Denied citizenship by Myanmar and chased off their land in repeated outbreaks of communal violence, the 1.3million Rohingya
there have been identified by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. Some 140,000 have been displaced from their homes, and many live in camps. The Rohingya are a persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar where they are branded by authorities as “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants” and have no citizenship rights, even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.
The desperation of the Rohingya has been highlighted in recent weeks in May 2015 by boatloads of people from Myanmar and Bangladesh stranded in Malacca Strait waters after their traffickers abandoned them near the end of risky 1,700 kilometer voyages amid a clampdown by local authorities. Some 3,500 went ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, but many of those now at shelters say their goal was to get to Malaysia.
The 100 Boats Fundraiser was a spur-of-the-moment campaign held by the Rotaract Club
of Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas (TCSH)
in aid of the plight faced by the Rohingya refugees stranded at sea. As soon as the devastating news hit, the young minds of the Rotaracters were already whirring, thinking of ways to help. The brainchild of selling miniature origami boats attached to tea bags came from Sarah Wong
, the ever enthusiastic ex-teacher advisor.
Within days of putting up the online #pledge10 form in which students could essentially pledge RM10 and receive a teabag, a hundred responses flooded in. Besides merely fundraising, another target was to raise awareness on the Refugee crisis - a target which we achieved by maximizing all our social media platforms, as well as placing an info card on the situation inside our tea package. The volume of immediate support that was received totally surpassed the initial goal of a hundred boats, and saw the club sending in a total of RM4,000 to Refuge for the Refugees (RFTR)
after just a week of fundraising. All the funds gathered is used to purchase basic necessities for the refugees.
As a result of working together to raise money for this cause, the Rotaract family became more aware of the plight of refugees in Malaysia and around the world. Some of us even read the UNCHR 1951 Convention for Refugees
and attended a talk with speakers from the UNCHR to educate ourselves further. It was, overall, truly an amazing learning experience! “In the success of what we’ve achieved with this fundraiser, there are certainly a few learning points we hope to capture, and emulate in our future fundraisers,” shared Sarah.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
, refugees from Myanmar make up the biggest chunk of the more than 150,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia, one of the highest numbers in Asia. Nearly 46,000 Rohingyas in Malaysia have been registered as refugees by the UNHCR and there are an estimated 40,000 more whose status yet to be assessed. For many Rohingya, even living on the margins of Malaysian society is a step forward. But those who have been here for year yearning for something better – at least for their children.
Written by: Sarah Wong & Amanda Lee Yue Ping