My Visit to Malaysia

By Nelly Lukale World YWCA Programme Associate

My visit to the YWCA Malaysia on the March 8-10, 2012 was a great experience for me. I visited the Klang branch of the YWCA, where they have two major projects; a children’s home and the a centre for young women and girls who are mentally challenged.

Nelly Lukale

This is a joint project by the National Council of Women’s Organisations and the YWCA of Malaysia. It was set up in 1996. It provides holistic help for women, children and teenagers in crisis situations, including victims of domestic violence, single mothers, rape survivors, abused children and run away teens. Their clients are always referred to them by the government and NGOs. Some of the children and young women at this centre are unable to leave and live independently as they have no family support and  are unable to earn an adequate income.

Its aims include:

  • Empowering women to take control of their lives and learn to make decisions as well as solve conflicts intelligently.
  • Provide temporary shelter for girls and women and their children in crisis situation.
  • Provide an opportunity to discuss their problems, either face to face or by telephone
  • Arrange for necessary support services such as medical, legal, childcare and job placement, where possible, either when at the shelter or after leaving the shelter.

Currently the home has 27 children from one to 16 years old. After 17, the girls join the Kuala Lumpur VTOC. The centre gets its food, clothes and furniture from well wishers and different donors. The home has volunteers who help take care of the children and the older girls also help take care of the younger ones. The youngest at the centre is one year old Baby Daniel who was abandoned by his Mother and was brought to the centre by his Aunty. The girls at the centre are thankful to God for giving them such a nice home and someone to take care of them and take them through school. They also appreciate the small group of dedicated women who are service oriented and ever willing to care for the need of girls, women and children in crisis situation.

 Pusat Kasih Sayang (centre for the mentally challenged)

This is a residential and day training centre for intellectually different women and girls. Types of disabilities Served:  Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome & Other Learning Difficulties This project was set up in 1993 and its aims are to:

  • Advocate for the recognition of these women as an integral part of society, who need attention, acceptance and protection.
  • To develop in them self worth and dignity and give them a sense of security and of being loved
  • To give each person the training suitable to their ability so as to enable them to reach their maximum potential
  • To assist, train and support them to lead as independent a life as possible.
  • To enhance their physical, mental, emotional, social, psychological and spiritual areas of life, so as to provide them with holistic development.

Currently the centre has 20 young women and girls. Food, clothes and furniture come from well wishers and various donors. The home has volunteers who help take care of the women during the day and matrons who take care of them at night. The biggest challenge faced by this centre is to find volunteer willing to come and take care of the women, even though they get very good support from the communities around who donate lots of food and furniture.. They recently acquired a home which is 95% complete and a van was donated to them, so now they can take the young women to participate in different activities. At the centre the young women are assigned different duties every day to keep them busy and make them feel useful. They are also taught different skills such as counting, using the toilet, praying and making their beds. Ms. Olivia Sia (Chairperson) is greatful to those who have helped sustain the centre and hopes to expand the project to cater for the elderly as well. It was a good experirnce to see how these young women have different talents and skills. The were also so excited to see me and wanted to be around me all the time, touching my skin, my hair and just staring at me because they cannot talk .

My visit to the YWCA Malaysia

By Nelly Lukale, World YWCA Programme Associate

Nelly Lukale and Ms. Bhaupalan Rajendram (Left to right)

My visit to the YWCA Malaysia on the March 8-10, 2012 was a great experience for me. This was the first time I visited a YWCA association out of Africa and my expectation was to see different projects from those we carry out in Africa. I first visited the Kuala Lumpur branch, which was created in 1913. The branch has a Vocational Training Opportunity centre that was started in 1998 and up to now has trained over 1,000 girls. The main aim of the centre is to empower economically disadvantaged young women and girls in Malaysia through skills training.

Courses offered include:

–          Computer science, Secretarial tools and Basic Accounting

–          Kindergarten Teacher Training

–          Sewing and Tailoring

–          Health Worker

–          Culinary and Bakery

–          Hair and Beauty

Trainees are attached to different kindergartens, nursing homes, beauty shops and restaurants to do their practical work, before they complete the one year course. Classes in Bahasa Malaysia (Malay national Language) and English are given to the girls to improve their skills as few of those girls who have never been to school are taught how to read, write and speak in Bahasa Malaysia and English. The centre brings girls aged 16 and above from churches, welfare associations and mosques. They come from disadvantaged homes and must commit themselves to the one year training and comply with the VTOC rules and regulations.

I had a great time with the girls. We did a self evaluation and each girl told her story and why she decided to join the centre. Most girls had lost hope in life because their parents/guardians could not pay school fees. They were so grateful to the YWCA movement for giving them this opportunity as now they have the self confidence that they can make it in life. With the skills they are gaining at the centre and the strong relationship they build with each other, they are confident of becoming independent and respected young women who will achieve their goals in life. Some of the girls wanted to continue with the diploma course immediately after the one year course, but the majority want to first set up their own business and later continue their education. These young women and girls also have access to co-curricular activities organized by the staff and volunteers of the centre. Job placements are also carried out wherever possible. The girls are prepared to face the employment market with practical help given on resume preparation and interview skills.

I was also able to meet other staff, volunteers and board members of the Kuala Lumpur branch of the YWCA. My highlight was meeting Mrs. Rasammah Naomi Bhupalan Rajendram, one of the oldest members of the movement. She is 84 years old but very strong and comes to the office every day to help run errands. She joined YWCA as a teenager and helped her mother who was then a YWCA member to pack gifts for the less fortunate and also organised Christmas parties for them. Mrs. Bhupalan is one of the first women involved in the fight for Malaysian (then Malaya) independence. She joined the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, the women’s wing of the Indian National Army, to fight the British and served in Burma during World War II. Mrs. Bhupalan was a teacher in the Methodist Boys School Kuala Lumpur (MBSSKL) from 1959 to 1964 and was the principal of the Methodist Girls School Kuala Lumpur (MGSKL) for 13 years from 1970 until she retired in 1982. She always kept her membership to the YWCA, an association which is growing stronger each day.

My visit to the Kuala Lumpur branch was concluded by a sweet poem written by Alice Aruthan, the General Secretary of the branch.

Through the years of toil and care, we now admire the YWCA everywhere, what good efforts we had put in has bound us as women in need. To care, share and love to everyone we meet. There is no greater joy than to have my community’s needs. May God continue to give us strength in the work we do. God bless all, not only for now but for the years ahead too. So let us live up to our motto: “By love serve one another” to everyone we know.


Alice Aruthan, General Secretary, YWCA Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

March 9. 2012