My name is Rachel and I’m a Chin refugee from Myanmar. I came to Malaysia with just my sister and we were looked after by our aunt on our way here. It took us 7 days to reach here as we travelled by car, by boat and on foot. That was 9 years ago. I was only 6 and my sister was 7 years old. The one thing I miss about Myanmar is this sour fruit called saimitu, which you can only find in that country.

My name is Rachel and I’m a Chin refugee from Myanmar. I came to Malaysia with just my sister and we were looked after by our aunt on our way here. It took us 7 days to reach here as we travelled by car, by boat and on foot. That was 9 years ago. I was only 6 and my sister was 7 years old. The one thing I miss about Myanmar is this sour fruit called saimitu, which you can only find in that country.

My most memorable moment in Malaysia was the time we performed at a concert organised by the CSO (Chin Students Organisation). We did our cultural dance and we also danced to K-Pop music. We had a fashion show, too, where we dressed up in our traditional dress.

In this coming Hands of Hope musical, I play a character who’s also named Rachel. She’s very kind and always helps people in need. She’s quite different from who I am in real life because I’m very rude (laughs).

It’s sad that I was told I can’t go to a local school here in Malaysia. I really enjoy learning Math and I want to keep learning it. My ambition is to become a Math teacher one day, as I’d like to share my knowledge and educate others.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Samantha Siow and Aiman Mustafa
Edited by Sydrah M

*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: https://www.facebook.com/events/2432726603440770/

 

“I used to dress like a tomboy. All black and blue, baggy pants and graphic t-shirts, looking like a plumber. I was into the whole ‘skater’ fashion.”

“I used to dress like a tomboy. All black and blue, baggy pants and graphic t-shirts, looking like a plumber. I was into the whole ‘skater’ fashion.⁣

After a while, I was told to be more aware of my presentation to the world. I felt a bit invisible too. Some people dress like that to be invisible. ⁣

It got difficult for people to acknowledge you. I have to say that, people who don’t put much effort into dressing nicely is sending a message across, that you are not bothered by how you look. ⁣

Its not that you cannot afford the look, you have to be presentable in a certain manner to show that you are serious, that you are to be noticed, and to be taken into account and be visible. ⁣

And lately I’ve been embracing my feminity, and thinking how I should present myself in a better, more thoughtful and professional way to the world. Wearing skirts was the hardest thing for me. Friends always commented on how I would always sit with my legs wide open. But it’s getting better now, I’m actually enjoying it. ⁣

Beauty is in the eyes of the creator, not the beholder. If thats what you want to show, then so be it. ⁣

God created us, God thinks we are beautiful. I just made a more conscious decision on how I want to present myself to the world.

– Follow us @thehumansofkl on Instagram for more human stories!

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

 

“What’s the hardest part of being a promotions girl?”

What’s the hardest part of being a promotions girl?

“Standing long hours is the hardest part – and when we have icky clients. There’s actually a lot of politics, a lot of gossip that goes on between us. Actually, that’s common in every place.”

What do icky clients do?

“It’s especially when clients want to take photos with you, sometimes they hug you. And you don’t want to say no because it comes off as rude? And you can’t be rude because you’re representing the company. This is a real issue that happens everywhere as well.”

“I am a Yemeni, a doctor, and a refugee.”

“I am a Yemeni, a doctor, and a refugee.

I did my MBBS in India and graduated in 2009. Then I went back to Yemen with full of excitement because I was finally a doctor and I thought I was going to help people. In 2013, I began to renovate my clinic in Yemen, which took almost a year to complete. But the war broke out in 2015.

It was a civil war because there were some rising revolutions. In 2011, the president handed over the whole government and the country to the people who led the revolution. It took both the old and the new government almost two years to consolidate, but it wasn’t successful. In 2014, there were wars from one area to another caused by Houthi, a group of radical Muslims.

All of this led to my move to Malaysia in 2017. I was very excited and happy at first, and I even bought new clothes because it was my first time coming here. But once I arrived at the airport, the immigration officers asked me a lot of questions, like a small investigation. But I understood that there was a war back in my country and they were just doing their job.

I started to work as soon as after I got here, but I faced a lot of difficulties because I’m a refugee and I don’t have any proper documentation on my stay. There was this one company where the boss who interviewed me explained about salaries, vacancy, and so many other things. And after that, he asked about my nationality. I told him that I’m a Yemeni and right after that, he apologised, as he thought I was from Sabah or Sarawak. I didn’t get the job.

I have friends with a university degree and even a PhD, and yet they are working at a restaurant. My excitement went down after that.

Right now, I’m teaching at Fugee school and I’ve never been this happy. I feel like I’m contributing to the kids’ future. Besides teaching them English and Science, I also teach them how to manage their feelings, how to focus on themselves, and how to even focus on the given opportunities they have in their hands now.

I remember the first time I met these students, there was so much resistance from them and they weren’t listening. They even said, “our English is better than yours. We speak better than you.”

But English is not about speaking. It’s about grammar and exams. It was very difficult for me but I took the challenge and did my best to overcome it. Sometime later, I heard a few students calling me ‘big brother’ and I was really touched by it because I wasn’t expecting that.

Nowadays, there is so much information from the media which is against us, the refugees. It caused the public’s negative attitude towards us. I think the media should start raising awareness on these issues. Like, who are refugees and what do the refugees want because most of the refugees are escaping from wars. The organisations can also involve the refugees in their campaigns because a lot of us would like to contribute as well. For us, as a refugee, we have to behave nicely, respect the laws of the country, and understand and speak the language.

I miss my home because home is what I made to be mine. I miss it when my mother and siblings hang out and eat together at home. I always believe that life is perfect for everyone. It’s just that all of us have a situation that we need to deal with.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Samantha Siow and Mushamir Mustafa
Assistance by Victor Raj
Edited by Sydrah M

“You’re young, you’re a good person and if you find a good woman, go and marry.”

“What advice can you give to young people?”

“You’re young, you’re a good person and if you find a good woman, go and marry. If you don’t have money, that’s fine – the both of you can work together and help chip in to the costs for the marriage, for example. If the girl wants to marry you for your money, then that’s not love. It’s love when the two of you get together because you love each other, and will work together to build a better future for the both of you. You should never fall in love because of money.”

“Ok, now put your head down sweety.”

So daddy fixes the hat on her tiny head.
“Ok, now put your head down sweety.”
*Click*
“Alright honey, stick your head out now!”
*Click*
Asked if she was excited about the new Star Wars movie, and struggling to take the hat off, she turned to her dad and stuffily asked:
“Daddyyyy, take this hat off!”

“I had my first cancer when I was 10 years old. It was bone cancer on my left leg’s femur bone. I did chemotherapy and surgeries – and I survived, I am ok…

“I had my first cancer when I was 10 years old. It was bone cancer on my left leg’s femur bone. I did chemotherapy and surgeries – and I survived, I am ok. I have metal plates inside my leg, as cancer eats your bones, the bones have to be scrapped away. When I was 12 years old, cancer spread to both of my lungs – a recurrence. It was at the terminal stage (stage 4), it was quite serious. There was 2.6 litres of water in my lungs, and a lot of tumours, about 9-10cm nodules. I relapsed. I also survived. I did chemotherapy and surgery again. They operated both of my lungs and removed the modules and minimized the tumours.

When I was 13 years old the metal plate in my left leg broke, and I needed to get it amputated. It wasn’t actually an amputation, its where they take my left leg and folded it into my thigh. But my body cells rejected the new organ, and it was swelling and bleeding non-stop and I was in a critical condition.

The doctor asked my mom if I wanted to amputate it and I immediately said just do it, and do it fast because it was very painful and swollen. This was the most painful moment of my life. I couldn’t sleep.

3 days later, I got the amputation. And when I woke up, the first thing I wanted to do was call my friends and tell them that I don’t have a leg anymore! I know, to me it was funny.

When I was having my cancers, my family was very positive and they didn’t make me feel down – in fact, they made it feel as though I was just having a fever.

And since I survived the first time, I was confident that I will survive the second one. Friends and strangers were supportive, and even my primary school did a fundraising campaign and help write to the media.

During the fundraising campaign, my mom told me of this very old lady, who had a picnic basket, and we thought she was going to the pasar (wet market). But then she explained that it contained money for my operation.

I missed school as I was in bed the whole time. Previously I was in Taekwondo since I was 6 years old and I am a black belt. I was very much into Taekwando and won the bronze medal at the state championships.

My friends didn’t discriminate me as well. At Standard 5, on my first day of school, the teacher asked the class, who wants to help her? I was on a wheelchair and was bald due to my chemotherapy session – and everyone in class raised up their hands.

It is amazing how there are people who don’t know me, but they are willing to help me.

Also, I find it interesting that, it is the older people who say that I am beautiful, but they say that I should also wear long pants or a long dress. I myself have no fear wearing anything I want.

I hope to inspire others to appreciate everything around you and not give up easily. At least you try, and move forward.

I always tell people, think of your abilities rather than your disability. It’s better to go slower than not moving forward at all or overexerting yourself and becoming worse. So take care of yourself.

Everyday is my happiest moment – because I am alive. Now I appreciate my life. I don’t want to give up”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

“My name is Afiq. I’m that guy whose story went viral, where I worked as a cleaner in the UK, to pay for my parents’ flight so they can attend my graduation. This is my story.

I didn’t do well for PMR and was kicked out of my previous school but now, I am the first person from my kampung to ever study in the UK, graduating from the University of Essex with First Class Honours in Accounting and Finance.

I received 4As for my PMR and did not meet the school’s 6As requirement, so I had to leave the school along with 5 other peers. I felt horrible – out of 200 people, I was one of the 6 who had to leave because we had the lowest scores. I missed school for about a month because none of the schools near my area wanted to accept my application.

I didn’t really think much about it but my mom was very disappointed in me. She went to the Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri and pleaded to the Director to place me in a good high school. I ended up in the Accounts Stream, and all of my previous schoolmates looked down on me. I felt left out and told myself, ‘kau tunggu la’. I eventually fell in love with Accounting and worked hard to prove them wrong.

Alhamdulillah, I received 10As and 1B for SPM and was offered a JPA scholarship to study in the UK. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. At one point, I wanted to give up on my studies and go home to help my parents. My dad was against the idea and urged me to continue studying. When I got accepted to study at the University of Essex, my dad performed korban (sacrificial butchering of cows and goats for a feast), and 500 people from the kampung came to our house.

Growing up, my father did mostly kerja kampung. He planted palm oil and herded cows and goats at our small farm. At one point, he even sold fish, operated a kedai runcit (grocery store), and was a tauke getah (he acted as a middleman by collecting produce from rubber tappers and sold them to factories). During school holidays, I would help my father do things like cutting grass, mending fences and even taking care of the goats. He was earning RM 1,500 a month for the whole family.

In my first year, I took up a part-time job as a “Premise Assistant” under the Student Union to earn extra money. It may sound fancy but I was actually working as a cleaner.

My day started at 4am. Then I’d cycle to the university, and started working at 5. I had to scrub the floor, rearrange the chairs, clean the tables, and then clean the toilet. It’s not much, but I felt happy when I knew that I helped others by making the university clean. It’s actually much easier than working in the kampung. I didn’t have to work under the hot sun, do hard labour, and lift heavy things.

Honestly, I felt lazy to work as a cleaner because I had to wake up very early to work. My own friend who recommended me this job left after working for 2 days. And I had to work every weekend. My supervisor said I was a good employee, and he eventually granted me more flexible working days.

I worked 3 days a week, for up to 20 hours. 5-6 hours a day, earning £7.50 (RM40) an hour. I got about £100 (RM 500) a week and finished my shift at about 11am.

I highly recommend listening to ‘It’s a Hit’ on Spotify when you are cleaning. I have even used the mop as a microphone as I sang Awie’s ‘Tragedi Oktober’. I liked working as a cleaner because I can concentrate on doing my tasks. Unlike those who work at restaurants, they have to deal with people and customers, especially during peak hours.

In the UK, people don’t pandang rendah if you are a cleaner. They are considerate and apologise when they accidentally step on the spot I was cleaning. They also respect and greet cleaners by saying ‘Good Morning’, or ask me how I am doing. In Malaysia, if you see a cleaner, you throw rubbish on the floor, expecting them to clean after you.

For the first 2 years, I spent on things I never got to buy when I was younger. Eventually, I saved the money for my future from my cleaning job and managed to raise enough money, which was about £2000 to buy flight tickets for my parents to come to the UK.

It was their first time on an airplane and travelling outside of Malaysia, and I knew it meant a lot for them to be there with me. I wouldn’t be here today without them.

InshaAllah, I hope one day I can afford to pay for their Hajj trip to Mecca.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

The post that made Afiq’s story viral can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/590015750/posts/10157230804490751/

Photostory by Yasmin Mortaza and Mushamir Mustafa
Edited by Sydrah Mustaffa

“My mother passed away due to diarrhoea in 2014. She probably ate unhygienic food and we didn’t suspect anything. I mean, who dies from food poisoning in the 21st century? She was sick for just 1 day. And it shocked me, that she passed away after just 1 day.

My last words with her were when I took her to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), when the nurse didn’t let me go with her when they were pushing her to the ICU lift.

She looked at me …. In a certain way, and stared – and I felt like she knew this was going to be our last moment together. And true enough, she didn’t make it out alive from the surgery.

She had severe diarrhoea and from there she had septic shock, and all her internal organs shut down and had a heart attack.

She passed away on April 14 – which is the Bengali New Years Day. It is always the biggest day for us as a family and for Bangladesh, where I am from.

She had told us for tomorrow morning, if you don’t wake up early for the day’s activities, she would have just left on her own. And she did.

Now on this day, we all feel only sadness. Even my dad met and fell in love with her on the same day, and this day really bothers us.

She had gotten New Year’s clothes, and bought nothing for herself. We just felt like, maybe she just knew.

And now I live with lots of regrets that will be with me all my life. If I had known more about the diarrhoea or sent her to the hospital much earlier…

I regret not spending more time with her, like when she’s cooking, she would expect me to stand and talk to her and wants to talk to me a lot, and I would sometimes feel annoyed – now I wish I had spent time with her.

There was this one time I got accepted into a university in the States, but she told me she wanted me to study in Bangladesh instead, and I did not like her decision. But looking back, it was a chance for me to spend more time with her before she passed away.

And if I was given 30 seconds to make a phone call to her, I would tell her, that I love her and miss her. And I hope that she is well up there, and that I will keep doing good things to make her proud, that I am taking care of myself and my sister, and that she doesn’t have to worry about us.

I just want to listen to her voice, her complaints, her nagging – it’s not easy for me to say I love you and I did not say it enough.

When the nurse invited us to go to the ICU room to see her one last time, we saw her body.

In Islam, there’s probably a saying that you shouldn’t cry when someone has died, that we shouldn’t cry in front of her dead body. So we did not shed a single tear until we got home. Once we reached home, we both started crying uncontrollably.

I could not expect that someone could die from diarrhoea; It wasn’t even a big disease, and she was just fine the day before.

I could not forgive myself. I did research and found out that 45,000 people in Bangladesh, where I am from, die from diarrhoea every year.

And diarrhoea is the leading cause of death for children under 5 years of age – and 2.5 billion people don’t have access to proper sanitation.

I realized it’s not just us who are facing this – it is a global problem.

Then I thought I needed to do something about this – my family told me to stay and just grieve for my feelings, but I wanted to take action and help others, in case other people might lose their own moms, too.

And that’s where four days after her death, I conducted a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Campaign at an excluded community (the untouchables) of 3000 sewerage workers. I felt that I need to reach out to them and that society doesn’t value and appreciate them.

I became a WASH activist, where I teach people the importance of drinking clean water, maintaining basic hygiene, showering, keeping your nails short, menstrual hygiene, how to properly filter water at home, how to wash your hands properly (using the 7-steps technique) – things which many people didn’t know.

And in the past 7 years, I have reached out to 70,000 people, and now run my own organization called Awareness 360 in 23 countries, where I work with school children, slum dwellers, and sex workers – marginalized communities who do not know of this issue.

Right now in Malaysia, I notice that the Orang Asli community could use some help with the WASH education, which is why I will be going to Sabah and Sarawak to give a WASH talk.

To all Malaysians, do join our initiatives.

And most of all, value your parents when they are still alive, and for the youth, give back to the community now, not only when something tragic happened to you.

Find your passion in something that bothers you. We connect passion with a positive feeling – like music. But you can also find passion in something negative, and something you wish did not happen, and which bothers you. Each young person has all the potential to change the world for the better, only if they start bit by bit”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

If you would like to help or support Preva, please check out their Facebook page Awareness 360.

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

“A stroke is a brain attack. You end up with shells of the people you used to know, and it’s frustrating to communicate with them. For caregivers, they might shout and say unkind things to their loved ones.

Both my late mother and husband had a stroke. With stroke survivors, you have to be tough with them. They might say no to rehab, or no to exercising, but you need to be the driving force if you want to see them get out of their wheelchairs.

Families are important in the recovery process, which varies for everyone – it might take 6 months, one year, three years, or even five years. It doesn’t matter. It’s the small wins that count. At the end of the day, it’s rewarding to see someone who arrives at NASAM in a wheelchair, to be able to walk.

NASAM or National Stroke Association of Malaysia is an organisation that helps stroke survivors rehabilitate. We have 9 centres across Malaysia and have people as young as 15 up to those who are over 80 years old.

What makes NASAM so different is that we try to have fun at the centre. Aside from helping them exercise and relearn simple activities, we have music, dance and even organised the world’s first Stroke Games in 2017!”

Photostory by Yasmin Mortaza
Edited by Sydrah M. and Mushamir M.

In the next few photostories, we’ll be featuring Stroke patients and the cast for a theatre play called “Transitions”, a story about a radio station founder who suffers an unexpected stroke after celebrating her radio’s 10th anniversary.

Transitions is sponsored by Yayasan Sime Darby and supported by the National Stroke Association of Malaysia – NASAM