Children in the urban poor communities may lack opportunities in aspects such as better after-school childcare and extra self-development activities.

o address the situation as well as empower and protect this group, two non-profit bodies in Petaling Jaya have engaged with the less fortunate and vulnerable communities.

They focus through academic, leisure and uniformed body activities.

StarMetro spoke to representatives of Kidzone Mentari at Desa Mentari flats and the Boys Brigade In Malaysia 9th Petaling Jaya Company.

“Our plan is to create effective activities within the at-risk community, especially for the children.”
– James Nayagam

Kidzone Mentari

Kidzone Mentari was launched in November last year and is nestled in Block 5 of Desa Mentari in PJS 6, Petaling Jaya.

It is run by Suriana Welfare Society, a non-governmental organisation formed in 2011. It is involved in promoting and protecting the rights of children who have been subject to abuse, abandonment, neglect, exploitation as well as human trafficking.

Located in a flat on the eighth floor, Kidzone is a one-stop centre benefiting about 250 children of all ages. It only services residents from the flats. When StarMetro visited the unit, about 15 children below seven years old were seen engrossed in colouring activities while some were playing carom in the hall.
With their artworks decorating the walls, the humble unit was turned into a cosy learning environment.

Kidzone Mentari founder, James Nayagam, who is also Suriana Welfare Society Malaysia chairman, said besides free educational lessons, the children have other activities such as play and art therapy, music therapy, drum circle and choir.

“Our plan is to create effective activities within the at-risk community, especially for the children. “The opportunity came when we got a rent-free unit to set up Kidzone Mentari,” said Nayagam, who is also a children’s rights activist. The Kidzone programme takes place Monday to Saturday between 3pm and 8pm. On Sundays, talks related to health as well as free legal advice are held for the parents.  Nayagam said the children were guided by five staff members trained to identify signs of abuse among children. “Children, comprising kindergarten, primary and secondary school students, come here after school. “The younger ones will come in and leave earlier, followed by the older children. “They come and go in batches and they know they have someone to look out for them here.

Kidzone Mentari also assists parents with various issues. “Sometimes, parents come to us for our advice on what to do with their children who had dropped out of school.

“Some children who come here have fathers in prison or are ill. “They usually need food aid and we help their family. “We also help the mothers with funds and provide them with skills training. “There are mothers who leave their children here when they need to run errands. “The children are in a safe environment and engage in nurturing activities. “In fact, the parents tell us their school grades have improved since they started attending our activities,” said Nayagam. He added that the project was first brought to the attention of resident leaders for their support. “The residents call their resident leader penghulu. “Without the support from the penghulu it will be hard to garner support from residents. “We have established a good relationship with them,” he said. The cost for the project is RM15,000 a month and it is funded through public donations. Nayagam has received requests to set up a similar project in five other low-cost housing schemes.  “Our costs consist of salary for the staff, fees for speakers and materials for the students. “We are short of funds but we want to set up Kidzone in five more low-cost housing areas,” he said. The plan is to set up Kidzone in Lembah Subang, Brickfields, Bangsar, Kerinchi, and Cheras in Kuala Lumpur.

Originally published in The Star.
Date : 8th July 2017
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