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. 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