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Sunday, 30 November 2014 00:00

Refugee Children Demonstrate Resilience on Sports Day

Written by  Chang Loke Mooi & Cai Zi Yu, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chew Chiau Ping

Song Quek Khian, Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, awarded a medal to a winner. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

On November 30, 2014, Tzu Chi KL & Selangor and UNHCR jointly organized an international Sports Day for refugee children at the Federal Youth and Sports Complex. A total of 270 refugee children, 150 parents and 16 teachers joined the event, graced by Mr Richard Towle, UNHCR representative in Malaysia.


 
A fun and educational Sports Day 
 
Burmese refugee children, aged between 5 and 17, from three UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres (Harmony, Unity and Joint Effort) formed the red, green and yellow team respectively. Tzu Chi volunteers have been providing care and educational programmes to children at these educational centres on a regular basis.
 
As these stateless children have limited space for activities, this Sports Day is a major event for them. At 6.30 am that morning, the children boarded a bus for their journey to the sports complex. Upon arrival, and with smiles and enthusiasm written all over their faces, they gathered quietly at the assembly point accompanied by their teachers. Most of them even took off their shoes, ready to compete barefooted.
 
The Opening Ceremony commenced at 7.45 am. More than 80 Tzu Chi Collegiate Youths and Tzu Chi Teenagers, who volunteered as cheerleaders, sign language performers and event helpers, led the children to march around the field. The humanistic culture of Tzu Chi was evident in the ceremony.
 
In his opening speech, Song Quek Khian, Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, advised the athletes to enjoy the games and not be elated by success and discouraged by defeat. He quoted a Jing Si Aphorism, “One must overcome difficulties, not be overcome by difficulties”, as encouragement for the athletes.
 
The athletes competed in five games, which embodied fun and educational elements, namely, “Wheel rolling” (encourages one to go forward bravely), “Pass ping-pong ball with spoon” (signifies the relay of love), “Hula hoop” (teaches children to be humble), “Pass the ball in pair” (signifies mutual understanding), and “Bean bag on head” (teaches children to be more attentive).
 
Unlike previous Sports Days, this year’s event focused on the relay race so that everyone could participate and learn to work as a team.
 
In the first game, “Wheel rolling”, participants had to run while rolling a wheel. There were humourous moments when some participants could not keep the wheel in a straight line. The green team from Unity UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centre, Ampang, led the game and emerged as the winner.
 
While lively songs were heard on the field, the athletes readied themselves to compete in full force at the blow of the whistle. They made a few mistakes in the race, but with encouraging cheers from the team members and cheerleaders, they were quick to flip up the wheel or pick up the ping-pong balls and bean bags from the floor to continue with the race. Their sheer determination to race to the finishing line was indeed praiseworthy.
 
“Pass the ball in pair” was the most difficult game as it tested the athletes on patience and coordination between them. Two small-sized children were seen grabbing each other by their arms to hold a ball using their upper back, and walking sideways on the track. Their waist strength, tacit understanding and coordination between them were crucial in the game. Although the process was difficult, the children persisted and did not give up easily. They were heartily applauded when they reached the finishing line.
 
Experience contentment and contribute appreciatively
 
Tok Chang Wenn, a student from University of Malaya smilingly said, “I am glad I did not turn down the opportunity to volunteer here. This Sports Day has opened my eyes to the relentless spirit in these refugee children; and I realized how lucky I am. They reminded me of my childhood and I feel younger instantly.”
 
He also remarked, “I had not joined any Sports Day events since I started studying in the university as the academic pressure is overwhelming. But for these refugee children, who are deprived of material resources, it is a joy for them to participate in such an event. Seeing them participate wholeheartedly is gratifying and makes my day worthwhile.”
 
The organizer also held a 400-metre walking race for all students, parents and teachers to join in the fun. Even though no medal was awarded for this event, they were eager to enjoy the run and started even before the whistle was blown.
 
Through this act of kindness that was given regardless of boundaries, the refugees were able to feel respected. Over the years, volunteers have been showering them with genuine care and companionship, and have formed a strong bond with the parents and children. The parents and teachers, who were present on this day, also participated in the event. They were quick to join in when the tug-of-war game was announced, including a parent, Moeuzul Rahman. With a strong physique, he was confident of facing the opposing team represented by Tzu Chi Collegiate Youths.
 
The spectators cheered on the participants enthusiastically; and after three rounds, the studious Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth team was no match for the Burmese parents, who are used to laborious work. Both teams enjoyed the game, which was a wonderful ending to the event.
 
Mr Richard Towle, UNHCR representative in Malaysia, described the Sports Day as remarkable several times in the closing speech. As these refugee children have limited space for activities, he felt that the event meant a lot to them, besides helping them in their physical and mental development.
 
He praised the great efforts put in by Tzu Chi volunteers to make the event a success and leave good memories for the children. He also encouraged the children to be proud of their performance today, to be thankful for those organizations that have helped them, and keep up with the effort towards achieving their goal.
 
He further stressed that, “I can understand the predicaments faced by refugees, but education is very important for the children. I hope Tzu Chi can organize such an event annually. I will surely give my support!”
 
The Sports Day ended with a beautiful sign language performance entitled, “We Are Family”, which encourages everyone to express love and care to everyone around them, and hope that all children on Earth can grow up happily and be worry-free.
 
 
In the Opening Ceremony, the children waved to the audience as they marched around the field led by Tzu Chi Collegiate Youths and Tzu Chi Teenagers. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]   The green team from Unity UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centre caught everyone’s attention with their bright attire and the motivational slogan. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

In the Opening Ceremony, the children waved to the audience as they marched around the field led by Tzu Chi Collegiate Youths and Tzu Chi Teenagers. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]
 
The green team from Unity UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centre caught everyone’s attention with their bright attire and the motivational slogan. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
The event started off with the first game, “Wheel rolling”, in which the children had to run while rolling a wheel. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]   Parents cheered on wholeheartedly for the team they supported. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]

The event started off with the first game, “Wheel rolling”, in which the children had to run while rolling a wheel. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]
 
 
Parents cheered on wholeheartedly for the team they supported. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]
 
Children carefully passed on the ping-pong ball with spoon, which signifies a relay of love. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   The winning team was happy to show their medals. [Photograph by Leng Wan You]

Children carefully passed on the ping-pong ball with spoon, which signifies a relay of love. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
 
The winning team was happy to show their medals. [Photograph by Leng Wan You]
 
Song Quek Khian, Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, presented a token of appreciation to Mr Richard Towle, UNHCR representative in Malaysia. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]    

Song Quek Khian, Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, presented a token of appreciation to Mr Richard Towle, UNHCR representative in Malaysia. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]