Former Head of RF Explains why being a part of Maharani was a Rewarding Experience
Every time she sees the girls who participate in Maharani camps, former Head of RYTHM Foundation Jayamalar Samuel is reminded of her late mother.
“My mother stopped schooling at the age of 14 and I was born before she turned 22. During her lifetime, on many occasion, she has spoken of her unfilled dream to become a policewoman.”
“When I see girls from similar backgrounds being empowered by the Maharani programme, I always think of my mother. I always felt that I am helping a young girl to come out of her limiting circumstances since the aim of Maharani is to help plant the seed of empowerment in each girl,” she said.
Jayamalar joined RYTHM Foundation in December 2016. One of her earliest projects was to document the structure of the Maharani programme so that it can serve as a centralised reference point for the trainers.
“When I first came in, the trainers did not have a properly written down module of the programme and instead relied on PowerPoint slides to conduct the training. So, I recruited social worker Mangleswary from the Women’s Centre for Change in Malaysia to take the lead in creating a trainer kit. We launched the Maharani trainer kit in May 2018,” she said.
Jayamalar is particularly proud of the Footprints mentoring initiative for the Maharani girls.
“A mentoring programme is never easy to roll out, especially when the mentees are young girls from difficult backgrounds. But we are really happy that Quest International University in Ipoh in Perak stepped in to partner with the Foundation on this. They helped us identify 14 female students as mentors from the university’s Special Needs Education, Communications, and Early Childhood courses. These mentors were matched with 14 Maharani girls at the Maharani Learning Lab which is not very far from the University. With the right training and guidance, the six-month project was a success and we saw tremendous changes in both the mentors and mentees,” she said.
The mentees saw the mentors as their older sisters who offered them guidance and advice on time management, identifying their interests and helping them with their schoolwork. The mentors, in return, found the experience emotionally fulfilling.
She recalls an incident from a Maharani camp held in Gombak, Selangor several years ago where a young participant who was conscious about her dark-skin and excess weight came to her and told her how the camp changed her perspective to life.
“The girl had a clear inferiority complex. She told me that she never thought she could have a dream or become successful in life. She said the camp activities made her realise that she can choose to change her life. And now she had a dream to become a veterinarian.
“Her words made me realise how rewarding my job was. It was a clear message that I was on the right path,” she added.
The Maharani programme, initiated by RYTHM Foundation has worked with more than 8,000 adolescent girls from low-income and disadvantaged families in Malaysia.
Through a combination of self-discovery camps, after-school programmes and continuous mentoring, Maharani has given hope and opportunity to these girls to look beyond their circumstances and pursue a better life.
This article is part of the series to share the journey of Maharani’s 10th anniversary celebration in 2020.