Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ananti Rajasingam, social worker


KUALA LUMPUR — Nothing makes Ananti Rajasingam happier than knowing that what she does helps children — local, immigrant or refugees — feel like they have a “normal” life, just like everyone else.

Working as a social worker at Yayasan Chow Kit, a centre that provides temporary shelter and education for at-risk children, Ananti and her colleagues do their best to help traumatised children reintegrate into mainstream society.

The job can be taxing both emotionally and mentally. Dealing with tales of abuse or hopelessness on a daily basis, Ananti admitted to breaking down a few times.

But knowing that some of the children she’s helped succeeded in life, and at the same time mindful of her own privilege, Ananti reminds herself that being strong is necessary to help those children survive their ordeals.

In her own words:

When I started out… I was known as a kafir (infidel) here. The children never touched me so I used to work like an island but I’ve always believed that children do not think this way…  it’s the adults who shape them.

The children were curious, they asked me about my faith.. at that time I didn’t know what was kafir. I was like why did they keep calling me kafir, but then I learned that it means someone who worships more than one god.. I didn’t take it to heart. I know that some things are just cultural and that I too have to learn (about their way of thinking).

Most of the children in the Chow Kit area, everything is a challenge to them. I come from a middle class family, I don’t have to sleep on the floor… I never have to worry about what my parents do. But the children living in Chow Kit, they have to think like survivors. And every day is survival for them — they’ve gone through so much in life.

There was once this foreign worker who died because he got electrocuted and everyone gathered around him. The children just came up to me and asked why are you so stressed up, it’s just someone dead. To them this was normal, death was normal. They deal with death every day because a lot of parents commit suicide in Chow Kit because of Ah Long problems.

It’s just really nice to see (these) children live in contentment. They carry so much burden at that age. A lot of them know about their parents’ hardship, and to carry that kind of weight (on your shoulders), you’re not really being a child.

I used to make a lot of decisions for people; like your life is like this, why not you do things this way. I think with maturity that people have their own answers. All you need to do is just dish out those options and let them reflect about it and they will have their answers. Don’t make decisions for other people.

Personally I feel a lot of people are trying to shut the issues (of refugees) out or they pretend it does not exist. They don’t see that refugees and refugee children are human beings as well.. imagine if the tables are turned and we become the refugees, nobody wants to go out there in a new world. You’d want to stay home no matter what… but people here think refugees are a problem.

It’s so emotional to hear their stories because they are so desperate… for others (locals) there are help, they have financial support, someone will always reach out to you if you’re local. But for refugees… it’s just frustrating. These are people with dignity, like doctors or people with good jobs and they’ve left everything. Imagine they come to you and ask if they can sweep the floor in exchange for some form of (help).

I’ve heard how they’ve been raped or molested, even by the authorities. Even though they have the UN (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) card, it gets thrown away. There was this lady who was pregnant… the most human thing you can think of is to give her some help but what they did was they detained her and when she wanted to pass motion, they told her to do it in front of other men. That is like the lowest point of a woman’s life, sort of stripping off whatever dignity she has.

We live in a narcissistic society… I always make it a conscious effort to tell myself this is something I have to do, like a purpose to do something kind and contribute back to something more positive.

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