Shelter Stories
  • Vol. 1 SHFC Publications James Jega's Story
  • Vol. 2 SHFC Publications Sunita - Abused By Step Family
  • Vol. 3 SHFC Publications Chong - Mixing With The Wrong Friends
  • Vol. 4 SHFC Publications David - On The Path To Success (Graduated - BSc (Hons) in Computer Science, Binary University College)
  • Vol. 5 SHFC Publications Angel - The Aspiring Businesswoman (Hair Salon Business Owner)
  • Vol. 6 SHFC Publications Raj - From A Difficult Beginning To A Hopeful Future (Graduated - Diploma in Hotel Management, Olympia College)
  • Vol. 7 SHFC Publications Mani - SHELTER's Legacy (Lorry Business Owner)
  • Vol. 8 SHFC Publications Mark - A budding Chef (Graduated - Diploma in Culinary Arts, Flamingo College)
  • Vol. 9 SHFC Publications Elaine* - To save a Life (Graduated - Diploma in Nursing, Tun Tan Cheng Lock College of Nursing)
  • Vol. 10 SHFC Publications Jia Huai - Braving the heights of tomorrow (BA (Hons) Media, Culture and Communication, IACT)
  • Vol. 11 SHFC Publications Jon writes back (B.S in Biology, Regis University)
  • Vol. 12 SHFC Publications George returns Home to Sri Lanka (Graduated - Certificate in IT, Hartford College)
  • Vol. 13 SHFC Publications Matilda's love for Pastry (Graduated - Advanced Diploma in Pastry & Bakery Arts, Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia)
  • Vol. 14 SHFC Publications Mary - The hope to study in the USA
  • Vol. 15 SHFC Publications Melissa* - The Steadfast Lady (Graduated - ACCA, Sunway University)
Vol. 1 : James Jega's Story

Unbearable hunger pangs gripped Jeganathan a/l Mumisamy (better known as James Jega) and all he could think to do was to snatch a piece of cake from the nearby sundry shop in Brickfields. Unfortunately, Jega, then 12 years old, was caught in the act. The storekeeper beat him relentlessly as punishment.

This experience left an indelible mark on him. It was then that he decided to look for a job and earn some money. He did so by washing dishes at a nearby “mamak” shop. Whatever he earned went to help his sickly mother, unemployed father and five siblings.

Shortly after, the landlord of the wooden house they were renting, threw Jega and his family out as they could no longer pay the rent. They found themselves on the streets. Somehow they managed to put up a piece of canvas under a tree and that became home to them for a while.

It was at that time that he met one of the founding members of Shelter, Solomon, who took him in to stay at Shelter. He became the first resident in Shelter. That was in 1981.

Through the help of a Shelter staff, he started work in an accountancy firm in Sungai Besi. He was thankful for this job and didn’t mind cycling each day from Section 12, PJ to his work place, a distance of at least 10 km.

He gave his monthly earnings to Shelter because he was grateful to Shelter. At the end of his stay in Shelter, the staff returned all the money he had given them – they had kept it safe for him! With the “surprise savings” and additional help from Shelter, he was able to buy a small house for his family.

James Jega attributes his success to the staff and volunteers of Shelter – in addition to the necessities given him, the constant nurturing, guidance and counsel given by the staff members, volunteers and donors instilled in him a sense of responsibility and a hope for the future. The staff and volunteers of Shelter were helpful to him and his family members throughout those trying years of sheer hard work when he first started his business.

“I enjoyed my time in Shelter and will never forget what Shelter staff and Volunteers (namely James Nayagam, Rajes, Lawerence, Phylis, Daisy, Susy, Kingsley, Solomon, Kumar and Karasi) have done for me. If not for them, I won’t be where I am today!” says this man who presently owns a transport company with a few employees working for him.

One of the pioneer staff of Shelter, remembers him as an active but very hard working boy. “He is also very enterprising and has helped each of his three brothers start their own businesses,” the staff proudly said.

“If I had remained on the streets I could have ended up like some of my childhood friends who have died from drug overdose or gang fights,” said Jega. “My life certainly changed for the better. I hope that more street children will have the chance to be cared for like me,” said James Jega.

Vol. 2 : Sunita - Abused by step family

Her body went into alarm reaction - her heart pounded, she gasped for breath?

Sunita's mother passed away soon after giving birth to her. Sunita’s father, on whom fell the responsibility to raise her, was always too busy womanising to have any time for his daughter and eventually sent her to live at a stepsister's house. Nobody bothered to pay any attention to her there.

However, things changed when Sunita turned five. Her step-brother-in-law started to go into her room several nights a week and putting a pillow over her face, raped her. Each time, out of sheer terror, her body went into alarm reaction - her heart pounded, she gasped for breath. After each episode, her eyes stayed wide open, her heart raced, her muscles remained tightened until dawn. This went on for eight years. Sunita began to developed epilepsy.

When her stepsister found out about the rape, she sent her to another stepsister's house where history repeated itself. This time, things got even worse because her stepsister would kick and beat her as punishment for being raped. She was finally abandoned at a police station when she was 14 and sent to Shelter.

Three years later, Sunita is still undergoing treatment for epilepsy which is now under control. The trauma of her childhood lingers on and haunts her as she struggles to adjust to a normal life.

Vol. 3 : Chong - Mixing with the wrong friends

Chong* was arrested for stabbing another boy in a gang fight?

Chong is the sixth child in a family of eight children. They lived in poverty and his parents had to spend every waking hour trying to earn a living to support the whole family. There just wasn't any time to spend with their children.

Left on his own, Chong felt bored. He started mixing with bad company at the age of nine. He skipped school, smoked, gambled, shoplifted, got into gang fights and stole money from home. He lost interest in school and dropped out after Standard 6. As the years progressed, Chong and his friends even resorted to extortion to get extra money.

Deep inside, he was just a child crying out for help. He had hoped that his parents would notice his misdeeds and make him stop. When that did not happen, he started staying out more often and getting into more trouble.

His parents finally realised what their son had been up to when Chong was arrested for stabbing another boy in a gang fight. Unable to control him, they approached their priest who recommended that Chong be admitted to Shelter.

When Chong came to us at 14, he tried to run away. He detested attending English, Maths and Auto-Mechanics classes. However he soon made friends with the other boys and realised that he could earn an honest living when he grew up. Now, Chong is determined to become a good mechanic.

*This is not his actual name

Vol. 4 : David - On the path to success

“To the supporters and donors, do not feel like your money is wasted. Please do not look at your donation in a short term return but think of it as a long term investment. Think of it as “If I sponsor this kid, in 10 years, where he could be?” Do not think “If I am paying this much, I will get the tax exemption, name and recognition”. -David

We are very proud to share that David is the person who coded this newly revamped web page.

David came into SHELTER at the age of 7. He has no recollection of any memory before that and he never knew who his parents were. He only remembers that one of the staff of SHELTER took him from Batu Arang into our Home and the staff left not long after. David did not get the chance to ask about his background from him but David has never lingered on his past and have long accepted his life’s circumstances and moved on.

When David entered into SHELTER, he found that he is soaked in an environment that pushes him to learn how to speak in English. Besides that, his life now follows a schedule and a discipline that is shaped by school, tuition and chores as well as having a time of fun with play time and TV. He was close to some of the staff there and one of the staff even taught him how to cook! One person that was like a father figure to him then was the Home Manager, Jin. Jin often took time to teach and constantly listen to the needs of the children.

By the time David was 13 years old, he was moved to the teenage boys Home. He shared that he felt that he could already speak English fluently then. However at that point of time, the teenage boy Home was filled with squabbles and fights among the boys and he felt really agitated as it is natural that teenagers need a lot of private space to explore their own identity. A staff then known as Eric* saw that this was not an environment that would be conducive for the teenagers to grow and excel in so he proposed an idea to the management to start a different Home under his supervision. The idea behind this Home was to select boys who sincerely wanted to learn and excel in life and Eric would dedicate all of his time and energy in building these boys up. This Home was known as Shelter X.

The idea was then approved by the management and so Eric selected the boys from the teenage boys Home; David was one of them.

Eric had a different style of raising the boys. He does not expect the boys to be spoon fed by deciding what they need to do and what they should do throughout the day. He only expected them to follow by the guidelines like not going out and coming back at a certain hours, not mixing with the wrong gang, play truant or to take drugs. What they chose to do within the Home or outside, he left it to them to decide. Eric also gave their pocket money in a lump sum at the beginning of the month. He wanted them to learn how to budget and to have the self-control in their spending. This is because he wanted to prepare them to be independent when they leave SHELTER as most of them will have no one else to depend on. He told them “you guys are old enough to think for yourself, so make the right choices because the choice you make will affect your future”.

Eric was not just someone who just gave them the guidance and care; he was also there to help them with their homework and exams at school.

When David finally graduated from SPM, he had nowhere to go. He has no contact to his parents and no relatives have ever tried to contact him during his years at SHELTER. So someone who is close to a staff of SHELTER offered her place for David to stay. Her friend who owns a restaurant then was looking for someone to work there so David decided to take up the job. He then moved out to stay along with the other workers. David was prepared and he did not really have much issue coping. He credited this readiness to Eric who has trained him during his stay with him.

When SPM results were released, David wanted to study. He knew the only way to move forward in life in the city was to get a degree. He did not know where to start as he found that the costs at private colleges are exorbitant. Another staff from SHELTER then, Sophia, followed up with him and came to know about his desire. She then made the necessary arrangements for David. He chose to study at Binary College. When the college saw the letter provided by SHELTER on David’s background, they gave him a RM8000 discount on his fees. With the PTPTN loan, David can finally start his college studies in Diploma.

David then met his girlfriend at college and when her family came to know about his background, they offered to support him. After a couple of months, David felt that it wasn’t right for him to receive their money so he took on a weekend job with his girlfriend. This job is to clean up the church after service on Sundays. He got some money there but it was not enough so he eventually managed to land an internship job with a company that his lecturer referred him to. 

Today, he has not only completed his degree and got a decent job but has also married his girlfriend! Both Eric, his wife and two staff of SHELTER attended his wedding and they were all so happy for him! 

*This is not his actual name

Vol. 5 : Angel - The Aspiring Businesswoman

“A proud business owner at the age of 21 and one who has experience grooming various renowned artists in Malaysia, Angel shares her life story with us and how SHELTER played an important part in her life.”

At a young age, Angel’s dream was to be a lawyer when she grows up but life was tough for her then. Angel, the only child in her family, whose father passed away when she was a baby, grew up with her grandmother. Her mother remarried and explained that she gave her to her grandmother because her house was near the school.

At that time, Angel’s Aunt worked at a Home. Angel then got a chance to visit the Home and saw the environment in the Home. She really liked it and she would ask to stay with the children in the Home during the school holidays. Angel was only 11 then. A year later, her mother passed away. When she was 13, her Aunt’s friend who liked her wanted to adopt her but she declined.

By the age of 14, she was not happy with her environment and had no contact with her family anymore, so she asked her Aunt’s friend to send her to a Home. She was then sent to SHELTER.

This is one of Angel’s turning points of life. At that time, SHELTER 2 was a vocational home. The Home Manager there made sure that all the girls would learn a variety of skills. At these classes, the girls were taught knitting, cooking, sewing, hairdressing, flower arrangement, cross- stitch and even basic English and Computer literacy. These classes were held daily. She was the top student in the Home and teachers were fond of her as she had a strong desire to learn. Among all the skills, she liked hairdressing the most. At this point in her life, Mr John Loga, the Community Officer, helped to get her Birth Certificate. Her grandmother for some reason had lost it. After nine months at SHELTER, her stepfather wanted to take her back. Ms Delilah*, the Home Manager then, stopped it as she felt that the stepfather wanted to use her for some other purpose and had no interest, whatsoever, in taking care of her.

However, another volunteer Ching*, who had been teaching her hairdressing, took her as a trainee as she ran her own business. She was 15 then. Angel stayed with her, followed her to work, started to learn what it is like to work and also learnt many other things from Ching and her staff by careful observation. Ching was not calculative and did not hesitate to spend on Angel. There was also another ex-resident of SHELTER who was staying and working with Ching. It was a difficult start for Angel as there was a lot to adjust to but she eventually got used to it. Two years later, she got a scholarship to do a course with Kimarie. Others usually complete the course in 2 years but Angel did it in 8 months! This is because she has a strong interest to learn and her work experience covered many aspects of the course. Wella saw her positive attitude to learn and decided to sponsor her Advanced Course and she finished it in a few months as well.

Angel’s life started to take a better turn. She was hired in a famous hairstylist place known as Jesmine’s and she got the chance to groom artists like the Alleycats, Reshmonu, Jacklyn Victor, Anantha and Ram from Astro, Sasi the Don and even professionals like lawyers and doctors. At this point of time, Angel wanted to expand her repertoire of skills so she paid to take courses to learn other grooming skills like Make-Up, Waxing and so on while working.

After two years, she felt that she was not learning much, so she moved on and worked for another person in Puchong. However she was only paid RM1200 a month. The owner was uninvolved in the business and expected her to do everything from A-Z, ie from contacting the suppliers to hairstyling and grooming. With her qualifications and years of experience, she really felt underpaid but at least the pay was stable.

A volunteer named Heather*, who helped at SHELTER 2 had always kept in touch with her and heard about her predicament. Heather was the person Angel depended on in hard times. When Heather saw the potential in Angel, she advised her to start her own business. At that point in time, Angel was not courageous enough to make the move. However, the owner saw the potential in her and made her an offer to be a partner in order to keep her. Heather protested vehemently and strongly advised Angel not to agree as Angel would be sharing the profit with a sleeping partner - Angel listened.

Not long after, things got tensed between Angel and the owner due to the decline of offer and a slip of words were said to her that caused a misunderstanding and Angel decided to leave. With a lot of encouragement from Heather and some financial help, Angel started her own business with her measly savings of Rm3000. It was very hard for her at the beginning as she had just turned 21. However, one by one, customers who knew that Angel left her former place came to her new place. In just two weeks, she already made more than she had saved in 2 years! She then realized her true capability and how much she had been missing out and that Heather was the person who really pushed her.

Today, Angel is no longer in contact with Heather due to some issues but the ex-Home Manager of SHELTER 2, Melissa* , got in touch with her and is now her pillar of strength. Angel has a well established business with staff and calls it Angel’s Hair Beauty Studio. She is currently happily married and gave birth to a lovely daughter not too long ago. Angel who is very grateful to SHELTER does not charge or would give a good price to ex-staff or staff from SHELTER, both present and previous ones who go to her Beauty studio.

*These are not their actual names.

Vol. 6 : Raj - From a difficult beginning to a hopeful future

“…SHELTER teaches you to be disciplined. They teach you how to be a better person in future, how to be independent and I really respect and thank God for that.” – Raj*

Raj had a difficult childhood. His father was away from home, working as a rubber tapper and his mother was a cleaner. There were five in the family. His parents could not afford to take care of him so they sent him to his grandmother where his uncle and aunt helped to care for him.

His aunt was very firm and strict. He had to behave exactly as he was told or he would be severely punished. In fact the word “punish” is an understatement; he was literally abused. Raj was a playful and aggressive child then but his aunt would often pinch him so hard that his skin would tear. At other times, his aunt would tie him up under the hot sun, take a metal, sear it in an open wood fire until it was burning hot and then would burn Raj’s arms or body. Due to the constant physical abuse, Raj started to leave home often and loiter around the neighbourhood. His uncle would then look for him, get hold of him and bring him back. During Raj’s loitering, many kind souls gave him money thinking he was a beggar but his uncle would later take all the money to buy lottery tickets.

On one of these trips, Raj burned his leg from a motorbike exhaust pipe. When passers-by saw that, they started to ask if he was okay. One person called the Welfare Department and an ambulance came and took Raj to the hospital. SHELTER was later informed and Mr Peter Daniel was in- charge of Raj’s case. Mr Peter made all the necessary arrangements with Mr James (SHETLER's founder) as well as Raj’s parents, to enroll Raj into SHELTER. Raj’s parents agreed and since then, Raj’s life has been on a bright path. Raj was 8 years old when all these happened.

Alan* and Teresa* were among the many people who took care of Raj. To Raj, Alan and Teresa were the loving parents that he never had. Raj’s life was drastically changed as he learned to speak English and was appropriately disciplined. On weekends, children then were supposed to go back to their families to spend time with their parents. Even though Raj did go back home, his mother hardly spent time with him so Raj ended up working for his neighbour’s Mamak stall where he was given meals in exchange for the work he put in.

When he was 12 years old, it was SHELTER's procedure in those days to discharge the child and send them back to their families. Raj still remembers that all his other friends’ parents came and took them but even though it was already 12 midnight that day, his parents never came.

One of SHELTER’s officers then drove Raj back to his home. By then, his biological father had passed away and his mother had remarried. To Raj’s horror, his stepfather was a drug addict. On the same day that Raj went home, his stepfather took Raj’s hard saved money to buy more drugs for himself. These savings were the pocket money that Raj had saved daily for 5 years. Raj couldn’t deal with this so he went to church the next day (it was a Sunday) to look for Alan and Teresa.

He told them that he felt insecure and uncomfortable in his home. After church service, Alan went to his house to talk to his stepfather and mother to seek permission for Raj to be adopted. They agreed on the spot.

Alan and Teresa were one of the few in his life that helped build his character. Many words of love, encouragement and advice, as well as tough discipline were part of his upbringing in SHELTER. Alan was a disabled person, used a wheelchair and yet went out of his way to take Raj as his own. There was once when Raj was extremely mad at Teresa after she scolded him for something he had done. He remembered that night when he was in bed, she sat next to him and said “You have no idea how much I love you”.

During his high school years, Raj was bullied. After some time, he couldn’t take it anymore and started defending himself by getting into fights and was later expelled.

When Raj turned 15, a food stall nearby was torched and some witnesses pinned it on Raj. The police and even some gangsters were involved in this and both parties dropped by Alan & Teresa’s home. Alan felt it was best that Raj moved out and they would support him from a distance for his safety. SHELTER helped to pay the rent for Raj’s new place and even gave him some money for his meals. Alan appealed to the secondary school he was in to accept Raj again and they agreed.

After finishing secondary school, Raj worked at a hypermarket. He approached SHELTER for help in seeking a scholarship to study in a college. Mr James Nayagam then arranged with Rotary Club and later he got a full scholarship to study hotel management at Olympia College.

From then on, Raj started working very hard. He ventured into different hotels and eventually into the Food and Beverage (F&B) line. His friend Simon, was a key person in his life because he taught Raj all the basics of the F&B business. Raj rose to be supervisor at a café and eventually placed in the team to supervise the opening of new branches.

Today, Raj has over 15 years of F&B experience and has a family with two young children. He is also a consultant for anyone who wants to open a restaurant. He owns an apartment and now wants to help other underprivileged children.

*This is not his/her actual name

Vol. 7 : Mani - SHELTER's Legacy

Picture a 15-year old boy with an ailing mother and five younger siblings needing financial support. Many years later, this man, Subramaniam a/l Munisamy or Mani for short, has a thriving plumbing and renovation business with two full-time workers and several part time employees working for him. “With my earnings, I was able to buy a bigger lorry, car and some property including a house which I gave to my mother,” says Mani.

Mani came to SHELTER in 1981 and he stayed till 1982. In 1983, with the help of SHELTER, he was accepted into Negeri Agro Industrial Training Centre (a vocational school), to pursue a certificate course in plumbing. After completing the course, he worked in a company for seven years as a quality controller. Mani also took on plumbing jobs after office hours to earn extra income. Having no transport of his own, he travelled by mini bus, lugging his heavy tools along. He saved enough to buy a motorbike in three years and subsequently, he was able to buy a small lorry.

He decided to go full time into plumbing but found that running the business wasn’t always smooth sailing – during low periods he had to supplement his income by collecting cardboard boxes, paper cartons and newspaper in order to sell them. Mani also picked up renovation skills in carpet laying, welding, wiring and house painting. “I learnt those skills mainly by observation – as in the case of carpet laying, I went ahead with this business without any practical experience,” Mani said.

Just seven months ago, Mani took in a 17 year old boy from SHELTER 3, “Samy*” is a very slow learner and finds it hard to remember the different types of the plumbing tools. “I have to teach him over and over again,” says Mani. “He has no concept of time or money but he is good in doing manual tasks.” However Mani perseveres in the task of coaching and mentoring Samy. He hopes that in time Samy will be able to work independently and perhaps, set up his own business.

Mani is one of SHELTER’s first success stories. His success has a lot to do with his drive. But SHELTER has a part too – in providing him the direction and opportunity to develop his skills. Now Mani has gone one step further. . .in giving an opening for other SHELTER boys to learn a skill and to be self-sufficient as they prepare to leave SHELTER.

*Name has been changed

Vol. 8 : Mark - A budding Chef

After being with us for about 9 years, we are blessed to see Mark graduating with a Diploma in Culinary Arts.

When Mark was hardly about 10 years old, he was staying with his grandfather. Mark’s mother remarried as her former husband was a gambler and was in huge debts with the loan sharks. She was not able to raise Mark by herself as times were hard for her. She had no choice but to leave him with his grandfather. When she found out that Mark was doing construction work with his grandfather, she knew that Brandon’s future would not be bright if he continued to live with his grandfather.

She had a very difficult choice to make but she knew that life would be better for Mark; so she sent him to us.

We sent him to school, monitored his grades and hired private tutors to help him with his education. We also sent him for music lessons, arranged a volunteer to teach him how to play the guitar. One of the staff at our Home also constantly advised him and she would often involve him with the cooking when he was in Shelter 3. That is where Mark got interested in cooking and was inspired to be a chef someday.

After passing SPM, we helped him secure a PTPTN loan and helped to top up his monthly allowance as his mother was unable to provide for him. A staff was assigned to ‘walk with him’ throughout his college years and would visit him monthly to ensure that he was alright in every aspect especially in his studies.

With so many wonderful individuals that came along in his life, from the Home managers, Home staff and volunteers and of course the sponsors, today, Brandon has graduated with a Diploma. Mark went on to work for a number of restaurants after that. At one of the restaurants, he was even asked to design the menu of the restaurant!

He once shared this to the worker who was journeying with him when he was still doing his Diploma, "When I met my mother again after finishing SPM, I was very, very angry with her as I find it so hard to forgive her for leaving me in a home. But now that I am where I am, I understand why she chose to do that. I saw my other older brother who stayed with her and how he couldn't even speak basic English or had any opportunity to study. But because I was in SHELTER, I had all these opportunities. While I am thankful she did that, I am still on my journey in forgiving her."

Today, Mark has taken a huge step. He has actually started his own catering business and we are all happy for him.

*the name has been changed to protect his identity

Vol. 9 : Elaine - To save a Life

“. .It was because she remembered that when she was young, she wished she could have saved her parents. That was the deep, powerful subconscious motivation that propelled her to take up the Nursing course.”. –Elaine

Elaine was already 16 when she was sent to us. Her father passed away when she was young and so did her mother due to lupus. Her step mother decided to seek for our help because she herself is a single woman who has to work full time and is unable to give the care Elaine deserves.

Elaine was this reserved and intense person when she first came in. She was very selective with whom she talked to and even so, she wouldn’t open up much. However, she soon found out that Shelter 2 was the home she had longed for. The home manager, Jingle, along with the caregivers and the girls, slowly gained her trust and before we knew it, we found that she was actually a very cheerful and intelligent person.

While we had a very short time frame to support and help her grow (less than 104 weeks!), we still gave our best. We arranged tuition classes, ensured that study time is followed through and when her SPM results were released, she did pretty well!

Just as with all of our youth, we aim to provide them with an opportunity to pursue tertiary education - it is now Elaine’s turn. However, she was not quite sure what course she was interested in. The assigned case worker helped to work through her desire and thoughts and assessed what might be best for her. After combing through whatever scholarships that were available with her then, it was shortlisted to a few. For some reason, the scholarship for Diploma in Nursing from Assunta Hospital stood out to her.

While we are really thankful that Assunta offered scholarship for Elaine’s studies, an allowance and provided accommodation, we felt that Elaine needed a little more allowance. This is so that she can focus on studying and not worrying if she has enough. So we worked out the costs and after confirming with Elaine on the decision with this course, we got her to apply for it.

When Elaine was called in for an interview, she still remembers how surprised she was when right at the end of the interview; the principal told her that she was accepted there and then. She only had to wait to sign some papers.

Her journey started not long after and it was really a challenging one. This is beside the fact that the nursing course was intense. Elaine was asked to be a leader in one of the clubs in the institute as well. Elaine started out slow with a CGPA of 2.3 in her first semester. She was undergoing a huge emotional breakdown that really affected her studies. Both we and the institute were really worried for her but we sat with her through it and continued to cheer her on.

Elaine eventually picked herself up and semester by semester, she started improving. Along the way, she was even asked to speak at a University function to share about her life story. The case worker who has been journeying alongside her was present at the talk and she was really impressed with how brave she was to open up like that. She also finally knew why she made the decision to take up the Nursing course when it was offered to her. It was because she remembered that when she was young, she wished she could have saved her parents. That was the deep, powerful subconscious motivation that propelled her to take up the Nursing course.

Moving on 3 years later, after all the blood (seeing blood literally!), sweat and tears - Elaine has graduated from her Diploma! She is now ready to be a nurse, serving the many others and being a huge blessing to them all. This is a success story that we're really proud to share to all donors and supporters who choose to believe in us and in the work that we do.

*Name has been changed to protect her identity

Vol. 10 : Jia Huai - Braving the heights of tomorrow

“I never had any fear of my future as I grew up in SHELTER because I see all my seniours being sent to colleges and getting work placements.” – Jia Huai

At the tender age of 8, this young girl came to the doors of Shelter 1. Her name is Jia Huai. The Home Manager took her in as his own as he did with the other kids. She is blessed with wonderful memories growing up in the home, including the time this Home Manager took them for a getaway where they could swim, fish, camp and watch movies. She also went on a Star Cruise where she played games and had a scrumptious meal. She knew this was a rare opportunity indeed, even for most kids!

However, life was not all fun and joy – she faced the reality of stigma and undeserved hatred when school friends discovered she came from a Home. She recalled the hurtful “labels” these friends gave her and some other kids. Another painful memory was her bag stuffed with trash, which made her feel really horrible inside. As a result, she didn’t want anyone to know she came from a Home.

Today, at the age of 21, Jia Huai is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Media Culture and Communication majoring in Public Relations, at IACT, and finishes her programme in September 2018. She is no longer afraid to let others know she comes from a Home, and is instead grateful to SHELTER for all the support. Her Diploma and Degree level studies were made possible through scholarships from Universities that recognize and support SHELTER. In addition, SHELTER provides her an allowance and assigns a staff to journey, guide and help meet whatever needs she may have.

She also works part-time when she can to meet her financial needs or to save up to travel around as she loves adventure and to be exposed to the world. She shared, “I never had any fear of my future as I grew up in SHELTER because I see all my seniours being sent to colleges and getting work placements.” True enough, SHELTER kept to this commitment when it was her turn.

Today, she wants to give back. Last July, she helped to create awareness and raised funds for SHELTER as she participated in our Mount Kinabalu Charity Climb. She wants to help the other SHELTER kids just as how she was helped. Although she has never hiked Mount Kinabalu before, she was willing to go through all the rigorous training and preparation - and she did it! She reached the peak along with the other hikers who also generously gave to the cause.

Vol. 11 : Jon's letter to us (B.S in Biology, Regis University)

Jon, a young man who entered our Home in 2008 has recently written to us from the United States. He is currently studying at Regis University and recently graduated from his Pre-Medicine Programme. This following is Jon’s story.

Jon was born in Afghanistan to loving parents. His dad was a dentist and used to work with MCI. Life took a huge turn for the worse when his village was attacked. In the midst of the attack, his father was never found.

Jon had to flee because he was beaten and treated very poorly. He fled to Pakistan for a month and eventually came to our Malaysian shores. Alone in our country, Jon registered with UNHCR to get himself settled in a peaceful place as he was staying with a group of older men. UNHCR felt that he was in danger (And Jon claimed that it was indeed dangerous), and so they then settled him into our Home at SHELTER.

During his stay at SHELTER, he was homeschooled by an English teacher, Dawn Teh, who volunteered in SHELTER and wanted to help Jon. Jon is really thankful to her because he is what he is today partly because of her effort those days. When he left SHELTER, she even extended her house for him to stay in and he continued schooling under her, finishing grade 8 to 11 in two years. When UNHCR settled him in Colorado USA in December 2010, he went to the local high school and obtained a High School Diploma. When he was in high school, he was already applying for a scholarship and taking all the standardized tests.

He was accepted in all the places that he had applied for and he took up the offer by Regis University. He plans currently is to finish his B.S in Biology and then perhaps apply to a Medical School. He wishes to become either an Obstetrician or a Gynaecologist (OB/GYN). His plans to visit Malaysia one day and hopefully do something for us at SHELTER.

Vol. 12 : George returns home to Sri Lanka (Graduated - Certificate in IT (Hartford College)

George* graduated from Hartford. Hartford is an academic institution that provides education on IT skills at various levels. In one of their initiatives, they have agreed to support immigrants in helping them obtain basic IT skills or even higher education on a person to person basis .

George received certificates on completion in the following subjects, Advance Blogging with Wordpress, HTML programming, Basic Blogging with Blogspot, Adobe Illustrator CS3, Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Basic IT skills. He has spent many months learning, practising and is really interested to learn. But it wasn’t always this way.

This is George’s story. George is a Sri Lankan who came to Malaysia just a few years back. His parents died back in his country and ever since then, life has never been the same for him. When he came into our Home, he could hardly utter a single English word. We have a wonderful volunteer who is very dedicated and she was willing to help him. Her name is Ms Woodhull. She taught him English and Math weekly. Now he can speak fairly good English and it’s also due to our culture that we encourage English to be spoken in the Homes.

But even during this time, George wasn’t really motivated to learn or to do anything productive. He doesn’t have any major attitude problem and is often cooperative. But we didn’t want him to be just a mediocre person without any direction in life. It was initially difficult for us to find out what he would be interested to learn but we took our time and slowly discovered it. He had worked in a bakery shop before with another of our boys but that didn’t last too long. He then shared that he is interested in computers. So we arranged to bring in some unwanted CPUs for him to tinker around with. We even printed out some free education syllabus from the internet regarding computers for him to learn. He expressed a keen interest eventhough he was struggling to understand the technical and theoretical part of syllabus, but it was the attitude that got us to seriously consider sending him to an academic institution on IT.

When George started studying at Hartford, he would attend all the classes. When we asked him to explain his subjects, he could do so and showed enthusiasm in learning it. George was pretty much independent and never really asked help in his studies. To us, seeing that passion and the sense of direction in his life was a huge joy. We understand that it has always been a parents’ worry if their child will ever find a stable career as their child reaches adulthood. We share that same concern too.

Today, George and his older brother have both went back to Sri Lanka and have established themselves there. George as expected, took up a job that is related to IT and we are extremely happy for him. In fact, one of our staff and her husband went there to visit both of them and they welcomed them both with arms wide open!

*Not his actual name

Vol. 13 : Matilda's love for Pastry (Graduated - Advanced Diploma in Pastry & Bakery Arts, Academy of Pastry Arts)

When Matilda* came to us at the age of 15, it was really difficult to place her in a school near our Home due to her complicated background. Despite many attempts, there were some obstacles and Matilda was not going anywhere in her life as this issue prolonged. However, Matilda was not going to let life pass her by. She has continually urged us to give her an education so that she can have a bright future and we are definitely with her on that too.

During her time with us, a staff has been teaching her and the other girls some craftwork. Among the girls, Matilda is one of them who continued working on the craftwork on her own initiative. This gave the staff an indicator that she might be someone who learns better with a hand on approach. When we approached her to consider vocational skills, she was positive about it.

Eventually, we decided to send her to learn a Pastry Art course that lasted 9 months. Just in two weeks, she was already able to produce some really scrumptious pastries for us at the HQ! We were really delighted to see her progress and we are glad that her class size is suitable where she can learn optimally from the lecturers. As the months passed, the lecturers recognized her talent and they offered her to go beyond her Diploma level and to take on the Advanced Diploma course; she took that opportunity without any hesitation!

Today, Matilda* has not only graduated with a diploma but an Advance diploma from Academy Of Pastry Arts Malaysia!!! Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia Chefs are so good that they even won second place in a global competition. So to us, Matilda making it through their course is really a big deal.

Throughout her journey at this institute, many of our staff took turns to walk alongside with her by checking on her progress and to give her heaps and heaps of encouragement.

However, there is a story behind this graduation. Matilda actually studied this course under a scholarship and Matilda is the first person that the Academy has given a scholarship to. While it was not a full scholarship, it did however cover almost the whole course fees and we are very, very grateful to them. With a big heart and faith in Matilda, the principal gave her a chance to prove herself and the rest is now history.

We are always amazed with how God would give us this honour to see Matilda graduate with such an education. This is not just with the opportunity given by Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia but also with the very short time we had with her when she was sent to us!

*Name has been changed

Vol. 14 : Mary - The hope to study in the USA

Proudly Sharing the JOYS of our Alumni…Shelter Community School 1 (Our school for refugee children)

Summer is graduation time in High Schools in the USA. We received news from an alumni who have graduated!

Mary Bawi Cing… came to us in 2009 when she was 12 and could barely speak English. She came with her aged grandparents and mum. Mary lost her mum tragically when she was with us. However, we gave all that we can, from food, education and arranging her family to be resettled. She was eventually resettled in the USA in 2014. One of the things that has always amazed us as with all other refugees, that Mary remained resilient through numerous ups and downs.

In the USA, Mary received academic scholarships from several Universities but her unemployed grandparents are not able to support her board & lodging. Hence, she has to forgo the offers. However, she is not going to let this deter her education. She has opted to work part-time in order to support her own studies on Marketing at a local Community College. After 2 years, she hopes to transfer to a University and major in International Marketing. Mary has been selected to intern with the Bank of America this summer. Moreover, Mary was also selected to attend a leadership program at Washington DC and she was also chosen to share her success story at the Kick-Off event this year during the Mayor Youth Employment Program. Hearing this news really made all of us so proud of her! She shared on what she had been through including how all the teachers at Shelter School One had helped her.

We really amazed and of course extremely delighted to receive all these from her. To think that the five years we spent and invested in Mary has truly come to fruition. This is another testimony that what Mary went through in the past will not define her future, as long as we are willing to do our part to help and she is willing to do her part to give her best. There are still so many of them that have been relocated and we truly wish that all of them have in some way, resettled and is now finally given that opportunity to be the best that they can be as Mary did.

Vol. 15 : Melissa* - The Steadfast Lady

Though I may come from a broken family but I still feel very blessed to have a group of supportive and caring sisters and others at SHELTER.” - Melissa

ACCA graduate and is now working with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Melissa’s story is truly an inspiring one.

10 years ago, Melissa came to us as her whole family was torn apart. Her father did horrible things (and ran away), her mother is not sound in mind, two of her brothers are sent to another children’s home and she including two other sisters were admitted into our homes.

It was truly difficult but God must have given her a really strong ironwill. Her personality is one of a conscientious person, always staying out of trouble and is very focused on her studies. 5 years gone by and she did her SPM, she scored 6As, 2Bs and 1C for her SPM, one of our best records by far when it comes to the SPM scorers. Through the Former Resident Support Programme (FRSP) where a caseworker is assigned to work through the best options for residents who left the shelter homes, she was finally landed with a very generous scholarship of studying CAT at Sunway University that was given by Jeffrey Cheah Foundation and with financial help given from one of the members of Elena Cooke Education Funds. In the application of scholarship, she wrote about her dream which can be read here.

Nearing the end of her CAT, she encountered a great challenge. The Audit paper was challenging and she could not seem to overcome it. She failed her first mock paper (but so did many others in her class, even the smartest student just got slightly higher than a “pass”). She didn’t make it through her second mock paper again and the caseworker who was overseeing her progress knew that she needed more help on that paper. Thankfully, the Home manager of Shelter 2 then, Gillian, was previously an accountant and she agreed to help Melissa.

She finished her CAT and once again, with the generosity of Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, she was given a scholarship to study ACCA at Sunway University. As though CAT was not tough enough, ACCA posed a whole new level of challenge for Melissa. For the first time in her academic life, she failed an exam paper. She was really discouraged but she picked herself up and pushed through (and she failed more papers eventually).

Along the way, Great Heart Charity Association (GHCA) came along to offer financial assistance to Melissa as well but with the condition of organizing an activity to give back. She accepted it and she chose to give back to the home she was raised up with. She did a presentation to the and boys at Shelter 2 with photos of Sunway University on what to expect and to excite them on having the opportunity to study in such a prestigious and amazing campus. After which, she had a Q&A session with them as well. We really hope that many burning questions from the girls and boys would come forth in this session as it is common for them to be anxious about their own future. To us, there’s no other better person to inspire them on their next part of their journey than a resident that comes from the same home that they are from.

During her last semester, PWC staff came to the university in seeking for students to apply for an internship with them upon their graduation. Melissa was not too confident because of her results but the caseworker encouraged her to give it a try. Unlike the interviews before (for the scholarships), she finished the entire process, including the interview at the company all on her own. It was evident that she is very much ready to be independent and we’re just proud of her. After finishing her papers in December, the first great news is that she was accepted by PWC and would start right in January and by mid January, she gotten her results for her two last papers which was “haunting” her as she failed them before, she barely passed with 51 marks for both papers (passing mark is 50, Phew!).

Melissa’s next dream is to reunite her torn apart family, first by getting a place to bring her mother back and to work towards getting the family to reconcile once again. We pray that her next dream will indeed come true!

*Name has been changed to protect her identity