8th December 2018 marked an exciting day in the life of 103 young people gathered at MySkills Youth Transformation Campus, Kalumpang. They were part of a bigger group, from 2010, who had dared to take the first step in a different direction. It was MySkills 6th graduation session. Together with them were their parents/mothers/ care-givers; for most of them at least. The emotion was surely mixed for the handful of students who were there without family being present.
The dignity that MySkills graduates gained as they received their Malaysian Vocational certificates from the Guest of Honour Datuk B. Sahadevan is something that has come from the efforts of many, including the youth themselves. Datuk Sahadevan in his opening address quoted from what Mr Pasupathi had recalled, that of the quote of the Late Tun Sambanthan- “being poor but not timid”. And he likened MySkills’ growth from a “small seed to such a big endevour”.
Datuk Sahadevan reminded the youth to be responsible to take care of their lives as the future of the community he shared, relied heavily on them. Mr. Pasupathi had earlier brought the audience back to a historical point, that of the contribution made by Indians in the days of early Malaya, of the arduous task of cutting the jungle, of planting rubber. “This is your place” reminded the founding Director of MySkills. “MySkills is restoring the dignity the Indians once had” he added. For Dr. Sanmugasiva “ teaching a poor child will lead to God looking for you”. He assured the youth that MySkills will follow up with them in the journey of their life.
What is this transformation, one may wonder. For Peter Rajoo, from Rembau who stepped foot into MySkills in 2016 at Port Klang, it was a change in attitude to so many aspects of life, including food. He learned to eat vegetables only at MySkills; he never communicated respectfully with anyone but through his time in MySkills, he learned that there were some words you never used on anyone. This reminder came everyday at assembly- the MySkills pledge, in Tamil and English.
He learned that there was a certain way of speaking. He learned it by witnessing how his ‘teachers” spoke. He is grateful to all staff and volunteers for showing him the path, even that of bringing his interest in sports to a higher level. Kegundren, 17 shared that he used to speak without thinking but now he knows what respect is. He has also learned about reality, the “outside world”, the good and bad. He now is proud to have secured a job as a wireman in Karak Pahang. Like Peter Rajoo, he is now set to make his contribution to his family.
Mr. Deva was all smiles as he announced the MySkills Foundation Awards beginning with the highest, i.e. Raja Dato’ Rashid Badiozaman Transformation Award. This went to Ganesan Thewasikamany for his exemplary leadership traits besides his multi-technical skills. MySkills being an inclusive training instution, gave recognition to a youth with Special needs, i.e. Logeswary Ganesan. Her partial hearing ability was not used as an excuse but rather in spite of it, she pushed herself and showed her passion in bread and pastry making. After an initial employment at a Café in Sunway University, she is now in a new job in Singapore. She is 2018’s recipient of the Special Jury Award. Three other students were recognised through the MySkills Excellence awards, i.e. Pravindran Vasudevan, Rubba Sri Punaveswaran and Karthigan Jaishangkar. Pravindran had no background to any of the technical skills he now applies every day as an intern. While he may be reserved, he commands a lot of respect given his dedication and loyalty.
If there was one student who gave some degree of stress to Mr. Deva through his former teacher, it is no other than Khitiswaran Yogesvaran. It was his teacher Mr. Nada who got Mr Deva to enroll Khitis in MySkills. His teacher never failed to ask Mr. Deva about him. The “how is Khitis” question was akin to a knife being held at his throat, mused Mr. Deva. Today, Khitis proudly went up the stairs with his head held high together with all his friends.
Being in a class setting with a mixed group of students, most of whom are starved of attention, both at home and in school, a “teacher” certainly has its challenges. There is a time period when the students journey begins in the ‘pre-vocational’. Here they learn some basic literacy and numeracy skills bearing in mind that most have been left very far behind. And some of these challenges continue throughout their transformation in MySkills.
The “transformers” are both staff and volunteers. MySkills honours the dedication of volunteers through its Special Awards. This year’s three recipients are Mr Jayagobi for his 6 years of commitment to the youth through his electrical skills, Ms. Ranjani for contribution to the spiritual development of the female students through a creative engagement of the students with the Bhagavad Gita. And the students and staff look forward to her vegetarian meals brought without fail every Tuesday. Another “star” is Ms Punitha, a retired staff nurse dedicated to the transformation of the students at de Devine Café. She drives daily from Cheras to Brickfields to help in the F&B training and her motherly advise and relationship.
MySkills will always make a difference to the many marginalized youth, irrespective of ethnicity. With its 35 acres campus and facilities, MySkills look forwards to more youth to learn not only a skill but more importantly to begin a journey of transformation of their lives. Its various programmes, i.e. Electrical Wiring, Industrial Automation, Secretarial and Bakery Production provide a means of livelihood, together with other skills related with agriculture. It is the holistic transformation that sets MySkills apart for all who have completed the process. This year’s graduates totaled 103.
Veronica Anne Retnam