P. Harshini, 18, lost her mother at the tender age of eight. She was raised single-handedly by her father who works as a bus driver at a factory in the small town of Sg Siput in Perak, Malaysia.
“Despite all the hardships, my father never neglected my brother and me. He was very protective of me as I was the only girl in the family. Both my father and brother made sure that I never felt the pain of having lost a mother and always took care of me,” she said.
Harshini joined the Maharani programme in 2015 at the age of 13 and attended the Maharani Learning Lab (MLL) where she took part in baking and art classes.
“On my first day, I was so shy and nervous. I thought the programme will be like a classroom with a teacher but the environment was very different than what I had imagined.
Being inherently shy, Harshini often held back from making friends. She was also hesitant to adapt to new environment.
“I began to see the changes in me after joining the Maharani programme. I became more confident to interact with people and even made many new friends,” she says.
She said the MLL classes gave her many opportunities to learn and try new things.
“For example, I have never baked before. Through these classes I learned how to bake cakes and cupcakes. I was so good at it that the teacher gave me the opportunity to teach other students. I loved it as it not only gave me a new skill set but also helped to build my character and confidence to speak and guide others,” she said.
Harshini has never attended any type of camps before and found the three-phased Maharani camps unforgettable.
“The first phase taught us the importance of teamwork and how to interact within a group. I learned how to work with new people in a group when given a task such as presentation. During the second phase, I was taught survival skill where we were brought to a jungle. It turned out to be one of the best experiences that I ever had and I was taught to be brave. Lastly, the third phase is about leadership where I spoke in front of others which improved my self-confidence and self-esteem to lead a team,” she said.
Harshini encourages more girls to join the Maharani programme.
“This kind of programme is unique and useful to girls from rural areas like me. I not only gained skills and knowledge, but it also helped to boost my confidence,” she said.
“We are taught to dream big in the Maharani programme. I have always wanted to become an Immigration officer. There is something about wearing the uniform that I like and I want to work at the airport.
“I want to prove to the world that a girl from a rural area like me can achieve her dream and I hope that it will inspire many others like me,” says Harshini.