“My name is Sharon Panimalar and I grew up in Rawang, a quiet town located just outside of Kuala Lumpur. At the age of 8, I was under the care of Sri Saradha Devi Illam, a welfare home that provides support for teenage and adolescent girls from underprivileged backgrounds. Here, all our basic expenses for food, school and medical treatment was taken care of, much to my grandmother’s relief as this helped offload some of her burden. However, being away from my family at a young age also affected my self-esteem. I didn’t have any direction or plans for my life, I wasn’t motivated to achieve anything.
Then one day, a representative of the Maharani Camp approached our welfare home and spoke to the girls. A few of my friends and I were selected to participate in the inaugural Maharani Camp in 2010. The four-day camp was filled with various team building and self-empowerment activities. We were trusted with new chores and duties, such as cooking and taking care of the younger residents.
We also had a very inspiring visitor at the Camp. S. Vanajah, Malaysia’s only woman astronaut who was a finalist at the Malaysian Angkasawan program, a program to send a Malaysian to the International Space Station, came to speak to us. She outlasted 11,000 other Malaysians who applied for the astronaut position. Vanajah’s story made me realise that challenges are temporary and can be overcome if you put your mind to it. All you need is 100% commitment and focus towards your goal.
The entire 4-day experience at the camp was life changing. With the support of the facilitators and my peers, I gained the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and became motivated to push my boundaries.
Today, I am a proud employee of QNET, a subsidiary of QI Group of Companies and I am able to support my family financially. As part of the Global Support Team, I interact with employees and customers from all over the world and this has widened my horizons. My work experience and the international exposure convinced me that there is so much more I can achieve in life!
I am grateful for the eye-opening experience and opportunity provided by the Maharani Camp and RYTHM Foundation during my teenage years. Thank you for believing in us. I am proud to know that the camp has grown into the Maharani Learning Lab and is helping more girls each year.
My message to other girls who come from a background like mine — Even though our background is challenging, please do not give up. Look for opportunities to pursue a good education, as that is the best tool to help you break free from the cycle of poverty.”