“That every child matters,” short and concise was the answer of Dr. Hartini Zainudin, founder of Yayasan Nur Salam or better known as Yayasan Chow Kit (CBN – MY000001293), when she was asked about what legacy she wishes to leave behind. We sat down and had a warm conversation with Dr. Tini; short of Hartini, to know better about her fight and advocacy for abused children in Malaysia.
Faces Behind ASEAN SMEs (F): Dr. Tini, the world of children advocacy must not be an easy fight. How did you get started doing it?
Hartini (H): I never had what you called a formal education to study about children, so it was really just a form of voluntarism that I did on campus and off campus when I was young. It was the start of it all, plus I just love children so much, so it’s natural for me to be drawn to this world.
F: What motivated you to finally start Chow Kit Foundation?
H: I was actually shocked by seeing how many kids that didn’t have the same access to the same programs and rights as the other children in Malaysia. Seeing how many of them suffer under the system that doesn’t allow them even the basic needs like education, and how fragile it is for children here to be sold, even by their own parents.
F: We believe that even though you are dealing with children and you love children, doing what you are doing must have its ups and downs. Can you share with us your lowest point in doing this?
H: Losing the children to the system. To make it better I always say that “We lose the children FOR NOW.”There was this one story of four children that we managed to help. Their parents were trying to kidnap them to sell them, so we have to smuggle them and hide them. It was chaotic, I couldn’t see them without the fear of being trailed, and at that time we didn’t have the shelter we now have yet. So it was hard, but I promised myself to build a shelter so this won’t happen again, and three years later, I did.
Sometimes when we fight against the system, they win and we lose a child in the battle. But it really is like a roller coaster ride, sometimes they win, sometimes we win. Seeing children cry, and knowing how restrictive the system is, sometimes there’s nothing you can do.
F: Do you have plans for expansion to outside Malaysia?
H: Not physically building another foundation in another area, but more like strategically. We partner with people who have the same heart as we do, with other foundations. We gather child protectors services and work with them to ensure that we are on a same page in terms of philosophy, advocacy and using the same resources.
F: What are your wishes for Chow Kit?
H: I want us to be in a position to help more children and do it more sustainably. You know, you take one day at a time and one child at a time and try to figure out how you put all of these pieces together to change policies and get people to change their minds.
F: What will be Chow Kit’s plan to make protecting and fighting for children a sustainable plan?
H: We train the children to be happy and independent, we equip them with skills that eventually will go back to the foundation and to make them an eligible part of Malaysian society and become a good citizen. We want to empower the community to take care of every child.
Children shouldn’t be in institutions, children shouldn’t be in orphanage, children shouldn’t be abandoned. They should belong to the community.
It doesn’t have to be about money. It’s also looking to sustainable funding, advocacy, and trying to position ourselves while maintaining the basic programs that we have, such as education. It is also about how do we make it attractive to the donors but at the same time influence and educate policy makers to be able to help.
F: What was the most memorable experience you had with the children?
H: The organizer who was bringing in Justin Bieber gave us 1,600 tickets to bring in the children to see Justin Bieber. Imagine bringing in thousands of kids in buses and trying to get them line up to the concert area. To top that, it was raining, so imagine we also had to ask for disposable rain coats for these children. I remember getting cursed by so many other parents at the venue. But it was fun and the kids got to see Justin Bieber.
F: What are the things you have learned?
H: You have to have faith in the system that you know you have to keep helping and working on, making amendments. The sense of humors and the heartaches. I will a lot, I have to tell you, I feel a lot and I whine a lot on Facebook, but I have loads and loads of happy stories. I think that’s just life in lots of ways. You need to make sure that life is equal.
F: What is your final message to those who want to do what you are doing?
H: Yes! Please go to www.yck.org.my, and you can get in touch with us, and find ways in which you can support us or the issues. We can point you to other organizations that you can also help and NGOs that you can work with. It doesn’t have to be money, even though money is important.
CBN – MY000001293
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Editor’s Note: Previous post by Confirmis’ Faces of SME wrote Dr. Hartini Zulkarnain instead of Dr. Hartini Zainudin. Confirmis regret the error and have made correction within the post.