"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."
These words were borrowed from an African proverb by Melawati Librarian, Suji DeHart, during this year's Grade 5 Social Change Maker's Conference.
ISKL Grade 5 students had the opportunity to attend the 4th annual Social Change Maker's Conference (SCMC), held on Tuesday, September 26 and Wednesday, September 27, 2017. For the past three years, Grade 5 teachers and students have received grant money, originally from the ISKL PTA, and most recently from the ISKL Inspiration Fund, to conduct the SCMC. Presenters received an RM500.00 donation for their cause/issue, which was part of the Inspiration Fund grant. The purpose behind the SCMC is to expose our students to real people in the local and school communities who volunteer their time to help others. Making a positive difference in the world and working on the process of becoming 'global citizens' is central to the ISKL Mission Statement. Thirteen local and school community representatives (listed below) shared the positive changes they are bringing through volunteering and their work in the local Malaysian community in KL and Malaysia.
Over the course of two days, Grade 5 students attended thirteen-20 minute presentations, being inspired as speakers shared personal stories, passions, and experiences, helping students gain an understanding that "ordinary" people can make a positive difference in the world. Change begins with identifying social issues and areas of need in the local community. Students were introduced to a variety of social issues and areas of need in the local community. They were then asked to reflect upon how, as responsible citizens, they might be able to make a positive change.
During the presentations, students recorded their thinking and learning about the social issues and asked questions of the presenters. Students will next collaborate with other like-minded students to form a group to brainstorm ways to directly or indirectly get involved in supporting a social issue that inspires them.
"What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." - Jane Goodall
One of Grade 5 students said, "I learned that in just a few short years it is possible to make a big difference. I am inspired to help make a positive difference."
A parent who attended part of the conference said, "I just wanted to extend a thank you to you and your team for organizing such a memorable two days for the Grade 5 kids! I heard some of the speakers and was impressed by their powerful messages, their conviction, and the way they made the 'language of help and change' accessible to the kids. I walked out feeling certain that change is possible, at ALL levels, and in chatting with my son I know he feels the same. What a feeling of empowerment!"
The students gained much from experience. They learned that ordinary people could make a positive difference in their local and school communities, so it follows that they can too.
"There is no age limit on making a difference." - Grade 5 student
Here's a list of our presenters and issues at the 2017 SCMC:
Tuesday, September 26, 2017:
- Suan Tan - works at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - Malaysia
- Lyn Thompson - volunteers at UNHCR to train teachers
- Dr. Hartini Zainudin - works for UNICEF and volunteers at 'Street Kids of Chow Kit.'
- Janine Williams - volunteers at the 'Chin Women's Organization School.'
- Heather Onderick - ISKL ELA Learning Coach and volunteer at 'Everyone Has Hope'
- Carolyn Joan Lau - volunteers at 'Tak Nak Straw' - an organization dedicated to protecting the environment by reducing the use of plastic straws
Wednesday, September 27, 2017:
- Munirah Hamid - founded the 'Pertiwi Soup Kitchen' in downtown KL
- Arief Fauzy - works at the SPCA Selangor
- Irina Mohamad - works at 'MakanLah!' an organization which has launched a healthy eating program in Malaysian schools
- Dr. Veena Pillai - works at the MSRI Refugee Clinic
- Siti Kasim - lawyer and volunteer legal advocate for the Orang Asli (indigenous people)
- Suji Dehart - ISKL Melawati Librarian and advocate for minimizing waste in landfills & composting
- Dr. Teh Kok Hoi - Paediatrician at KL Children's Hospital Cancer Ward
Article by Mr. David Herbert - Grade 5 Teacher, SCMC Co-Founder