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The children were shown how to make scrumptious egg mayo sandwiches and potato salad by G Hotel’s executive sous-chef, Chef Ketut Gede Dodi.

Feature

Healing and Housing Needy Children

The Children’s Protection Society works to provide for the deprived.

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My first visit to the Children’s Protection Society (CPS) earlier this year coincided with a children’s cooking class hosted by G Hotel. The stony silence of the building’s exterior belied the happy chaos within; children, decked in white aprons, gleefully raced past one another, filling the air with chatter and laughter. It was difficult to imagine that these kids had had a tough start in life.

“In Penang, back in the 1990s, there were homes for orphaned children, but there weren’t any for children who were abused or who were found wandering the streets abandoned by their parents,” said Datuk Seri Nazir Ariff, the president of CPS. “I thought to myself, it was exceedingly unfair that these children’s lives were to be dictated by the negative circumstances they had endured in the past.”

A dedicated philanthropist, Nazir felt compelled to create a safer, more liveable environment for children at risk, and in 1991, moved to establish CPS—a non-profit, non
governmental organisation that provides these children with a supportive and conducive upbringing. Focus is placed on their physical and emotional development, as well as on their educational, social and recreational skills. The society also works with parents and family members who struggle with urban poverty, with the aim of eventually reuniting them with their children.


A Time to Heal

Expertly picking her way through the mass of bobbing heads, CPS executive administrator Rajam Ramasamy gave me a tour of the premises as we discussed the conditions of the children. “At present, we have 38 children between the ages of five to 18 living in our care. These are children who come either from poor single-parent households or dysfunctional families.” The organisation also doubles as a sanctuary for children who have fallen victim to physical and sexual abuse. They are referred to CPS by the Social Welfare Department, and often arrive at the centre bitter and broken. It is a challenging process to engage these children in conversation. “Their traumatic past has made them wary of people they are not familiar with,” said Rajam, “and for that reason, it takes us a while longer to gain their trust and for them to be able to open up about themselves.”

The children are encouraged to take on responsibilities in the shelter’s organisation, from delegating household tasks to planning recreational activities.

To help heal the children’s emotional wounds, CPS sends them for play therapy, which is to kids what counselling is to adults. Play, the natural medium of expression for children, helps them express their feelings more easily. “In fact, the older of the two children we sent for therapy has just completed her sessions. It helped her realise that she can’t hold on to her anger forever. She has to learn to let go in order to move forward with her life.”


Salvation through Education

According to Humanium.org, about 10% of Malaysian children today are in want of an education. “A few of our children, up until recently, had never attended school despite almost being pre-teens. Our priority is to put them into the schooling system once they are well settled here.” Rajam recalled the experience of a five-year-old girl who was neither able to read nor write when she first came to the home. “Our German volunteer Julia worked patiently with her every day, and now, she is even able to do mathematical sums. It’s very rewarding to witness a child experience such breakthroughs; you can positively see the delight on her face.”

CPS’s unwavering effort to assist these children in pursuing educational mobility has enabled them to see beyond the limitations of their past, and acquaint themselves with new possibilities. One of its charges now holds a doctoral degree in mathematics, another is excelling as a national gymnast. For more academically challenged teenagers, vocational training proves to be a viable university alternative. ”We have links with Info Genius, a technical training provider that assists our teens in getting work placements at selected factories while attending technical training courses.”

Behind the children’s triumphs are the dedicated social workers of CPS, Suria Govindasamy and Elizabeth Savarimuthu, who share 22 years of experience between them. “Our role as social workers is to ensure each child’s

physical, emotional, social and academic well-being,” said Suria. “Each child comes from a different family background and has different wants and needs. Our biggest challenge involves identifying resources relevant to the individual child and dealing with his or her behaviour.”

We want to ensure that when the children are returned to their families, they will be well looked after. We’ve worked very hard to boost the children’s self-confidence; it would be a shame to risk them backsliding again.

With almost 40 children calling CPS home, do they feel like they belong to a family unit? “All of the activities we do, we do as a family,” said Rajam. “During meal time for example, we’ll sit as a family at the big table, have our meals together and talk about our day.” The children’s kinship is also evidenced by their protectiveness toward one another. “Even though they are not at all related to one another or are of the same race, the bond between them is remarkable. And I believe it is this strong bond that makes CPS feel like home for them,” added Vanessa Chuah, a CPS volunteer.

(Left) Volunteers offer extra support to the children through tuition as many of them have not been regular school-goers. (Right) CPS vice-president Magdeline Leong (second from left) spearheaded the CPS Charity Food Fair and Bazaar press conference.

That doesn’t mean that the children are altogether barred from seeing their parents. Save for the previously sexually abused youngsters, come school holidays, the children at CPS are encouraged to return to their families so that they can better reunite upon discharge. “We permit the formerly physically abused children to go back to their homes as well. However, when they do go back, we have to make certain that they will be in the care of family members who have custody of them. But at the end of the day, a children’s love for their parents is so strong, they’re willing to look past the abuse,” said Rajam.

CPS also works with the children’s families by providing counselling sessions, monthly food provisions and monetary assistance to prepare them to receive their offspring once again. “We want to ensure that when the children are returned to their families, they will be well looked after. We’ve worked very hard to boost the children’s self-confidence; it would be a shame to risk them backsliding again.”

The organisation relies almost entirely on voluntary donations. Interested parties who would like to make a monetary donation or in kind can visit CPS at 118-A, Jalan Scotland, or contact them at +604 829 4046 / 826 9809. Monetary donations are tax exempted.

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