12 November 2016 – A group of third year Bachelor of Pharmacy students volunteered for a community service activity at an orphanage, Rumah Charis (Home for Children) as a part of IMU Cares flagship project. The community service was targeted at these less fortunate children as young as three years old up to adolescents in developing the use of English among the children in all age groups as well as raising awareness on sexual harassment among the adolescents. According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) younger women are more vulnerable and are more at risk of rape than older women. Similarly a data from justice systems and rape crisis centres in various countries namely, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru and the United States showed that one-third and two-thirds of all victims of sexual assault are aged 15 years or less. By being a part of IMU Cares project, we were driven to choose sexual violence as a topic for health education to explain concepts of social awareness, public behavior, safety and public response to the children as well as to promote these components. We were aware that most of these children may be naïve and may not know how to deal with such circumstances. The children were initially given a brief introduction on sexual harassment. To ensure their full participation in the activities, they were divided in two groups to prepare a poster “Saying NO to Sexual Harassment” using the pictures that were provided followed by a short presentation of their work. In contrast to that, children of the younger age group were further divided into two groups according to their age. The activities conducted for these children focused more in developing their English language and helping them to become better critical thinkers. For instance, children in the age group 3-6 years old were taught through some educational toys sponsored by some of the team members. In addition to that, children from 7-11 years of age were involved in some group empowerment games followed by a diary making session. They were then taught to write reflection into their diaries. We believed that reflection writing could help improve their English language.
At the end of the visit as a student I felt privilege to be a part of the organising team in planning this visit. It was a jovial experience being a part of these children helping them in the tiniest bit way we can, as well as seeing the smile on their face.
Additionally I would like to express much gratitude to IMU Cares for supporting the fundraising conducted and sponsoring in the various stationary, cartoon balls as gifts for children and educational toys. Apart from that, as a team we were grateful for the assistance and guidance from our lecturer and mentor, Dr Dinesh Kumar Chellappan. We would also appreciate Dr Jithendra Panneerselvam and Dr Vasudevarao Avupati for guiding and helping us on that day also, Suzanne Lee, the Operation Manager (KL) in providing relevant information that helped us in planning the activities for the children. Additionally, Tarakini Gunasegaran was overjoyed with the success of the visit to Rumah Charis and felt it was beneficial to both the volunteers and the children. She was contented to spend time with them and noticed they too gained some knowledge through the educational activities. She adds being very satisfied with the activity that was carried for the teenagers on sexual harassment as they were able to explain in detail what was sexual harassment all about, which is an essential knowledge for them as a self-protection.
Lastly, feedback from the children and caretakers were overwhelming. The children and caretakers were very pleased with the activity conducted and appreciated our efforts. Similarly, most of us felt that this was a life changing experience for us and have taught us to treasure the little things life has given us.
This article is written by Raveena Chehal