Universal Children's Day Celebration 2017

A celebration of the 2017 Universal Children's Day with refugee children in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

Refugee children at the 2017 Universal Children's Day celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  © UNHCR/T.Lee

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 November 2017 (UNHCR) - Empowerment of refugee children was the focus of the Universal Children’s Day event held on 20 November 2017. Some 120 refugee students from refugee learning centers across Kuala Lumpur and Selangor attended the celebrations held at the Kuala Lumpur YMCA.

The day, organized by UNHCR’s Child Protection unit, included a carnival of fun, challenging, collaborative and thought-provoking activities designed around this year’s Universal Children’s Day theme of “Stop Violence Against Children”.

The students represented many diverse ethnicities and nationalities, including children from Myanmar, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria. The students, whose ages ranged from 6 to 16 years, were accompanied by teachers and parents who also participated in positive parenting workshops offering advice about issues such as dealing with stress and disciplining children effectively without violence.

Empowerment of children was the major focus of the day’s activities and, under the instruction of YMCA’s Taekwondo Master, students participated in self-defense workshops where they learned basic and effective skills to protect themselves. The sessions were an obvious confidence builder for children of all ages.

Refugee children getting a lesson in self-defence  © UNHCR/T.Lee

In keeping with the day’s theme, special age-appropriate workshops, led by Power2Kids, taught the children about the importance of understanding their rights regarding inappropriate touch and empowered them to know how to respond in such situations. The workshops used books and drawing activities to reinforce the important messages and were well received by not only the students, but also teachers and parents. One parent commented, “I really learned a lot myself.”

It was the students themselves who provided the most memorable part of the day, with each learning center preforming a piece based upon the “Stop Violence Against Children” message. There were songs, dances, dramatic role-plays and mime, all reinforcing the day’s theme and encouraging students to think about instances of violence that they have seen or experienced, and then find a creative way to get the “stop violence against children” message across to the audience. It was also an opportunity for them to build confidence and self-expression by performing in front of their peers, parents, and teachers.

The children enjoyed a sweet treat while learning a new skill at the Cookies ‘n Art activity where each child was able to create their own frosting masterpiece on delicious freshly baked cookies prepared and sponsored by House of Taste.

In the game corner, students were able to make new friends and learned to take risks as they took to the chess board, vied to win card games, and tested their nerve at the Jenga tower.  A Coordinator from one of the learning centers said, “I was happy that some of (the students) had the chance to meet and mingle with students from other schools and communities.”

The hands-on interaction continued in the Art Workshop where, under the supervision of artist volunteers, students finger-painted a mystery image. A highlight of the day came after the paint dried, when a curtain opened to reveal the canvases hung together displaying one large painting featuring colorful kites flying in a clear blue sky, symbolizing freedom and endless opportunity. Each learning center received two canvases to take home as a memory of the day.

In Malaysia, there are some 152,000 refugees registered with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Of that, some 39,000 are children who have no access to formal education. Refugee learning centres are set up by refugee communities and local NGOs to provide informal community-based education for some 10,500 refugee children across the country, often under resource-scarce conditions.

The event was supported by NGO partners including Fugee School, Alliance of Chin Refugees (ACR) Learning Centre CLC, Dignity for Children Foundation (DCF), Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI), Future Global Islamic Network/JREC, and Muslim Aid, volunteers, and sponsored by YMCA KL Brickfields, House of Taste, and Power2Kids.

 

Refugee children enjoying a reading session at the 2017 Universal Children's Day celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.   © UNHCR/T.Lee