Malaysian Youth United Behind an Unlikely Leader, One of Their Peers

2014

Heidy Quah, a 19-year-old business student at INTI International University, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a natural leader. In June 2012, Quah learned the Chin Children’s Education Center in Kuala Lumpur was set to lose United Nations funding, which could force the school’s closing. The school primarily serves young refugees from Myanmar—the source of 92 percent of Malaysia’s refugees—but also migrants from Afghanistan and Somalia. Because of their refugee status and lack of English—one of Malaysia’s primary languages—the youngsters cannot attend many traditional schools. And, of course, without an education, many of these youths would be trapped in the margins of Malaysian society.

Heidy Quah is encouraging a generation of Malaysian youth that they can make a difference in the lives of people around them.

So, Quah quickly assembled a group of fellow volunteer teachers to help save the school. Already, her group, Refuge for the Refugees, has raised nearly USD $15,000. The school is thriving: Its enrollment has soared to about 130 from 50. About three days a week, Quah and her group teach English at the school. The group’s work has been profiled in Malaysian newspapers such as The Star and The Sun Daily, and in early 2014, Quah was a featured speaker at the World Corporate Social Responsibility Conference, in Mumbai. Quah says she is driven by one goal—“to encourage a generation of Malaysian youth that they can make a difference in the lives of people around them.” Certainly, Heidy Quah is leading by example.