“It made me sad and I kept mostly to myself, I did not have the confidence to speak to new people. I felt everyone was laughing about me behind my back,” she said.When she was 11, her standard five class teacher, Mr Mahendran gave her words of encouragement and advised Hamsavalli to speak up more and participate in school activities to be a more confident girl. “He always told me to be strong and don’t let the words of others to hurt or hinder me from progressing. But when I left the primary school a year later and went to SMK Dato Haji Abdul Wahab secondary school, I did not see Mr Mahendran anymore and felt lonely without anyone else as a guide or support,” she said. During the first year in secondary school, Hamsavalli found out about the Maharani programme from her teachers who encouraged her to join. “I was sent to many camps since I was nine and I like to join camps, learn new skills and make friends. So, when the teacher told me about it, I signed up for the Maharani camp in 2013, thinking it’s going to be just like the ones I have attended before,” she said.
“What I saw in the Maharani camp was different than what I have experienced in other camps. One lesson I cannot forget from the Maharani camp is the key message that we girls are no different than the boys,” she said.“That message struck a chord because all these while, my family and relatives have always told me that as a girl there are limitations and we are not supposed to do what the boys do. I realised then what they have been telling us was wrong, there is nothing that we girls cannot do,” she added. Hamsavalli attended three Maharani camps including one in Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB), Selangor where she underwent physical training. “At the KKB camp, they set up the swinging board and monkey rack. As a short girl, I could not jump and reach the rack. I gave up after several attempts, but the camp coordinator told me to keep trying. Other participants also gave words of encouragement and I finally managed to finish that task,” she said.
“The experience made me think deep and hard, even years later, whenever I face a problem or situation in life, I tell myself, I can do it, I can handle it and that is how I got past any problem in life,” she added.She said one of her biggest challenges was speaking in public or to people she has just met. “I first held a microphone in my life at the camp where I went up in front to introduce myself. After that I realised, it was not that scary,” she said. Today, Hamsavalli is pursuing a diploma in culinary art in a college, about 40 km away from her hometown Sg Siput, Perak. “I now live in a hostel here in college. The Maharani camp gave me the motivation to further my studies in a field that I like. I am forever thankful to the programme coordinators especially Ms Barathy Devi who spent time motivating and coaching me,” she said adding that she wants to work as a chef in Singapore, to be closer to her father. (ends)