Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our Muslim Aid Charity Shop, officially named 'Wellbeing M(A)LL', is slowly but surely taking shape. It is currently being prepared for its official opening on June 14.  

Wellbeing M(A)LL shoplot is located on the first floor of Mutiara Bangsar building in Jalan Liku (off Jalan Pantai Baru) just a couple of doors away from our Yayasan Kemanusiaan Muslim Aid Malaysia office. 

Shop address:
8-1-16, Menara Mutiara Bangsar
Jalan Liku, off Jalan Pantai Baru
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2288 1996

Our boys and girls are putting in extra hours daily including weekends, doing inventory, pricing and display, as well as cleaning stock to ensure each and every item is in tiptop condition, ready to meet its new owner. 

Dear readers, we need more items to fill our shelves. Please help us by donating your discarded stuffs, the ones idling in your closet or garage; still in reasonably good condition but you no longer have any use for. 

Money raised through sale of items in the charity shop will go towards our many programmes and activities throughout the year. We can't depend on donors alone; we have to explore every avenue possible to raise funds. 

Everything is welcome; items of clothing (men, women, children's), footwear, handbags & clutches, suitcases, accessories, stationeries, books and magazines, gadgets, toys, kitchen appliances, kitchenware, glassware & china, selendang & shawls, decorative items, paintings.. in short, anything reusable.

'Titleist' Golf Bag - almost new
Muhammad 'testing' the Ogawa chair.
Baju kurung & blouses aplenty...
Plastic containers for the kitchen.. 
Our Facebook account has just been created. Do 'like' it (here), please, and help spread the word. The charity shop's blog and website will follow soon.

More news on the development of the shop as we go along. Tunggu! 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Doli & Da Bomb

Doli & Da Bomb. Sounds like a singing group right out of the '60s, eh? Remember 'Naomi & The Boys', or 'Gerry & The Pacemakers' or perhaps 'Ruby & The Romantics'? 

This posting, however, is not about food for the soul. Instead we're coursing through real 'makan' joints; koayteow stops to be precise, 'char' or otherwise. 

There is an eatery in TTDI (Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, for the uninitiated) called Doli that serves many variations of this flat rice noodle. 

Located at Jalan Wan Kadir off the main road near the TTDI wet market, Doli's stir-fried 'char koayteow' is among the best we have ever tasted. 

Because prices at Doli are pretty decent, and the fact that they also offer non-koayteow variety (chicken rice, curry mee, mee rebus etc), we patronise the place often. 

[Digressing a bit, the Cantonese-style kungfu chow served at the Royal Lake Club is super-tasty, and my personal favourite. The only problem with the club's 'Buttery' outlet is that its service has been competing against, and losing to, the tortoise for yonks.  

'Buttery' staff gives kura-kura a bad name. I am still trying to figure out why the service has not improved, especially since the club has been in existence for over 100 years]

Back on the koayteow track... Three nights ago we discovered a joint that could give good ole Doli a run for its money. It's called Bom Kitchen, with dishes tagged with 'explosive' names like 'grenade', 'dynamite' and 'C4'.

About the only thing in Doli's favour is the fact that Bom Kitchen is way across town, in Keramat's AU2 area. The not-so-fun part is we have to 'tongkah' KL traffic, taking Damansara Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE) to Jalan Enggang to get to the place.

Bom Kitchen may be just a warong (stall) business, but the dishes 'rawk', to borrow today's parlance. We took Muslim Aid's two interns Fairus and Sofia along, had a 'dynamite' each, and shared a humongous 'C4' dish between us.

The 'C4', costing RM19, can eat 3-4 and is Bom Kitchen's signature dish. It's gravy-laden, with fresh seafood that's fried in batter first before using them as 'perencah' in 'C4'. The end result is a delicious, somewhat crispy squids and prawns nestling in a pan of noodles and gravy. 

'Granade' sells at RM4 per plate, 'dynamite' at RM5.00 per plate. I'm wondering when 'bazooka' will be introduced. The stall opens 6.30pm to 1am daily and closes Tuesdays.

Another specialty is supercheap 'Nasi Bom', targetting youths and the lower-income. Pre-packed in the style of nasi lemak, Nasi Bom, which is rice and one lauk, sells for RM1.50 each. It's very popular with school kids and youngsters.

The place has been in operation for the last two months and maintains its own Facebook account too (click here), thanks to its IT savvy co-owner, Muhammad, who runs the joint with a couple of partners (they cook, he waits at the tables and cleans up).

Muhammad is doing his post-graduate studies weekends in business management. The trained engineer is a social worker by day. Engage him in a discourse on humanitarian work while you are there; he would 'layan' you if the place isn't too busy..

To get to Bom Kitchen from PJ, take DUKE towards the city and turn into Keramat via Jalan Enggang (at almost the tail end of the expressway). There's a roundabout as soon as you enter Jalan Enggang.

Take 3pm and drive up until you see Jusco on your left. Make a U-turn at the traffic light ahead, and take immediate left (the road climbs up a bit) and left again. Be extra-careful with the U-turn, though. Demonic drivers are a-plenty behind the wheels, even at traffic lights.

The jalan where the warong is located, Jalan 24/56, AU2, is a horseshoe and the stall is a stand-alone, with no other businesses alongside or nearby. Go on folks, give it a try. Am sure you won't be disappointed...

C4 to whet your appetite...
Welcome banner at Bom Kitchen 
Sofia (left) and Fairus menjamu selera..
Dynamite, anyone?
"Meletop di mulut, bukan di tangan"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Thoughts On Mother's Day

From the day I breathed my first to the day she breathed her last, my mother and I were never close. It was fated that we we not meant to be, but that didn't mean I had loved her any less. 

Throughout my childhood, I had referred to her as Kak Nor. I never knew her as anything but my eldest sister, the first child of the woman I called Mak.

I must have been 10 when it finally dawned on me that Mak was actually my grandmother and that Kak Nor was the one who gave birth to me. Such revelations naturally took a lot of adjusting to, and I was a confused child for a while.

If coping with the transition from Kak Nor to Mak was tough, acknowledging the elevation of grandma's status from Mak to Opah was even tougher. I dealt with the situation the only way I knew, by burying myself into books.

My mother was a petite woman who had managed to maintain her slight figure well into her 50s. Size-wise, I am no nowhere near, for I take after my father's side of the family; the Megat women were relatively tall, big-boned and sturdy. 

The women on my maternal grandpa's side of the family, being Kelantanese, were a resilient lot, that much I can say. Thus I am not surprised to share the traits; fiercely protective of the brood, independent in thought and deed, with none of us suffering fools gladly.

Despite a couple of hiccups along the way (the divorce from my father being one), Mak had had a fairly uneventful life. She remarried, produced 5 daughters, and remained in the blissful union for almost 40 years, until Bapak's demise in the late '90s. Mak left us four years ago, age 73.

"May Allah swt bless you with the best there is, Mak. We love you and miss you; the pain never heals." Al-Fatihah.

*You may want to read related postings: 

1.  I Want ....

2. Dungun Di Hati ku

3. Requiem For My Mother

4. Mak In Remembrance

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Refugee Children - Their Sorry Plight

The innocents..
Hafizes (Quran memorisers) in the making ...
An uncertain future awaits this little one .. 
Father-of-one Muhammad is an engineer by training and a social worker by choice. 'Mat' handles project development for Muslim Aid by day, runs an eatery with some friends by night, and attends lectures weekends towards his MBA.    
Muslim Aid interns Fairus (left) and Sofia are UiTM students. Physics graduate Fairus, from Kulim, is on her last lap doing pure mathematics at the university, and spends her free time teaching mathematics to Orang Asli kids at a shelter supported by Muslim Aid.

Kuantan lass Sofia is a marketing major whose interest lies in creative arts. She has taken a year off study to devote her time to humanitarian causes, coming on board Muslim Aid a couple of weeks back.
"Madrasah Anak-anak Yatim dan Tahfiz Quran Hashimiah - School of Orphans" is housed in a dilapidated shoplot in the vicinity of Selayang wholesale market (pasar borong). The school, with 165 children, occupies the second and third floor of the four-storey building.
Ustaz Hashim, a Myanmar Muslim, is the heart and soul behind the madrasah. Apart from running the school, this UNHCR refugee status holder teaches Islam to locals, ploughing back whatever he earns into the madrasah. Ustaz Hashim received his teaching certification from Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan in April 2012. Here he proudly displays the much sought-after watikah, a lifeline to this man whose only mission in life is to do things right.
Quran and other religious books in a sorry state, torn and tattered Quran buruk aplenty. Yet, small hands reach out to them everyday, reading and reciting, memorising the verses, guided by teachers who just refused to give up.
Makeshift desks, shelved to the wall during makan and tidur times..
Just screw some aluminium sheets together against the wall, rope in a basket or two, pile in all the odds and ends and walla, there's your storage rack.
Rest before lunch. By the way, this is also where the children sleep come night time. Some of them go home to their respective families after school, but to most, the madrasah is 'home'.
The 30-minute rest is made mandatory to ensure the kids are alert for their afternoon lessons. 
Here they are, patiently waiting for food to be served. 
It's lunchtime!
Kusyuk menjamu selera...
A prayer of thanks ...
...even if the only lauk is potato curry..

No matter what their status, children have fundamental rights to education. In Malaysia, there are 18,700 refugee children under the age of 18. Of this, 13,800 are of school-going age, but proper schooling is denied them solely because of their 'stateless' status. [More about refugee children in Malaysia here].

Here at Madrasah Hashimiah, there are 165 such children, age four to 16. Some 70 of these kids are girls. Of the total, 50 are orphans; 40 with relatives (who are fellow refugees) while 10 are yatim piatu (with neither parents nor kin) who depend entirely on the goodwill of its principal, 42 year-old Ustaz Hashim, and his family to survive. 

I have lived in KL for 39 years, but shamefully, this was my first visit to this part of the city. I was told this slice of Selayang is known as the 'Burmese Quarters' for this is where most Myanmar Muslim refugees in Malaysia live. 

[Note: Myanmar Muslims are not to be confused with the Rohingyas, a Burmese Muslim ethnic group originating from the Myanmar-Bangladesh border area; the Rohingyas can be found mostly in Klang and Penang]

Because Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees, it has no domestic legal protection for asylum seekers. [Read here for more].

Like many other asylum seekers in Malaysia, Myanmar Muslims can't hold proper jobs. As such, no matter how educated they are, many end up as labourers at the Selayang wholesale market, thus their congregation in the area. 

The kids were in the middle of their morning lessons when our Muslim Aid team of four arrived to check on the progress of the school, and to have a status meeting with Ustaz Hashim.

The madrasah has been in operation since 1994 and has survived the years through the generosity and kindness of well-wishers,both NGOs and the general public. 

There are currently 10 teachers (local and fellow refugees) attached to to school. They are paid a pittance to teach (RM500 - RM800 is the norm) but many remain committed to the children.

Ustaz Hashim lamented the low pay but said he just couldn't afford to pay better salaries. "In fact we need more teachers especially for Bahasa Malaysia and tahfiz (Quran recital) but I am at my wits end trying to figure out how to meet their pay."

The children are taught Quran & Islamic Knowledge, English, Bahasa Malaysia, their mother tongue the Burmese language and mathematics. Mornings are reserved for religious lessons, afternoons for the rest of the syllabus. 

The school is currently in dire need of Bahasa Malaysia textbooks (Standard 1 to Standard 4) and appeals to the public for donation. "It's so hard to teach with everything lacking," opined Ustaz Hashim.

The emphasis, however, is on learning the Quran. Many children from the madrasah become hafiz every year and a ceremony is held annually to acknowledge this achievement. This year the presentation ceremony will be held in June and as in years past, Muslim Aid will have a hand in organising the event.  

Despite their straitened circumstances, the kids are holding up quite well. Personally, I have not seen a better-behaved, bright-eyed bunch in a long time. I was told by Muhammad, who has been working with the refugee community for many years, that refugee children in this country were generally courteous and well-disciplined. 

Last year, in a national tilawah (Quran recital competition) for children's homes and orphanages throughout the country, a boy from this madrasah came out tops; quite an achievement for a school that lacks almost everything but the will to survive.  

According to Ustaz Hashim, it costs RM10,000 a month just to feed the children twice daily. "As you can see, we are not lavish with food either; it's only one dish a day with rice. Occasionally we give them meat or chicken." 

The day we were there, the kids had rice with gulai kentang. I struggled to hold back my tears, thinking just the night before I took the family out for a lavish Chinese dinner to celebrate a son's birthday.

A popular woman artiste is a regular donor here, providing hundreds of kilos of rice on the quiet every month while a Buddhist organisation pays for the madrasah's monthly utility bills (bless you, Tzu Chi). 

Recently, a new problem surfaced, challenging the madrasah's existence. The owner of the premises had indicated that he wanted to sell the property, and had offered it to the madrasah as first choice, for RM800,000.

"We may have to look for an alternative place soon. Much as I want to buy this place, wakaf it and turn it into a permanent school, I don't see how can I ever find the money," he said.

Ustaz Hashim said it made perfect sense to buy the shoplot for many reasons. Currently they are paying RM1,400 rent for the two floors but the school population is expanding rapidly and space is getting really cramped. "We are in dire need of another floor, but we can't afford the rent." 

A fair bit of renovations have also been done to accommodate the children's needs (wudhu area etc). The key reason, however, is logistics. The madrasah is smack in the middle of Burmese Quarters where the Myanmar Muslim refugees live. Moving it outside the established boundaries would mean creating a host of new headaches - transportation for the children, for example.   

In the meantime, it's business as usual at "Madrasah Anak-anak Yatim dan Tahfiz Quran Hashimiah  - School of Orphans." The kids still need to be fed, clothed, tutored and taught, lack of money notwithstanding....

Ustaz Hafiz Hashim bin Qassim (019-2621671)

111-3, Kompleks Pasar Borong, Jalan 2/3A
Km 12, Jalan Ipoh, Selayang
68100 Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

Monetary donations can also be made through Yayasan Kemanusiaan Muslim Aid Malaysia. Please call 03-22881996 (MUhammad/Puteri) for details.