Drawing focus on poverty and plight of urban poor

(14-15 August 2010)

Wawasan Open University (WOU) hosted the 30-hour famine camp, organised by World Vision Malaysia, at its main campus in Penang from 10am on August 14th to 4pm the next day for about 40 campers.

The participants at the WOU main campus.

The participants at the WOU main campus.

This annual global event sees participants from different backgrounds coming together to fast for 30 hours without solid food to draw focus on poverty and hunger. In Malaysia, thousands of people are participating this year in over 130 camps across the country; the majority of the camps take place during the official famine weekend on Aug 21-22 while WOU held it a week earlier.

The camp at the main campus was officially jointly launched by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and WOU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Wong Tat Meng.

Prof Wong (in batik) and the Chief Minister cut the ribbon.

Prof Wong (in batik) and the Chief Minister cut the ribbon.

In his speech, Prof Wong highlighted the plight of the urban poor, which is developing into a cause for serious concern both in Penang and the rest of the country.

“In order to survive, the urban poor due to deficiencies in their educational and skills levels have to take up low paying jobs that are seasonable and unstable because they could not compete in the prevailing labour market without secondary and tertiary qualifications. This is where WOU may be able to play a role through its innovative, flexible and yet very affordable open distance learning (ODL) model,” he said.

Meanwhile the Chief Minister in his address lauded World Vision for their values and for undertaking tasks that brings about change for the better. “Any effort that involves the community begins with a small step, with a small group of people, but when this love spreads it will bring hope to the next generation. And gives us all hope as well.”

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

He stated that besides poverty in terms of hunger, there is also poverty in spirit. “If we face poverty in spirit, then we’ll lose our humanity. Whatever the colour of our skin, we belong to one race, that is, the human race.”

As for the campers, the activities lined up for the 30 hours included a video clip on World Vision reaching out to the communities in Myanmar, Thailand and China, games, songs, and video/slide presentations on poverty, child trafficking, AIDS and domestic violence.

(Foreground, centre) Lim, Prof Wong and Corporate Communications Manager Lim Yao-han pose with the participants.

(Foreground, centre) Lim, Prof Wong and Corporate Communications Manager Lim Yao-han pose with the participants.

Among the participants was software engineer Yee Tian Si, 30, who was accompanied by his friend, a secondary school student. Yee has been involved in World Vision’s child sponsorship programme for the last 3 years, but this is his first time in joining the ‘fast-a-thon’.

In Malaysia, the 30-hour famine with its slogan ‘Light Up Their Life’ has raised over RM800,000 this year to help children and communities living in poverty.