Recently, the spouses of the ambassadors of the Scandinavian countries visited a refugee school administered by the UNHCR to tell the children about their home countries and play together. The school visited by the Association was Refugee School in Loke Yew, Kuala Lumpur, run by Chin Student Organization.
First, the children were shown where the Scandinavian countries are located on the world map and what the flags of the countries look like. Next, representatives of each country presented some special features of their home countries.
Greenland and igloos were presented by Denmark, whereas Norway focused on snow, skiing and ski-jumping. The children attending the visit did not know that much English so other media had to be used t get the message across, for instance pictures and sounds.
The teachers also helped by offering translation assistance when needed. The pictures showed Nordic nature, its animals and the four seasons, especially winter. The children were also shown video clips of Santa Claus and the seasons changing, something that here in Malaysia seems very exotic indeed.
After the country presentations, the children were divided into groups. In one group, they had the chance to cut and color one of the Scandinavian flags out of paper, in another to mold a snowman and another to make a snowflake out of paper with the country representatives helping them. The children also got a chance to play, as Gunilla Weaver from Denmark had brought Legos for the children to play with, which seemed to interest especially the boys in the class.
Then, there was a chance to try out warm winter clothes, and even try out skiing, although only in theory. At the end of the visit, there was ginger bread and juice for all. Luckily there was enough for everyone, because instead of the 30 something pupils that were expected to show up, there were almost 50 eager children taking part. The children were very excited about the visit, as normally the school does not have the means to arrange such activities.
The refugee school is run by volunteers. The children who study there belong to Myanmar’s (Burma) Chin minority who face persecution in their home country. The situation has forced them to flee the country in large numbers. The majority of the Chin are Christians. The Chin and other ethnic minorities from Myanmar constitute the majority of the refugees in Malaysia.
The school has altogether around 150 pupils and it is run by volunteers with very few resources. UNHCR together with its volunteers tries to arrange the refugees also other activities besides schooling. In Kuala Lumpur, UNHCR has 250 listed volunteers, yet it is still in short supply of new volunteers. Everyone willing to help can do so by, for instance, teaching English or handicrafts, depending on their individual skills. In addition, assistance in fundraising is welcome.
Diplomatic spouses lend a helping hand
The participants of the visit were Benita Sonntag-Saarela from Finland, Anette Hjelmborn from Sweden and Gunilla Weaver from Denmark. Yoko Horio from Japan came along to watch and to take pictures. In addition, members of the Finnish Society in Malaysia participated in planning the visit.
The school visit was arranged by the Association of Spouses of Diplomatic Heads of Missions in Kuala Lumpur the members of which are the spouses of ambassadors and high commissioners set in Kuala Lumpur. Every year the association chooses a charity cause, and the refugee school was selected as the charity cause for 2010. Besides giving classes to the children, the association helps the school to pay its rent and organizes a Christmas party at the school with presents for all the children.
For more pictures of the school visit, go to the Embassy of Finland Facebook page.
If you want to help UNHCR in its efforts in Malaysia, contact the volunteer coordinator Eva Ladeborn email@example.com.