2020 and 2021 have not been easy for all of us. Who could have imagined a pandemic that has affected the whole world, forcing everyone to wear a mask daily? Who could have imagined that the Covid-19 pandemic would prolong for such a long time?
However, amid all this chaos, we see opportunities. Opportunities of realising everyone is equally affected and vulnerable under the vesture of Covid-19 and we need each other’s support. Opportunities to force a pause in our lifelong yet repetitious journey and reflect on what’s truly important in life. Opportunities of seeing that love and hope always persist, as a shining star in the darkest moment.
ElShaddai Centre, by the grace of God, sees these opportunities and seizes the perfect timing to reach out to the needy, vulnerable and downcast. This is a journey of love, hope and perseverance, living out the essence of Micah 6:8 – seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God – manifested through the humble serving journey with all humankind, especially the diaspora refugees who are living right at our doorstep
Emergency Relief Fund (ERF) was started in March 2020 when the pandemic struck and the first nationwide lockdown took place. While everyone was caught off guard, ElShaddai Centre responded with an immediate fundraising initiative, which embarked us on a new chapter in emergency relief action.
With unexpected overwhelming responses from all our faithful donors and supporters nationwide and abroad, we managed to provide provisions and financial support to those directly impacted families and individuals as the majority of them are daily-paid workers. Our support helped to relieve their daily livelihood needs, immediate medical conditions, outstanding rentals and unpaid utilities, and other emergencies that arose from this unexpected pandemic.
Rescue and relief are only the first steps in responding to the emergency needs of the people. This simple act of responding has been meaningful because we managed to reach and connect with thousands of people and they know there is someone who cares and is willing to support them when they are in difficulties. Seeds of love and trust are sown and from there we continue to grow the plants.
Community Outreach and Case Management
While we delivered provisions and support into the heart of the community, we managed to identify families and individuals who were exposed to higher risks including domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, risk of eviction; and of course those directly infected by Covid-19.
Technically, “Case management” can be defined as supporting and helping people with professional practices and competencies, but at ElShaddai Centre, this is a journey of mentoring and transformation. We managed cases professionally, with all the relevant and necessary support and services, because we believe the people deserve our best. At the same time, we walk with the people by journeying together with them through the difficulties and challenges happening in their life while living in Malaysia.
We realise that the systemic and structural factors are root causes that have intensified the impact of the challenges on them. Our journey with them is to empower them to see and believe that there is always beauty and strength within themselves. This is how we can live as the salt and light among the people.
Shelter Safe Placement
This is another project started during the pandemic in September 2020, with UNHCR’s initiative in responding to the refugee children and women at risk who are especially more vulnerable during the pandemic.
As we partner with UNHCR in providing Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) protection, ElShaddai Centre is now better equipped and capacitated to provide immediate protection and support to refugee children and women who are exposed to risks. Unaccompanied and separated minors, vulnerable single ladies and single mothers with children are the main target beneficiaries impacted by this collaboration.
Our goal is not only to provide immediate protection and timely support, but more importantly is to restore these downcast and vulnerable souls from their state of helplessness and hopelessness, to be healed from their pain and suffering. And eventually to find new hope, peace and love, and the assurance of having a new life again.
Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence Prevention
Child protection is always not an easy topic to talk about. The various factors causing child protection risks could be very complicated and systemic. There are a lot of talks and discussions about child protection issues and challenges, but the actual effort in tackling the problems is still way too little. The right of refugee or other irregular immigrant children is an ever lesser concern for many.
In ElShaddai Centre, we have various platforms to educate our students to know about their rights and how to protect themselves. What we wish to see is not only students having awareness and knowing their rights, but also creating a safe, secure, and supportive environment within the school and also in the community. An effective intervention is more than awareness and knowledge, but also a timely response mechanism and holistic support system extended into the community.
In 2021, despite the prolonged lockdowns, we still managed to conduct child protection training for our secondary school students as well as community children both online and physical. Over 120 students and children benefited and were sensitised on child protection and gender-based violence issues and also on the available services and support.
What’s the main purpose of community development? We can have lots of programs running, used as various platforms to engage and to work with the community people. However, the true value of community development is when people come together for one another, discarding their stereotypes and prejudices and learning to trust and love. We wish to see the togetherness and acceptance within their own culture as well as across cultures.
In 2021, we started partnering with various community centres including Ampang Afghan Community Centre, Gombak Arabic Groups Community Centre, Madrasah (Islamic Religious Schools), etc. We ran community mental wellness programs, youth self-developmental programs, community savings, community mutual-aid and support, educational programs, etc.
How do we foster this community togetherness and solidarity? We know this is a tough task and it takes time, but we are willing to step into the heart of the community. Through dialogues and conversations, listening and understanding, connecting and reconciling, empowering and building, we demonstrate to the people that there are different possibilities, solutions and new opportunities. This is how we bring to them the fragrance of peace and light of hope.
An Exciting 2022
How would you see 2022 and what do you expect? It could be another year with uncertainties and instabilities. In ElShaddai Centre, we see it as another year of excitement. The works that we have established thus far would be further strengthened and enhanced, with deepening support and services, and most importantly, rooting into the community to make our presence meaningful, relevant and impactful in transforming lives and empowering communities.
Someone said to me before, I should have Hopeful Uncertainties. Indeed, staying hopeful and positive in the midst of uncertainties, we can expect another year of experiencing God’s goodness, faithfulness, providence and surprises. Can’t wait!