Why are you involved in this work?
I have never worked directly with refugee children but having worked with them for over a year now, I see how they are like the young people I have worked with before. The difference would be their circumstances, culture and language. They start their journeys with a sense of grief, loss and displacement, being away from their families, familiarity and culture. I am involved in this work so that I can journey with refugee children to guide, direct and motivate them to get to their next phase of life.
What keeps you going?
Shortly after I joined SUKA, I realised how big the responsibility was as a case manager and almost had a meltdown moment. I called my supervisor out for a chat and told her that I am afraid that the children’s lives will be gravely affected if I do not handle the work right. She affirmed me and gave me a reality check that there is only so much we can do, and that we just need to do our work well. As much as that calmed me, it was also a stark reminder that on the other end of our work, is someone’s life. The quality of my work will certainly impact the quality of their lives.
Why is this work important to you?
There are many experiences I can share, but there is one particular experience that stopped me in my tracks. Last year, a minor in our programme, who was working part-time in a restaurant, invited the Case Management team for dinner. We get a bit hesitant when the minors want to spend money on us as we want them to save and use these resources for themselves. But this boy was insistent that we show up for dinner. He had made reservations at an up-market restaurant, in a private zone.
The team had decided that we will not let him pay because it was going to cost him a bomb! So, we discussed ways to make the payment without him noticing. Midway during the dinner, I snuck out to the toilet and later inched to the cashier to pay. But he had already informed them not to take our money. So we had this tug of war with him about how we did not want him to pay and that he should keep the money for himself, but he was insistent on picking the tab. Finally, after much negotiation, he agreed to let us pay half the cost. At the table later, we asked him why did he want to buy us dinner.
‘It’s my mother’s birthday today, and I want to celebrate it with you.’
He had been working part time to send money home to support his mother and brother. And to him, the team was like his mother in her absence.This made me realise the impact and the necessity of our work. Although we do not play a parental role while they are in Malaysia, they do rely on us to provide them with the security and permanency of being away from their family. We can impress people from afar, but we can only impact them up-close.
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