“I came to Malaysia alone in 2014 because of the civil war in my home country, Somalia. I had 4 siblings. When the civil war broke out in 1994, our mother disappeared and we couldn’t find her. My father and eldest sister died before I came to Malaysia.”

“I came to Malaysia alone in 2014 because of the civil war in my home country, Somalia. I had 4 siblings. When the civil war broke out in 1994, our mother disappeared and we couldn’t find her. My father and eldest sister died before I came to Malaysia.

I remember the first day I arrived in Malaysia. It was in November 2014. I felt lonely and cold. My parents were not with me, and I was away from my country and my people. But I told myself that as a woman, regardless of where I am, I have to do my best to survive. That was the only thing I thought about. I want to be strong. I’m aware of the situation of my country and my parents, but what matters the most right now is that I’m safe here in Malaysia.

I’m currently earning my income by teaching mathematics at SRC (Somali Refugee Community) and operating my own beauty salon. Because of my status as a refugee, I can’t obtain a business license and can only run my salon from home. There are two things I’d like to achieve in life – one, to become an accountant since I’m good at math; and two, making quality beauty products. Once I succeed in these areas, I would like to provide training to other refugee women and help empower them.

Apart from receiving education, some of the greatest challenges I’ve faced throughout my stay in Malaysia include getting a job. It’s even harder for the (refugee) children, especially those without their parents.

The things I miss most about Somalia are my siblings. I really hope to see them one day. As much as I want them to come to Malaysia, I can’t bring them over easily. There’s a lot of money needed. But I will try.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Samantha Siow
Edited by Sydrah M

I want to become a pop star when I grow up. Maybe do K-pop music. I like to sing, dance and rap. My idol is Lisa from Blackpink. My parents told me that if I want to become a pop star, I must work very hard for that.

I want to become a pop star when I grow up. Maybe do K-pop music. I like to sing, dance and rap. My idol is Lisa from Blackpink. My parents told me that if I want to become a pop star, I must work very hard for that.

I’m a Chin refugee from Myanmar and I came to Malaysia with my family. I remember we came here by boat. I was very young, probably 6 years old at that time so I didn’t really understand what actually happened back then in Myanmar. I’ve been living here (in Malaysia) for almost 10 years now. I miss my grandparents the most. I haven’t seen them for so many years.

The first day when we arrived here, I didn’t know anything but I felt excited. I could see the differences between Myanmar and Malaysia, in terms of the buildings and the people. I remember that we slept at my mother’s friend’s house because we didn’t have a place to go to. Then, we moved to another house. Around 6 to 8 months later, I went to this school called Chin Learning Centre with my sister. I enjoy learning English the most and I’d like to improve more on my grammar.

In this coming Hands of Hope musical, I play a character named Mathew. There are some parts that require me to sing and dance, and I really enjoy it. Mathew is protective of his brother, Thomas. It’s not a very difficult role to play but the script is really long. The singing part is my favourite because I like the lyrics.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

* Hands of Hope Charity Musical Theatre 2019 aims to raise awareness about the humanitarian issues happening in Malaysia. This musical theatre shares the journey of two refugee brothers from Chin to Malaysia and also the struggles that they face when they are in Malaysia. For more information, please visit: http://ow.ly/ezwS50wjj2O

Photostory by Samantha Siow and Aiman Mustafa
Edited by Sydrah M

“#Undi18 is a movement I started together with a friend, with the objective of lowering the voting age to 18.”

#Undi18 is a movement I started together with a friend, with the objective of lowering the voting age to 18.

I’ve been a registered voter since 2017 and voted for the first time last year at GE14 (14th General Election). Had I been eligible to vote when I turned 18, I could have gone to GE13. It felt weird to not being able to vote at 18, an age where I am already considered as an adult.

During my time studying abroad, everyone at uni was talking about Donald Trump and Brexit. It was an exciting moment for us Malaysian students there, although we did notice a large number of Malaysian youths were not active in political discourse. Our country’s voting age, combined with our Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) did not make it easy for them to participate and speak out. So, we started NAMSA (National Assembly of Malaysian Students in America) to encourage more dialogues among students.

While a lot of countries had already set the voting age to 18, Malaysia was still one of the very few countries with a higher voting age at 21. To get the voting age reduced to 18, we first approached our student coalition network to garner their support because we realised it couldn’t be a syok sendiri petition. The students we worked with are elected representatives whose student bodies are recognised by the government.

Unfortunately, the petition was not well-received by the previous ruling party. We spoke to many BN youth leaders, but they turned us away. It was also rejected as a Transformasi 50 (TN50) motion.

It was much easier to gain support from Pakatan Harapan, who was the former opposition party at that time because they had many young idealistic leaders who believed in our cause. Our petition for reducing voting age thus became part of their manifesto.

Things really took a turn when the Undi18 Bill was tabled in Parliament. I attended the session with 50 other students as I felt it was really important to have all of us involved. It was so surreal to see it being passed unanimously! It really made us feel that Malaysian youths have a say in the country.

This year, #Undi18 has been more aggressive with public engagement. Social media plays a huge role in spreading the word out and it definitely makes our work a lot easier. We hosted so many Facebook live sessions to engage the public. We have also been conducting workshops in schools on political awareness and education. Recently, we collaborated with Sekolah Rukun Negara to increase our reach and the reactions we’ve received from students had been interesting.

We hope to work with more organisations that are interested in cultivating political awareness among youths and make a greater impact in the next elections. We’re still working hard to improve the structure of Undi 18 as we plan to expand ourselves.

Everyone has a role to play so no one gets left behind.”

Photostory by Yasmin Mortaza
Edited by Sydrah M

“I love their spirit. They, the disabled Paralympians, have spirit. Abled-people always likes to talk big that they can do something – but if you can see the determination of the Paralympians, you will go back home thinking that the ‘orang cacat’ (disabled people) can do better than you.”

“I love their spirit. They, the disabled Paralympians, have spirit. Abled-people always likes to talk big that they can do something – but if you can see the determination of the Paralympians, you will go back home thinking that the ‘orang cacat’ (disabled people) can do better than you.

I met this amputee where his whole leg below the hip was amputated – and he cycles faster than me.

I don’t cycle to win medals but I really want to inspire girls and the disabled to cycle, and to convince others that not only abled people can perform, but even disabled people can perform better than abled-people.

I started cycling when I was 15, when I secretly took my dad’s mountain bike out for cycling rides and races. One day I tried my luck in a 40km race and won 3rd place. My mother realized my potential and encouraged me to continue cycling. My dad thought that a cycling ‘hobby’ would not go far for a girl. But my mom was very supportive and I got my own mountain bike when I was 16, but it was a basic bike and was crazy heavy, around 15kg.

By the age of 18, I was already representing Malaysia at the national level and competed in the ASEAN Games, ASEAN Cup and was in SUKMA (national-level Malaysian Games), twice, winning 2 silver medals. My speciality is in endurance and time-trial cycling.

Last time all abled and disabled athletes were training together at Bukit Jalil.

And I always mixed with the disabled people. I greeted them and ate with them. I saw those who were amputees – with no hands, arms or legs. And I always wondered how could I join them?

And it turns out that they were looking for ‘Pilot’ cyclists on tandem bicycles.

A tandem bicycle is a bicycle where there are two people cycling together.

The ‘pilot’, me, cycles in front, as I am physically abled. The one sitting at the back is the ‘stoker’, and in Paralympics, this is where my blind cyclist partner sits.

I sent in my application and got the job as the pilot cyclist for tandem bicycles.

When I switched over to the Paralympics, people had thought that I had a disability – and kept asking me, ‘what’s your disability?’

In the Paralympics, there are many disabled athletes, from slow learners to the deaf and mute who speaks in sign language only, to those with ADHD, autism, and mental disorders.

They might look and talk normally as a person, but they are considered disabled.

Being a pilot is difficult because it’s hard to control a tandem bicycle, you have to be ‘hati kering’ because it’s so hard to control a tandem, ‘macam drive lorry’.

As we are cycling together to make the tandem bicycle move, the pilot has to be tough. I also control the ‘gears’, and the pilot has to cycle three times stronger than them, in case they have cramps and injuries. I have to announce the directions, where we are heading, be focused and have enough sleep and rest to lead.

I began training with the Paralympians, where we all cycle 200km, daily.

Last week, we cycled from Kampung Pandan to Cameron Highlands and everyone was still standing strong.

Tomorrow, we will be cycling for 180km, and 160km the day after.

In one week I can easily get 2000km of cycling mileage, and even though I have been cycling for 5 years and totaled up millions of kilometers, it was still tough on me.

I feel like I’m able and I should do something for them.

The issue in Paralympics is that para-cyclists that represent Malaysia and have won medals yet they are not recognized for their achievements.

We won gold in the 2014 Asian ParaGames held in Incheon, South Korea because we’ve prepared enough. I want to go further than that – to the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics and the UCI World Championships.

I want to raise awareness of Paralympic cycling. because no one knows about us, no one is watching us. My teammates all feel defeated, asking ‘ is there anyone watching our victories?’

During the SEA Games the crowds were all cheering for Azizulhasni Awang (first Malaysian cyclist to win a medal at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships) – but after him, who wants to watch us? So I am trying to raise awareness on this.

It is a form of a charity helping them in religion. And I am only getting paid a salary of RM 1,000. I really hope one day, my blind stoker and I can make it to the Olympics-level.”

(This story was taken one week before Adilla and her disabled cycling partner won the Gold medal at the SEA Games – Women’s Paralympic (Tandem Cycling) event)

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa