The Power of Photography and Self-Expression: Our First Event in Malaysia [Part I: Preparation]
– Encouraging Children to Have Their Own Perspectives
The First Collaborative Educational Event in Malaysia
Today I will write about our second event collaboration, which became the CHANGE Education Fund’s very FIRST collaborative educational event happening in Malaysia.
Our collaboration partner was Buku Jalanan Chow Kit (BJCK).
I was introduced to contact Siti Rahayu, one of the Co-Founders of Buku Jalanan Chow Kit in August 2020, through a mutual friend. After exchanging messages and patiently waiting for the very strict Movement Control Order (MCO) to be lifted by the Malaysian government, I finally met Siti in person at Buku Jalanan Chow Kit classroom in Chow Kit area in Kuala Lumpur.
*Chow Kit area is known for its wet market as well as having a red-light district. Some people have stereotypes such as children living in the area are all children of prostitutes, which is actually not the case. The children in the area have different difficulties in their backgrounds including being stateless or their parents having financial struggles.
First Meeting and Preparation
It was a bit tricky to find their main entrance, as there is no sign or entrance on the ground floor. Many visitors might have lost their way just as I did, one shop owner gestured to me to take the stairs to go up to the 1st floor.
Inside the BJCK classroom was full of energy. Some people were preparing lunch and snacks for students, as well as for their catering business. Some students started to gather in their public-school uniforms. It is not mandatory to wear uniforms to study at BJCK, but I was told that students are proud to be in the uniform, which apparently shows that they are fortunate students.
I met Siti Rahayu and a teacher for Japanese language classes, Cikgu Ili. (Cikgu means “teacher” in Malay language.) Soon we became acquainted. Cikgu Ili is a postgraduate researcher, who studied in Japan for four years for her bachelor’s degree. She researches at an university, as well as teaches at BJCK as a volunteer teacher.
After another meeting to discuss further, we decided to host ‘My Favourite Things’ Photography Workshop.
BJCK took the role in guiding students, while CHANGE Education Fund crafted the event contents by finding and arranging a professional photographer, instant cameras, films, etc.
This was how our partnership was developed.
- We planned to host the workshops in October 2020, however due to the next MCO to tackle the virus situation, we postponed the workshops to be held in January and February 2021.
Why Do We Provide Creative Education for Children?
With the activities that CHANGE Education Fund provides, we want to provide creative education to under-resourced children. This is because we believe art and creativity can inspire young minds. The experience that they receive by creating something of their own encourages children to become creators, not just receivers in this world. All human-beings are born creative. We just need opportunities to practice and express.
Special Guest Photographer
We were very excited when Mohd. Naim Firdaus, former President of Malaysian Press Photographer Association, accepted our invitation to be our Special Guest Photographer for the event. He agreed to give a lecture to the students on how to take the best photographs as well as to introduce his profession as a photographer. We were so delighted to have him as an inspiring figure for the students. (For more some information on Mohd. Naim Firdaus, you can find here.)
One pro bono member of us suggested that she contacts FUJIFILM Malaysia Sdn. Bhd., for corporate sponsorship for the event. After some rigorous negotiations, we succeeded and acquired nearly RM1,300 worth of products (an Instax camera and 250 pieces of films) for our project. CHANGE Education Fund purchased two more Instax cameras for the young photographers as well.
We are quite grateful that a large corporation showed great interest in our cause and supported the children’s creative learning and self-expression. As a manufacturer of the cameras, FUJIFILM also benefits from reaching out to their potential future customers from such a young age. I believe it became a Win-Win for both sides.
Setting Up Logistics — Behind the Scenes of Camera Rotation Routes, Internet Connection, etc.
One of the most challenging factors in the planning was deciding how to bring three cameras to each and every home of our children. Due to the MCO, group gathering of students at one venue was not allowed.
Cikgu Ili, the teacher, set up a carefully planned rotation route. As children were not allowed to go around, some parents also volunteered to carry a camera to the next home.
Some routes were too far so we hired Grab Express so that an automobile driver could deliver the camera and films. Thanks to this technology it worked out all well.
As an organizer, we were a little afraid of harming our cameras at the beginning, but later it turned out that it was nothing to worry about. This was due to the dedication of Cikgu Ili and other staff members who worked tirelessly in preparation for this. Similarly, internet connection problem had been our concern too, but it also worked enough for the delivery of devices and for the online workshops.
Takeaways from the Planning
As this was our very first collaborative event in Malaysia, there were a lot of uncertainties, topped with the MCO situation.
However, we have found that we are able to achieve our goal, IF:
a) we partner with right organizations,
b) we work with passionate and skillful people, and
c) we plan as much as we can, and stay flexible for last minute changes.
I am truly grateful to Mohd. Naim Firdaus, Siti Rahayu, Cikgu Ili, Li Shian, all the parents who collaborated, all the children who participated, and everybody involved in the process.
Thank you for reading so far! In the next article, I will write about the workshop days and after, how students and parents reacted and so on. So, stay tuned!