The topics most of us shared with our friends in school often centred on celebs, guys and music videos, but Heidy Quah had a completely different type of conversation with hers. As her friends were mostly in the debate club, they used to talk a lot about social problems.
“We questioned a lot why the government wasn’t doing anything about so many things, but over time, we asked ourselves, instead of just pointing this out, how could we use our voices to make a difference? That’s when we asked around and learnt that there was a Burmese refugee school in Sungai Besi, KL, and we decided to contribute our time and energy to teach the refugees there,” shares Heidy.
But that wasn’t enough for Heidy as she knew that she could do more, so she roped in her friends to run a project called Refuge For The Refugees to create awareness about the issue. “The ‘noise’ that the project made wasn’t loud enough and that’s when I decided to set it up as a non-profit organisation,” she says.
After leaving high school, Heidy decided to spend her time running this organisation while she continued Bachelor’s Hons in Accounting and Finance. By the end of last year, she was able to set up 35 schools in Malaysia and Myanmar, two halfway homes and social business school after realising how refugee children couldn’t get access to education at all prior to this. In 2017, she was awarded the Queen’s Young Leaders Award and made it known to the public that she wants refugee children to have equal access to education.
In the past year, Heidy has been busy with two major projects, one of which has to do with the Chin (one of the ethnic groups in Myanmar) refugees in Malaysia. As the United Nations of Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced its decision to halt the cessation of Chin refugees in Malaysia, Refuge For The Refugees stepped up and spearheaded The Chin Up Project. Under this project, signatures were collected from the public and presented to the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, which later resulted to the reverse of the Chin Cessation Policy which made a huge difference.
“At the same time, we’re running a growing social business school that aims to empower refugees with skills like coff ee-making, baking, cooking and even hair-cutting skills. So, even if they don’t receive the education they need, they’ll be equipped with skills that they can put to good use in the future,” explains Heidy.
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