever seen and tucking into food that were some of the biggest treats in their young lives. Most of them, for example, had never seen a strawberry, let alone taste one which they did on the day of the party.
Guests comprising Mr Raj Kumar from Damacai, Dr Shan (paediatrician from Fatimah Hospital), Dr Sharifah Halimah (President of Perak Women for Women Society) and social worker Mrs M Jeyakumar joined in the fun; aided and abetted by committee members which included past presidents Khoo Kuan Hwa, Jeyamalar Jeyaratnam and current President Lanka Devi.
SII set up the Edufun Centre last year to help change the lives of young disadvantaged children who either do not have opportunities for education and/or come from broken families. They identified an area in Buntong, Ipoh made up of a few blocks of old low-cost flats which SII committee members noticed had many young children of school-going age roaming about when they should have been at school. They subsequently discovered that many of these children’s parents were themselves illiterate and could not afford the school fees, cost of books, etc. or saw it more important that their children helped out with work at home. Many of them looked malnourished and withdrawn.
From an initial daily attendance of 4-5 children, presently about 20 children are attending regularly on a daily basis, where a full time teacher, Madam Salome teaches them the three Rs and gives them their daily tea which though modest, consisting of Milo, biscuits and an egg, is eagerly anticipated by the children as some of them are malnourished.
As an example, Kamala (not her real name), a 9-year-old girl whose father is unknown and mother suffers from mental illness, has shown progress in her studies and outlook since coming to the Centre. Her eldest sister, who works in a carwash, supports the family and Kamala at her tender age has to perform the household chores including cooking for the family. Initially her mother had been unhappy with her attending the Centre but Kamala has worked doubly hard to complete her household chores to be able to attend the Centre by 2pm, and as she has expressed, because she “wants to learn how to read and write more”.
President of SII Lanka Devi had this to say about Kamala, “I can’t help but feel that the Centre is like a safe haven to her where she can be a child and enjoy the other activities like puzzles, jigsaws and singing with other children.”
As such, the Edufun Centre is SII’s most important project to date. SII hopes that with better education and by providing a happy and safe environment to come under the right influence, the children will have an opportunity to change the situations that have put their families at a disadvantage since prior generations.
Soroptimist International Ipoh is one of 15 clubs in Malaysia while Soroptimist International is present in 124 countries and has 3000 clubs with over 86,000 members. It is a worldwide service organisation for women committed to a world where women and girls together achieve their individual and collective potential, realise aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide.
SI Ipoh and the Edufun Centre welcome members of the public to contribute their time, services or monetary donations to ensure the success of this Centre.
For more information, contact:
Lanka 012-519 0189 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean 012-588 2313 or email: email@example.com
Kuan 012-501 9250 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.