Helping needy pupils

Sunday Star, Star Education, March 2, 2003

COMMUNITY service is nothing new to students of SM Assunta in Petaling Jaya.

As members of the Leo Club, fifth formers Shalini Subramaniam, Ashwinha Asairinachan, Bavani Ponniselvan and Lydia Low have been carrying out projects that benefit the community.

When they learnt about Maxis Hotlink’s A Nationwide Student Community Service Competition they immediately decided to take part. Along with another club member, Eileen Lim, the girls have come up with a social programme to help poor and disadvantaged children in Pahang and Selangor.

”We have been planning to carry out this project for a while now, so when we saw the announcement of the competition in the newspaper, we thought it would be good to win the money to help us with the project,” says Shalini, who is president of the Leo Club.

Finding a community to help took a while, as they surfed the Internet doing research.

”We spent a lot of time on the Net to find information on possible recipients. We finally decided on two communities: one in Bentong, Pahang, and another in Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya. We then called the ketua kampung (village heads),” says
Lydia.

The ketua kampung of the village in Bentong was happy to hear from them. He told them the children need all the aid they can get.

The Assunta girls are planning to provide the primary school children there with basic needs like uniforms, stationery and schoolbags.

”Many only have one uniform which they wear five days a week until it turns yellow, and they can’t afford to buy new ones for the new school year, so new uniforms will be handy,” says Lydia.

She adds that because of their underprivileged lifestyle, some of the children suffer from an inferiority complex. For this reason, the school’s Leo Club members would consider conducting workshops to build the pupils’ self-esteem. For a start, their main aim is to encourage the children to go to school. And one way to make them happy and excited about school is by meeting their material needs.

Says Lydia: ”This is the start to long-term service we would like to do for the kampung. Later on we would like to expand to other programmes such as a ‘big sister’ programme and medical check-ups, but at the moment we will start small.”

In their original plan, the girls had a budget of RM1,000 to help 100 students, but with more money they can help more students.

Bavani says they were nervous at first as this is the first time they are planning for a fairly big scale project. ”Usually we work with homes, but there are usually volunteers there. For these poverty-stricken areas, not many will go out to help.”

But now, having taken on their first big challenge, the possibilities are endless.

”We can benefit one community at a time and then other people can continue from there,” says Bavani.

They admit that their idea still needs some ”tweaking,” but luckily for them, they have the support of their school and teachers.

”In our school, we are trained to reach out to the unfortunate. Our principal encourages us to help

others through three community-service type societies,” says Bavani.

More importantly, she adds, it is not the project size that matters but willingness to volunteer one’s services for a good cause.

Everyone should do their best to help those in need. Young people, especially, should feel confident that they can make a difference in their community.

Pix: CARING: Assunta Leo Club members (from left) Shalini, Ashwinha, Lydia and Bavani working on their project to help poor and disadvantaged children in Pahang and Selangor.

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