[By Tan Tee May]
Lumiére, a word meaning ‘light’ in French, was chosen as the concept for the charity event for refugee children organised by the Community Service Initiative (CSI), the core meaning of it being ‘to become the light of others.’ The talent time event was held to raise funds for shelter children and spread awareness regarding refugees persecuted for their religious beliefs. Many of them had escaped to Malaysia to find temporary shelter as they waited to be transferred to countries recognising their citizenship. As Malaysia does not recognise them as legal citizens, they are not permitted to enter government schools, nor are they allowed to use public facilities. This creates great difficulty for them as they cannot receive help from public hospitals or schools for fear of being arrested and sent home.
Eunis Ong, the President of the Community Service Initiative (CSI), states that the refugee children are merely humans that deserve basic rights, just like the rest of us. They are not any lesser, nor do they deserve to be treated as such. “I hope they can be treated as equals,” she stated, before ending her speech.
The event started off with the Chinese Society showcasing their laudable drumming skills with their percussion instruments. The judges were then introduced, and participants stepped up to begin their performance. The talent-time competition was comprised of several categories, including singing, dancing and performing magic tricks. Later on, the refugee children’s performance was met with overwhelming encouragement. Although they were shy, they performed a wonderful rendition of Josh Groban’s ‘You Raise Me Up’, which received numerous applause and shouts of support.
The refugees are under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and are granted refugee status by the organisation. They are forced to wait months, sometimes even years for confirmation from whichever country that will be accepting them. Often, they are separated from family and have no idea of their whereabouts unless a miracle strikes.
The event was the result of a successful collaboration between Community Service Initiative (CSI) and Refuge for the Refugees (RFTR), a non-profit organisation providing shelter for refugees.