AT TAYLOR'S: Samantha Morley (samm@aism.edu.my)
PROJECT PARTNER: The Alliance of Chin Refugees (ACR)

Australian International School Malaysia (AISM) is a proud supporter of the Chin refugee community from Myanmar. Students of Chin Student Organisation visit the school each fortnight and participate in weekly lessons and literacy based CCA programs. They were AISM’s special visitors during International Day and also displayed their sporting prowess during the Annual CSO Sports Day at AISM last month. These programs are designed to help Chin students gain an insight into what a mainstream school is like and prepare them for permanent resettlement in countries such as Canada, USA and Australia.

While the majority of Chin families living in Malaysia are eventually issued with a UNHCR card which recognises them as international refugees, they have limited rights whilst residing here. Many of the refugees have fled situations of tremendous violence and persecution and are looking to improve their life chances. They are unable to work legally and have difficulty generating an income to support their family.

Launched on 2 April 2015, The Lost Towel Project was targeted to reduce the problem of students losing their personal belongings like school bag, PE kit, lunchbox, water bottle, swimming towel, goggles, and at the same time will benefit a very worthy cause. This project has been established by a number of volunteers to create a safe and sustainable way for the Chin families to earn an income.

The Lost Towel Project is quite simple. For RM90 you can purchase a high quality, ethically manufactured sports towel in house colours (red, blue, green and yellow) and arrives in an attractive waterproof bag. The cost will be very reasonable – as ‘fair trade’ is a very important component of this exercise. That is, sourcing from an ethical towel manufacturer, rewarding the refugee sewers and charging parents a fair price for towel, bag and embroidery.

Every ringgit of profit from these towels will go towwrds the Chin women who sew the names, via the United Nations recognized organization: Mang Tha. This group supports the Chin refugees in Malaysia. Each towel will have a small photo and a personal message from the specific woman who embroidered the name of the child. This charity project was formed by a group of international parents and is officially registered with the Malaysian Government – PINK (Parents International Welfare Association of Kuala Lumpur).

“The launch of this project was begin in Alice Smith School Kuala Lumpur, but there has been a lot of interest from other international schools to become involved – so we are hopeful this project will really take off. The plan is that this initiative becomes a viable business for the women to regain some independence, and support their communities in a sustainable way,” shared AISM’s Service Learning Coordinator, Ms Colleen Derham.

The money raised will go towards improving the day-to-day lives of these families, assisting with educational and medical needs, and funding specific projects to improve their life chances.

Mang Tha is a woman led initiative funded by The Alliance of Chin Refugees (ACR). This Malaysian organisation was started in 2006 to improve the lives of the Chin women living in Malaysia who arrived as refugees and asylum seekers. Over the last decade the project has grown. By 2014, the number of women able to earn a fair and regular income has increased to 40. Using ‘fair trade’ principles, the objective is to generate income for the women using their sewing, knitting and other handicraft skills. In turn, they can then support their families, income is generated through textile and sewing commissions from small-scale companies and private individuals.

For further information please contact Colleen Derham, Service Learning Coordinator at colleend@aism.edu.my

Written by Collen Derham