International Human Rights Day: How MRA is improving lives of refugees
International Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on December 10. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
We spoke with Khairil, a board member of the Malaysian Relief Agency, a nonprofit organisation helping those in need in Malaysia get access to proper food, education and healthcare.
Why is it important to talk about human rights in the 21st century?
Khairil – We are living in a borderless world right now. There’s a movement of people from war-torn and conflicted third world countries to get a better life in another country where they face unexpected problems because of the different views the new places render. It is the root problem.
If we don’t understand human rights, especially the rights of the minorities, we will continue to think of them as people who stole our jobs, which isn’t the truth. They came in search of survival, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. One only leaves for the border when the home isn’t there anymore.
How does the Malaysian Relief Agency work for human rights?
Khairil – We want to make sure that both refugees and stateless people can stand on their own feet in our country, Malaysia.
We have a lot of refugees in Malaysia. We try to assist them, especially education for children and jobs for women.
In our long-term projects, we try to strive for these groups to get work to have an income because every person, regardless of religion or race, has the right to dignity as a human being.
What were the challenges faced by MRA during the pandemic last year?
Khairil – We had a lot of work during the pandemic as we operate nationwide. We have our chapters in 12 states in Malaysia and 1 Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
In other words, we have respect and meet the beneficiaries from all these states, even with strict government controls and regulations.
Funding was another challenge during that time. The first thing we had to make sure of was access to food for all.
The second was healthcare. Third, Education for refugee children. It was a really tough time for all of us.
What is the difference between developed vs. developing countries in terms of human rights perspective?
Khairil – The human rights issues are complicated regardless of any country because even in Europe, they will select only the so-called professional refugees who would migrate back to their countries once things are settled. The international NGOs have to sit down together and work out what we call universal human rights.
We cannot be selective on similar issues from developing countries. The political system in developing countries is usually unstable, which causes so much trouble. So we must sit down and work together regardless of religion, race, or political affiliation. We are not anti-government. We have to work with the government on how to solve the problem because only governments have the authority and power to implement a change on a large scale.
How can people volunteer for Malaysian Relief Agency?
Khairil – Well, the most important thing is the need for young people to join us. Our young volunteers should realize that when they help someone build their life, they are helping themselves in the long run. We have people with us from all around the world. Many volunteers know the Tamil language, and we also have a Chinese volunteer to speak Chinese.
In the Malaysian Relief Agency, we don’t call them volunteers; we call them friends because they are committed. Many of them are professionals and contribute a relevant amount of time consistently to make sure no refugee is left ignored here.
Any message for the potential volunteers who would like to join the Malaysian Relief Agency?
Khairil – We need to have more political discourse to create interest in every community we live in; we have to have intellectual discourse. Also, we all must volunteer to accelerate the process of positive change.
People need to understand and realise that human rights come with responsibility. We cannot live without the support of each other, so this treaty thing is crucial. We must have intellectual discourse, discuss differences, and have youngsters and future generations join a humanitarian organisation to create new ideas revolving around volunteering.
Human Rights Day 2021 theme relates to the pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts. MRA will reach the common global goals only if we can create equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion, and discrimination.
Celebrate International Human Rights Day with the Malaysian Relief Agency and Goodera.
Goodera empowers nonprofits such as the Malaysian Relief Agency through brand advocacy, fundraising and long term volunteers.
We hope that this interview helped you to really understand how Malaysian Relief Agency
is on a mission to assist those affected by natural disasters or armed conflicts, both local and abroad.
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