There is a saying that after every storm comes a rainbow. KS Pakyalakshmi Subramanian is certainly a strong supporter of this saying.
Pakyalakshmi, who works as a telephone operator in a police station, has reached out to young offenders and ex-convicts to breathe new life into them through her organization, Pertubuhan Pembangunan Wanita Tamarai Pulau Pinang (Tamarai).
It also provides qualifying training for people in category B40, single parents, women and people from at-risk backgrounds.
“Various programs are run under Tamarai, such as computer classes, cooking, bouquet-making, sewing, and social media and electrical entrepreneurship,” the 39-year-old social worker said.
“Our goal is to provide the skills and education people need to survive in this competitive society.”
The Pakyalakshmi association, created in 2012, now has nearly 30 volunteers.
“During these 10 years, we have completed more than 200 projects, including free and paid courses,” said the founder and president of Tamarai.
Pakyalakshmi added that everyone deserves a second chance, especially young people who have served prison time.
“Many convicted youths commit offenses because they lack knowledge and feel that no one around them likes or supports them,” she said, adding that the lack of life skills and quality education also plays a role.
Thanks to Tamarai, Pakyalakshmi has helped hundreds of young convicts find their way in life.
“Once, when I signed up to be the guardian of an 18-year-old convict, I realized that the main factor that led him to commit crimes was his broken family.
“I knew the boy had a spirit and was willing to work hard to succeed, so I enrolled him in a government training program to gain automotive knowledge.
“However, he suffered a slight setback when he mixed in with others throughout his training period because he did not speak Bahasa Malay well.
“As a tutor, I taught him the basics of Bahasa Malaysia. Despite his initial difficulties, he now works as a line cleaner at a national car service center and earns up to RM6,000 per month.
“If we don’t help them, nothing will change for them when they get out of prison. I will continue to do so for as long as I can,” Pakyalakshmi promised.
A little education goes a long way in life
There is a saying, “We are better together,” and that’s exactly what some community leaders have proven through their work to improve society.
They may be ordinary Malaysians, but that doesn’t stop them from pouring their hearts and souls and even shelling out their own money to educate underprivileged Malaysians, regardless of their creed or faith, so that they can turn the page in life.
Believing that education is the key to success, retired teacher Peter Soo, 68, strives to bring about positive change in the lives of underprivileged students.
Soo has been actively running a community center known as Perkhidmatan Komuniti Sempurna in Kluang, Johor since 2009.
According to Soo, the organization has preserved the spirit of Merdeka by seizing opportunities to reach out and help different communities in Kluang, especially in terms of education.
“I believe that education can free a person from the cycle of poverty, so I decided to help bring change to disadvantaged people,” Soo added.
When he says he gives it his all, he really means it, including contributing his own EPF savings to run the community center.
“In 2009 and 2010, I started by personally teaching English to about 80 students of different races in my community center. Later, when Yayasan Nanyang Press sponsored my work, I was able to hire teachers (from local schools) and had nearly 300 children attending the free lessons every week.
“I offered free English (and later Bahasa Malaysian) lessons to children from poor urban families. We have also included free tuition in Bahasa Malaysia for secondary school students to help them transition into public schools,” Soo said, adding that having a quality education helps create a population to high incomes.
“Every year, the number of dropouts is almost 25% and the pandemic has made it worse,” he said.
Soo said those without proper education face a bleak future as they will have fewer job opportunities.
As a certified counselor, Soo not only provides guidance to children, but also tries to instill good values to ensure they don’t become social misfits.
“On a personal level, I have been appointed guardian for eight girls and six boys who are mostly from single parent or dysfunctional families.
“I give them advice to help them make wise decisions so that their life trajectories are better,” he said, adding that he had also helped many families during the order of motion control (MCO).
“It really pained me to see the large number of people who had lost their jobs and were struggling to make ends meet due to the prolonged MCO.
“As a result, I received a permit to travel to distribute food to about 100 families during the MCO,” said Soo, who has also worked with the Rotary Club of Kluang and other non-governmental organizations on charitable projects.
“I hope today’s youth will learn from the mistakes of the older generation. I believe that the majority, especially educated people, realize that mutual understanding and racial harmony are essential to building a peaceful and progressive nation.