Transforming education: The Kalsom Movement has grown from a small motivational camp in 1994 to a student-led for underprivileged students in Malaysia.
I recently travelled to Malaysia for the 25th edition of The Kalsom Movement programmes. It is amazing to witness how much the charity has grown in the last decade. I first became acquainted with The Kalsom Movement in 2009 as a second-year medical student. It was a small motivational camp organised by Malaysian university students in the UK every summer in Malaysia for underprivileged students since 1994. I was intrigued. I volunteered for the camp, became a camp director in 2011, and never quite left! In 2011, my team and I decided to take this motivational camp to the next level by registering it as Kelab Belia Kalsom with the Registrar of Youth Societies (Ministry of Youth & Sports, Malaysia), which later became known as The Kalsom Movement. The aim of this formalisation is to ensure that The Kalsom Movement can continue to deliver impactful programmes.
Today, The Kalsom Movement is a youth-led education charity which focuses on developing Malaysia’s future leaders by empowering university students to share their knowledge and skills to help younger economically disadvantaged Malaysian students achieve their ambitions. In turn, our volunteers also benefit from discovering their own leadership potentials and organisational skills as well as becoming more perceptive of issues surrounding education inequality in Malaysia. Our beneficiaries are students from underperforming Malaysian secondary schools with a monthly household income of RM3,000 (£600) and below.
Post-2011, we strive to make our flagship Projek Kalsom Motivational Camp (PKMC) better with the introduction of four key pillars: English Language proficiency, development of academic and non-academic skills to equip students with the time management and study skills, exposure to post-secondary education opportunities and nurturing the “Kalsom” spirit. The “Kalsom” spirit is the enthusiasm to help others in need as we encourage our community to be agents of positive change. Not wanting the impact of PKMC to be one-off, we introduced our first revisit workshop in 2012 for our 2011 PKMC student-beneficiaries, and throughout the years, this became two revisit workshops to assist our student-beneficiaries with scholarship and university/college application post-SPM (Malaysian GCSEs). With the introduction of Kalsom Academy, our student-beneficiaries are strongly encouraged to organise their own PKMC with the mentorship of our volunteers and teachers in their respective schools to share their knowledge with other students. Both volunteers and student-beneficiaries are then invited to join our Kalsom Alumni where they sit together as equals, benefitting from lifelong friendship and support.
In 2013, I introduced the Commonwealth Cultural Programme (CCP) in collaboration with the Bristol Student Commonwealth Society. CCP invites 10 non-Malaysian students from British universities for a 3-week cultural exploration and community work in Malaysia through PKMC and the Confidence through English Programme. For our student-beneficiaries, this is an excellent opportunity for them to practise their English with native speakers. Through CCP, volunteers have the opportunity to explore Malaysia in its many facets by exploring our cities, beaches, interacting with locals, trying our local cuisine, learning our national language, and of course, contributing to the local community in the most impactful and ethical means.
To date, we have benefited 4000+ Malaysian youths. Kevin Khun, a 2012 PKMC student-beneficiary, won the Malaysian Public Service Department Scholarship to pursue Chemical Engineering in France. In 2015, Hajar Nur Asyiqin (2013 PKMC student-beneficiary) won the prestigious Malaysian Central Bank scholarship to study Chemistry at Imperial College London. Recently I was proud when Siti Nur Nazmin Rahim, Shalni Salmi, Arul Alias, all from the 2011 PKMC student-beneficiary cohort, for achieving First Class Honours for their university degrees. Importantly, The Kalsom Movement encourages a culture of giving back to society through the charity or other avenues. Rprakash Ramanathan and Raihan Mansor were student-beneficiaries of the 2011 PKMC who came back to be part of The Kalsom Movement organising committee. Hajar Nur Asyiqin and Jurleo Jurit (2018 The Kalsom Movement committee member) are co-founders of Project Access Malaysia – a partner of Project Access, a tech-driven social enterprise to help motivated students attend the world’s top universities.
A fact that I would like to emphasise is that The Kalsom Movement is wholly led by Malaysian university students globally for Malaysian students. Many of these university students have not met prior to the programmes in Malaysia. This year 300 applications were received for 60 volunteer places and this allows us to choose the best volunteers for our student-beneficiaries. This year, finalists of the organising committee led by the President of The Kalsom Movement, Engku Fazmie Engku Azahan, achieved 2:1 and above (Engku Fazmie had achieved First Class Honours from University of Bath). I am also proud of Meishaleny David, our 2017-2018 Vice President of Financial Planning who not only achieved First Class Honours, but also the 2018 Universiti Putra Malaysia Alumni Gold Medal for community service.
2019 is our charity’s Silver Jubilee – paying homage to our origins as a small, motivational camp in 1994 and we recently celebrated our anniversary with the alumni members of The Kalsom Movement such as YB Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Dato’ Fadzli Shah Annuar who were VIPs for the night. As a charity, The Kalsom Movement is not short of accolades – we were top 10 of the Merdeka Award for Education & Community (Malaysia’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize) in 2015 and this year, as an official partner of the UN Partnership for Sustainable Development Groups, we are committed to promoting two of the Sustainable Development Goals: “Quality Education” and “Partnerships to Achieve Goals”. The Projek Kalsom Motivational Camp was also endorsed to be the longest student-led motivational camp by Malaysian Book of Records. Moving with times, a new addition to our programmes is the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Camp, to equip our student-beneficiaries with financial literacy, business leadership, and management skills as well as learning Arduino programming. Recently, we are proud to partner with Youthfuel (a partner of Oxentia – a spin-off of Oxford University) to organise our first Kalsom Oxford Pre-University Camp to provide an all-expenses-paid opportunity to one student-beneficiary to experience Oxford University this December.
We are grateful to our sponsors and partners, especially Shell Malaysia, for your continuous support to The Kalsom Movement. Finally, I would like to remind everyone that although university students are not financially liberated, we have the capacity to make a change in society – so what will do you today to help our society progress?
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