Heidy Quah

 

Making a difference

Article from the Sun daily by Yeo Chia Hui (posted on 14 April 2015)

IN today's society, where the slightest hiccup would have deterred many from reaching for the stars, not a lot of people can withstand having their dreams torn up in front of their eyes. The pain must have been excruciating, but rather than giving up at the first hurdle, Heidy Quah persevered – for herself, for her dream and ultimately for the children who needed her.

An ebullient 21-year-old business student, Quah co-founded Refuge for the Refugees (RFTR) three years ago when she was just 18. RFTR is a registered non-governmental organisation (NGO) that strives to provide education for Myanmar refugee children.

"I was very happy the first time RFTR came out in the newspaper,and I was holding the paper in university when this guy came up to ask me what is it about; upon telling him, he took the paper from my hands only to tear it up and told me to stop living in my dream bubble," she recollected.

Not only that, she is still being constantly mocked and taunted for being the "refugee girl", but none of these stopped this strong-willed lady from giving the gift of education to children who are hungry for it. RFTR currently has three schools in Klang Valley and is going into a fourth one in Penang.

Quah may be made of sterner stuff, but she confessed that many a time she too felt like throwing in the towel. "It is a juggle, and it can be very lonely.

Sometimes, I look at my peers and I realise that they have so much more time to do other things."

"Despite how many times the thought of quitting has crossed my mind, one thing that keeps me going is the kids, their hunger for education, and how grateful they are each time we go into the school," Quah smiled before continuing, "Their faces would light up and they'll tell us "Hey teacher, so good to see you' and they'd clap and cheer."

The beam of light across her face coupled with the shine in her eyes when she talked about the children spoke volumes about her passion.

And this dedication of hers is presumably what fuels up this girl whose average day begins at 6.30am and only ends at 3am.

"I go for classes in the morning and afterwards I either teach at refugee schools or I go to meetings with potential funders and collaborators. Because we work closely with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I meet with their education team quite a bit too," she elaborated.

Quah also needs to contend with coming up with teaching plans, dealing with volunteers, raising awareness, and manage other NGO related matters. It's a rocky path to take so it is fortunate that she found her pillars of strength in best friend and cofounder, Andrea Prisha, and her mentor, Rachel Ann Thong. "Having people like Andrea and Rachel to walk along me is very helpful.

Andrea is the doer and I'm the dreamer, so while I dream of the amazing things we want to do, she puts it into action and makes things possible. "Rachel meanwhile constantly inspires and challenges me to be a better person.

Doing what I do, it's so easy to be discouraged by what people may say so to have her constantly cheering me on in my
journey is a blessing."

Quah, who is an inspiration to many, said that she is generally embarrassed when she receives compliments for RFTR.

While she does not shy away from the media, in order to raise awareness, this girl's bashful demeanour shows beyond doubt that she's not in this for the glamour. And it is this spirit of hers that will see her through any future obstacles thrown in her path.

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