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REFUGE AT RUTH EDUCATION CENTRE
By Asian Beacon
When Michael Moey met a refugee in a bookshop one day, he did not know that it would change his life. The meeting would lead him to set up a special school for refugees called Ruth Education Centre that would change the lives of many.
“When I met the refugee named Ho at a bookshop in 2009, it was a surprising discovery. Back then I did not believe there were any refugees in Malaysia. I found out later from Ho, that there were hundreds of them living in tents in the middle of a forest right in Damansara. So together with some colleagues, we supplied them with food, rice, and oil,” he said, explaining that was his first initiative to help the refugee community.
“But it didn’t last. One day they were suddenly arrested. So our focus shifted to Pudu where we continued to supply rice to some of the families. Then in 2010 some of the refugee leaders approached me and asked whether I could help a school. Because after age 14, the refugee children had nowhere to go. Although they have their own refugee schools, those cater for children from age 6 to 14. So, they need help to start up a school. Otherwise they would have to work at the construction sites, retail shops and even coffee shop at a young age,” he explained.
He and his friends therefore met up with the Coalition of Burma Ethnics, Malaysia (COBEM) to have a discussion.
“After I presented my plans to them, they said it was a good plan. Subsequently, we started the education centre in July 2011. Initially, we called it the Refugee Education Centre. But after three months, I decided to change the name as it was too impersonal. After that we called it Ruth Education Centre. The name was inspired from the Bible about Ruth who was a refugee herself. She was a friend to Naomi. We wanted to be friends with the refugees. The formation of REC is based on the belief that it is our Christian duty to serve the poor and powerless in our society,” he explained.
REC AND REFUGEES
Today REC is a fully-residential campus comprising of 5 rented premises with 65 full-time refugee students. The students are divided into groups for cooking and cleaning duties. Michael explains the impact REC has on the students. Many of the previous students having been resettled overseas are coping well in the high schools in USA and Australia. Some have entered universities, and some received outstanding academic awards.
REC is registered with UNHCR and NECF. The four core-values that underpin REC are faithfulness to God, orderliness in thought and life, diligence in studies and duties, and love for others. From this, Michael explains that REC derives its four basic objectives. The first is spiritual formation where they provide Christian values and guidance to these students. The second is academic and vocational development of refugee students. Here REC provided the high school and college level subjects to the students such as science, and English. They also now provide Bachelors Education (B Ed) and vocational practical skills.
“As part of their vocational training, besides being trained in teaching, they attend multimedia classes, urban farming, online business development classes, and journalism training. We have specialists from Australia that teach multimedia skills. We have teachers who teach them urban farming, and finally, teachers who will teach them journalism. There are also teachers who teach them online business over the internet. We have our own digital newsletter facilitated by 3 professional media people,” Michael explained.
The third objective of REC is engaging the community.
“We get the students involved with the community. We do this by training our senior students to teach in the refugee community schools. We send 25 of our senior students as volunteer teachers to these community schools to help raise the quality of education among their youths as these schools lacked trained teachers. It is also a part of our students’ learning to serve and love others,” Michael added.
Lastly, the fourth objective is holistic education that emphasises the fine arts and performing arts.
“Music is part of the curriculum. From here we started Ruth Choir in 28 Feb 2016. It became very popular. We have been invited to sing at many churches and different concerts that included the presence of Sultan Nazrin, Dato Khairy Jamaluddin, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Tan Sri Yeo Tiong Lay, Oxford and Cambridge Society, and National Prayer Service in Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mont Kiara attended by senior church leaders and pastors,” he said.
He explained Ruth Choir became very well-known thanks to their talented students and very strict music training.
“We have soprano leaders, alto leaders, tenor leaders, bass leaders. We have practice here on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I will go through each section individually to make sure the pitch and timing are correct. It usually takes a few weeks to master one song. In the beginning we had help from a Korean Choir group that was part of the World Milal Missionary Choir. Initially we were called KL Milal. We benefited a lot from the group. But then we changed our name to Ruth Choir, as we branched out. So, we are on our own most of the time. We hardly receive support from them, except for two seminars from which our students were taught to play music instruments like violin and cello,” he added.
He said that it was only by God’s grace and help that they managed to carry on.
“I have a limited music background, but I make use of what I know in order to help the choir to develop. We go singing 4-5 times a month every month. Recently we sang in USCI and National Diaspora Symposium. The choir group is comprised of 50 students and include the full-time teachers. Senior students make most of the group,” he said.
“Most of the children like to sing. It takes two, or three weeks to learn music. Even Japanese songs. Yes. They can sing Japanese songs too. The hardest song, you’d be surprised, is not a Japanese one but Handel’s Messiah. It took one month to master. This shows they have a lot of potential. And everywhere they go people are amazed at how God is using them. Many have been ministered by the choir, ranging from other refugees to locals,” he added.
So far, Michael explained that ever since they started the centre they have never been in the red.
“It is thanks to God who has provided us using the generosity of the churches and friends that we are never in lack even though our operating costs are estimated to be approximately RM250,000. God has been gracious to provide for all our needs thus far. This year though it will increase to RM 300k, as we have opened a seminary.”
He adds that it is also thanks to the generosity of the teachers themselves.
“All these years God has provided for me. Sometimes I spend money from my own pocket for REC. I consider it as a donation. Most of the teachers also do this. They buy things like food, the cost of photostat paper, and so on, and they don’t claim” he said.
Even so, as the numbers of students increase, so does the need for more volunteer teachers.
“Our entire staff of 20 instructors are voluntary. They are trained in their fields of expertise to teach in REC. Some of the teachers are refugees themselves. We are helping them, because to get a job in Malaysia as a refugee is tough. Refugees have no chance to work. We try to get teaching jobs for those who would like to teach. They currently get paid around Rm 800 to RM 1000. It’s not very high to be honest, as it depends on the number of students and how much they get from the community. But it’s enough to help them through.”
As such, he also would like to encourage anyone who may be interested to volunteer.
“Contact me and I will match their abilities with the work. We are always looking for a lot of English teachers. You can choose to work on weekdays or weekends,” he said.
For those interested you can contact Michael through his number at Phone : +6017 3680 120 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org