United Learning Center (ULC) is a volunteer-driven center in Kuala Lumpur providing Myanmar refugee children with meals and education and is a safe haven for the children. The center also provides boarding for orphans and children whose parents are unable to care for them, and prepares them for eventual resettlement in a third country.
A little about me...
What is your background and how did you become involved in ULC?
I am a gemologist (GIA) by training and a professional businesswoman running 2 international high end jewellery boutiques in Starhill Gallery.
I first got involved with ULC by helping the centre to find the money to provide each child with RM 1 a day for their lunch but as time went by, I became deeply touched by the children’s innocence, enthusiasm to learn, their urgent needs and by the genuine love they continue to give back to me for the little I do for them.
What do you do at ULC?
As the founder of ULC, my goal is turning it into a safe haven for these refugee children, where they can receive basic education and meals. My main responsibility is to find funding and resources, as the monthly expenses reach around RM 13,000 to RM 15,000 despite the extremely cheap rental we pay for our bungalow. I often joke that I am the CBO (Chief Begging Officer), as sometimes it does feel like it. If you can spare the money, I ask for money, if you don’t have the money, I ask for your time, if you don’t have the money nor the time, then I simply ask for your old clothes, toys and books for the children.
I am also the "police woman". I do regular spot-checks on the centre to make sure no children are being short changed. If each child is supposed to have 2 pieces of chicken, I make sure I see them on their lunch plates. I am also paranoid about accountability when it comes to cash donations to the centre. An official receipt must be issued for all donations, all expenses must have printed invoices, payment vouchers etc. It is imperative to build and maintain our credibility and accountability for the generous angels who support us.
What inspires you to continue serving at ULC?
There have been times when I ran out of money; there were times when I have been short of volunteers. My regular job is also very stressful and high pressure. At times it can make you feel like giving up. The thing that keeps me going is the children. I know that if I give up on the centre, the children will have nowhere to go. They cannot go to Malaysian schools and so they will hang out at coffee shops, cyber cafés, empty playgrounds, and will even be chased away from those places. They are at high risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, drug and organ trafficking. Too often we read about children being kidnapped and sold as child prostitutes, beggars etc, I cannot give up on them.