THERE is always something new to learn from kids. Last Friday, nine Burmese children and 16 young international students demonstrated that showing their appreciation to Malaysia, their host country, need not be all flashy and fancy. Instead, all it takes is a little community cleaning.

The host of the community project, Help Community Learning Centre (HCLC), is a community centre based in Kepong for children of refugees, mainly from Myanmar. Together with the students from Mont’ Kiara International School (MKIS), the 25 eager children and teens were spread across a park in Metro Prima Kepong to help clean up the area.

“We just want to do some community work to make sure the environment is clean, because these Burmese kids are staying in these areas, too,” said Chris Jong, one of the two founders of HCLC. “We want to instil in them the responsibility to keep their environment clean.”

It was a day of many concurrences, too. Organised as part of MKIS’s Involved Citizens Day, an annual event to promote the importance of giving back to the community by organising service activities for its students, the project coincided with Good Friday – and also a day after the weekly Thursday pasar malam in Kepong. And yes, the place was filthy.

“I think that for (the kids), seeing that they can take a hands on approach and have an impact is really important, because sometimes, what we tend to do is support fund raisers with money. And that’s good, but it’s also good to see that you yourself can have an immediate impact,” explained Judy Morrison, leader of the MKIS team sent to collaborate with HCLC.

Although this was the first time the two institutions have collaborated on such a project, they are in no way strangers. In fact, MKIS regularly sends volunteers to the centre to help with teaching the kids on a monthly basis.

Firsthand knowledge: The Burmese children from Help Community Learning Centre learning how to keep their surroundings clean.

Firsthand knowledge: The Burmese children from Help Community Learning Centre learning how to keep their surroundings clean.

As a community centre, HCLC relies heavily on volunteer help and donations in order to provide these refugee children a decent childhood. Here, the children, ranging from the ages of five to 15, are taught basic English, Maths and Science, so that they spend their time productively, and not loitering in the streets.

“We’re preparing them for resettlement,” said Jong, who although acts as the school principal at the centre, prefers the humble title of Full Time Volunteer and Coordinator. “Most of the time they are resettled into the United States, Australia, Canada and other English-speaking countries, so they need that foundation in English.”

Set up in 2009, HCLC started with 50 students and peaked at 140. Refugee parents pay between RM15 and RM20, depending on the number of children they send to the centre. Still, the money raised from the students is usually never enough to pay for the building rental, let alone their meal.

Nevertheless, Jong insists that what they really need isn’t so much the money, but volunteers to help teach English. He added: “If their command of English is good enough, we always welcome them as volunteers, even if it’s only for once a week.”

Interested volunteers will first be given a tour of the centre, where they will get to meet the children, including those at the community cleanup who, at the end of the project, expressed being “happy and tired”. After the tour, and if keen, you may discuss a schedule that suits you.

To set up an appointment or make a contribution, contact Jong (012-873 0380) or email

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