Nadia Qistina Halim, a 27 year old pre school teacher and Capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) enthusiast, has been teaching refugee children on weekends while on weekdays she’s a teacher at an international school. During the pandemic, she got in touch with Pastor Daniel, a representative from the Myanmar Refugee Centre and found out that the center shuttered because of the lack of funds.
It broke Nadia’s heart to hear the news and at the same time, the pastor asked Nadia if she could help open the refugee centre.
We [Nadia and her partner Mike] didn’t really think much about it – we just decided to go for it. So Mike and I just used our savings to open a refugee centre. – Nadia Qistina Halim
Together with her husband Mike, Nadia founded Aman – a refugee education centre and social enterprise helping refugee women and children. Armed with a degree in early childhood (majoring in special needs) from University Malaya, Nadia and Mike used their savings to set up the center. In order to cut costs, they also moved into the same location where they live on the second floor and the center is downstairs where refugee women create crafts and their children come for lessons.
For a very long time Nadia was in search of something meaningful and fulfilling. She wanted to make a difference in the lives of people and this opportunity came along. However, the journey is not always rosey.
I received backlash from my family members as they could not understand why I am doing this. Some even remarked,“Now you are living like a refugee yourself”. -Nadia Qistina Halim
Aman, which means ‘peace’ in Bahasa Malaysia, was chosen as the name to emphasize that when these refugees arrived in Malaysia, they came in peace and were seeking for a peaceful place to call ‘home’.
In setting up the refugee centre, Nadia hopes to debunk stigmas attached to refugees. They are people just like us and the first steps to peace and harmony is by understanding and accepting them as who they are – now part of the fabric of Malaysian society.
Malaysians have a poor impression about refugees, in particular the Rohingyas and Somalis. We need to understand more on why they are refugees, why they chose this path and what makes them refugees. That’s why I would recommend people to share various posts about refugees on your social media to educate others about this plight. -Nadia Qistina Halim
The lack of education has been the biggest challenge for the 50 refugee children in Aman. Their studies have been interrupted by the lockdown and due to the lack of routine many of them are falling behind.
Nadia recently secured a collaboration with LTT Global Communications Sdn Bhd, a company that provides world class online STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) programs. For each account signed up under the unique code, one refugee child will receive an account to study through LTT online.
To sustain this initiative, Nadia is currently seeking help from a church to assist in funding the rental cost of the centre. Aman is also a social enterprise where they provide skills training to refugee mothers to empower them to make simple and beautiful hand-made crafts and accessories that are sold online.
Nadia and Mike are great examples of ordinary people making a huge impact in individual lives. Their courage is admirable and worth emulating. Not only do they give hope to the refugee community in Malaysia, they give hope to everyday Malaysians who may have a burning desire to create an impact.
The reason I am doing this is because I am an educator and I realise the importance of it especially during the early ages. Every child deserves an education. I started Aman not because I want to impress people – but because I believe that these children deserve an education that I am sure they will appreciate. – Nadia Qistina Halim
You can support the Aman initiative by heading to their online store on Shopee to purchase gorgeous accessories, cloth bags and face masks handmade by refugee women. 80% of profits goes to support the AMAN Refugee Education Centre teaching little children.
Nadia is aware that the needs among the refugees will only continue to grow with the ongoing pandemic. She hopes to grow an army of volunteers and is seeking for more hands to help. Drop them a message on their Instagram.
Note: all pictures have been on this page have been consented by Aman.
Find data, maps and how you can help in our report – Providing Hope For The Refugees in Klang Valley.