40 Underprivileged Students Are Tutored And Mentored By These Volunteers In PJ

One boy, who struggled with SPM, is now working in a bank and pursuing a degree.

Cover image via Desa Mentari programme

Being born into a family who can afford to send us to school, put food on the table and a roof over our heads is a privilege we take for granted.

For many, even attending public school is a hurdle in itself.

One woman saw this need in the low-cost flats of Desa Mentari, Petaling Jaya – an area that has been classified as a "black spot" by the Petaling Jaya City Council because of its high crime rates – and sought to fill in that gap.

Desa Mentari flats in Petaling Jaya.

Image via Google Maps

Eight years ago, the Desa Mentari outreach programme was started by its now-programme coordinator Prema Ravindran as a means to:

- Offer tuition for underprivileged children who struggle with studying
- Provide financial aid for their families, and 
- Occasionally plan fun activities for the kids. 

Every week, a team of volunteers teach 40 underprivileged kids various subjects such as Mathematics, English, Bahasa Melayu, and Tamil

Head of tuition Timothy Khor teaches Mathematics and English on Saturday afternoons. On weekdays, other volunteers teach Bahasa Melayu and Tamil to the primary and secondary school children.

English reading programme.

Image via Desa Mentari programme

Most of the volunteers are from Full Gospel Assembly KL, however, there are young adults from the neighbourhood who occasionally help out.

"We also have uni students from [the] community who teach for a small sum of money. We are so happy to see a few students whom we taught last time, coming back to teach the younger kids," Khor told SAYS.

Students made cakes and sold ice blended drinks at the tuition centre to learn team work and to raise funds for the centre.

Image via Desa Mentari programme

Prema shared about how one boy came to her seven years ago needing help to prepare for his SPM paper

"His parents couldn't afford to send him and his siblings for tuition," she said.

A family friend then brought the boy, Joash Justine, to Prema, who had coincidentally been asking if there were any families willing to open their homes for tuition.

"His home became one of the three where children gather for weekly Saturday tuitions," she revealed.

"Today Joash is working in a bank while pursuing a degree in business and finance part-time at a reputable local university."

Joash teaching kids at Desa Mentari.

Image via Desa Mentari programme

But more than just teaching the children to be academically-inclined, they are also taught character-building and life skills

Values, discipline, and leadership skills are taught so that the kids become well-rounded individuals.

"We did many events before, like career day where we share with them different
industries and career paths they can explore.
We brought them to Kidzania, where
they had so much fun exploring the different job scopes and industries," Khor shared with SAYS.

The children visited Kidzania where they could explore different industries.

Image via Desa Mentari programme

Camp in Port Dickson, 2018.

Image via Desa Mentari programme

One key goal of the programme is to give the children hope that they can catch up with their studies no matter what level they're at

"Though it has been a tough journey trying to help the kids with their studies, I can
say for sure these kids understand how important school is to them... We help them understand that they can be the first in their family to go to university and upgrade their lives," said Khor.

It is evident that the classes have had significant outcomes for some children.

"For example, one of the girls aims to become a lawyer and we can see such a bright future ahead of her," said Khor.

However, not everything is rainbows and butterflies as Khor shared that there have been several cases where they were unable to help a child because they dropped out of school and tuition

I think the ultimate goal for us who are volunteering is to see this community come out of poverty. It is a long-term goal that can be achieved by helping one family at a time.

Khor shared that if the programme can influence the children to have the correct mindset to steer them to success, then the kids themselves will be able to make a difference in their families and community.

"This long term goal can only be achieved if the families within the community start helping their neighbours and repeat what we are doing here, creating a ripple effect," he added.

Here are a few suggestions of simple ways that we can give back to the community:

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