What pushed you into doing community work?
“Passion” answered Lucas Choo. Lucas is a Programme Officer cum Social Worker at Yayasan Chow Kit (YCK), a 24-hour crisis and drop-in centre for children for at-risk children in Chow Kit.
Lucas holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and has always been passionate about helping out people and putting a curve in everyone’s smiles. After doing an internship with Yayasan Chow Kit, he worked in Jabatan Perpaduan Negara dan Integrasi Nasional, where he was tasked with managerial and administrative roles. Soon, he returned to Yayasan Chow Kit to be part of the frontlines in community work.
Chow Kit has always had a negative connotation due to the unfortunate economic circumstances and the poor living standards. Many children growing up in Chow Kit resort to illegal work that not only jeopardises their future but also their community. Lucas mentions that Chow Kit has serious housing issues; a family of 5 lives in a cramped 1 bedroom apartment and the children will resort to hanging out in the streets of Chow Kit due to insufficient space at the age as young as 6 years old. They do not have space and freedom to move about in their house as opposed to in the streets, which makes them more susceptible to negative influences.
Yayasan Chow Kit provides the children with a safe, spacious environment for them to spend their time in and indulge in beneficial activities. They have 3 locations catered to children with different needs: namely the Kuala Lumpur Krash Pad, Pusat Aktiviti Kanak-Kanak, and Pusat Jagaan Baitul Amal. Activities in YCK are constructed based on the 5 Pillars: Education, Psycho-Social, Sports & Health, Spirituality, and Recreational. YCK provides free education/tuition, counselling, documentation and placement services, and also activities to improve soft skills such as Toastmasters meetings, football games, photography classes, Taekwando class and drama class! Thankfully, kind Malaysians offer their support and help for free to build and maintain sustainable developments for the children. Of course, having these activities are not enough to attract the children to come to YCK. Lucas comments that the participants come on a voluntary basis. YCK faces problems with getting the children to participate in the programmes occasionally due to them having other commitments or transportation problems. Lucas comments that the best that they can do is provide interesting and practical activities so that they willingly attend the events.
YCK is determined to offer the children-in-need with equal opportunities in education and exposure. Since its inception, YCK has grown and received lots of support from external organisations. Children affiliated with YCK are given job opportunities and additional support from NGOs such as the Global Environment Centre. This allows them to have the opportunity to learn new technical and soft skills that could be useful in their future employment. YCK also conducts fundraising activities in collaboration with organisations such as SimplyGiving and offer scholarship opportunities to the children- two from YCK were given scholarships from Khazanah to study Medicine and Social Work. Lucas feels particularly proud of them as they are taking up studies that are in line with giving back to the community and helping people.
When asked about how can Malaysians help out the unfortunate, Lucas voices out that both the government and normal citizens should lend a helping hand. “The government can only do so much. That’s where we [citizens] come in.” He comments that the “Semangat Kejiranan” amongst Malaysians is fading and it is causing us to be distant with one another. He mentions that the Singaporean government managed to overcome that problem by allocating funds for NGOs to help out the ones in need. This allows them to build rapport whilst allowing volunteers to get in touch with their community. Lucas feels that policymaking may also help in building up the nation and in giving equal opportunities to the B40 group.
Spoon-feeding is not the way to go, however. Lucas comments that to improve everyone’s quality of life and education, one needs to learn how to embrace change. He uses a few examples of the government’s effort in making education accessible to the natives by providing transportation, libraries and other facilities but it was underutilised. It was found that the natives preferred to stick to their old ways. Lucas uses this example as an analogy to people in general as well. There are 2 types of people, people who want to change and people who resist change. Poverty is a mindset that plagues the economic welfare of certain groups of people. For instance, there are homeless people who are used to living in their own ways, obtaining food and resources from generous Malaysians and getting something for nothing. This is a worry for him as in order for people to escape poverty, action needs to be taken by the individuals themselves, and not just by external parties. Pusat Transit Peradangan aims to help the homeless people while not allowing them to freeload and take resources for granted. It serves as a temporary shelter for homeless people as long as a month for them to get back on their feet. Lucas feels that these are concepts to be utilised and made practicable in order to truly help the homeless.
As an individual looking to help out the ones in need, one must always do it from the bottom of their hearts, and never for the fame and attention. We also have to look at it from a long term perspective. Lucas says that with consistency, greater impact can be achieved and extended exponentially. This is how social NGOs may assist in helping out communities, as they are continual and extensive. He says that the most important elements for a social organisation to succeed is to plan in detail, knowing your target audience, and lastly, to have passion.
“The best reward is seeing the smiles on their faces.”
Yayasan Chow Kit is always looking for volunteers and donations to assist their operations. FLY: Malaysia urges all of you to get organised, plan out a beneficial event for the children and send in your proposals to them! You may just change a person’s life through these activities. Do check out their website here to learn more about what they do, and how you can help.
Journalists: Wilson Teh, Ayena Shaneez
Editor: Bryan Wong