Today Letchumanan Anbalagan, currently pursuing his law degree at a private university credits his present success to his exposure to the Rotary Education Fund (REF) which provided him with mentorship and guidance.
“I was in Form 3 when I joined REF, which provides students with a great opportunity to develop leadership skills and connect with highly respected professionals. Through a series of seminars, workshops and assessment activities, we received a personalized assessment of our strengths and weaknesses,” said Letchumanan, who hopes to pursue a career as a lawyer.
Coming from a background where he was brought up by a single father and a grandmother, whom he loves dearly, Letchumanan felt that the REF mentorship made a difference to him and his perspective in life. The support gave him the mental strength to forge ahead in his studies.
Shahmuni Ravichandran, became a mentee in the REF at age 17, having been chosen from 20 applicants. At that time, she was looked after by a single mother and Shahmuni shared her REF experiences, “I was requested by my mentor to keep a journal on my daily routine so I could improve my communication skills in English and they taught me how to be more presentable in public. I was also trained to use a fork and spoon at restaurants and this helped me a lot and gave me confidence when I had to attend functions.
I was taught to look within myself and believe in what I could do.
When I did not do so well in my SPM, I did not give up and I went on to do my Form 6 and successfully achieved a 3.84 CGPA and received an award as one of the high achievers in STPM. Today I am pursuing my Bachelor of Law, third year in UKM and I would not have been able to do so without the REF programme,” said Shahmuni, who looks forward to her graduation.
Tan Yee Jiar otherwise known as Ashley joined REF when she was 15 years of age and today she is pursuing her degree in Multimedia studies at UTeM, University Teknikal Malaysia Melaka.
“Even though the programme gave me monthly financial assistance but it was more their care and guidance that inspired me to give my best. The mentoring sessions helped me figure out my problems while my mentors would help me by giving suggestions and understand my problems. I was always taught to believe in myself and to be never afraid of failure,” said Ashley who works in the evening in a restaurant to help fund her way through university.
When Dr Yee Yoke Leong and his Rotary team first conceptualized the idea of mentoring students in the age group of 15-19 years old, little did he realize that the programme which came to be known as the Rotary Education Fund (REF) mentoring programme would touch so many lives and also positively impact the future of over 150 students mentored over ten years.
Most of the children were bright and talented but due to circumstances were unable to translate that talent into successful grades and pursue careers of choice.
Indeed, the REF motto, “A Better Start. A Better Life.” reflected the vision to make a positive difference to young lives, by helping those who want to help themselves, and putting them on the start of the road to a better life.
This award winning project, under the Rotary Club of Bukit Kiara Sunrise (RCBKS) won the Rotary International Significant Achievement Award for 2012-2013 for Rotary District 3300 and continues to be a talking point among rotary clubs. To-date, 12 Rotary Clubs and a number of Inner Wheel Clubs (a part of Rotary) have adopted the REF and in 2019 the District Action Group (DAG) on REF was set up to coordinate the efforts of rotary clubs.
At the 10th Anniversary Dinner, aptly named “One Moment in Time”, Dr Yee said it was the momentous decision to go ahead with the REF in ‘one moment’ in 2009 that forever transformed the lives of mentees and spurred the collaboration between the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences at HELP University and RCBKS.
Professor Datuk Dr Paul Chan, Vice-Chancellor of HELP University, was also honoured for his unwavering and constant support of REF at the 10th Anniversary Dinner where he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow Award, a recognition given to individuals who have contributed substantially to Rotary and in addition Dr Chan was made an honorary member of RCBKS.
In his speech, Dr Chan thanked the Rotarians for the honour and said, “Rotarians are recognized worldwide for their selfless service in helping communities regardless of their backgrounds. RCKBS is exemplary in this way. They have contributed significantly and substantively to help the disadvantaged and the talented. In this way they exhibit noble leadership. HELP University’s mission is “to help people succeed in life and to live a life of significance through education.” We thus share a common mission with similar values.
The success of REF can be attributed to the close collaboration between RCBKS and the psychologists from HELP University’s Faculty of Behavioural Sciences who together conduct the one day REF Annual Youth Mentoring Workshop (AYMW).
About 60 participants comprising Rotarians, volunteer mentors and members of the public interested in mentoring attend the workshop where the main objective is to improve mentoring knowledge and skills of serving mentors. It is also to provide insight to those who might be interested in becoming mentors.
The programme is now into its 11th year and continues to choose capable mentees from underprivileged backgrounds.
Also present were HELP Education Group CEO Datin Chan-Low Kam Yoke, RCBKS President Anthony Pinto, District Governor Elect Teoh Kwan Swee and Past District Governor Leslie Sallehuddin.