Between the 24th and 26th of August, MUMeds in collaboration with Ref-UP Monash, a carnival was held in celebration of Refugee Awareness Day. This event was held to promote and provide refugees in Malaysia with a free platform to grow their businesses. It was also an opportunity for the Monash student body as well as staff to gain awareness about the refugee community and support their local businesses.
Throughout this event, refugee-owned businesses were invited to the Monash campus to set up their shop (at zero cost!) and sell/promote their products to the students. Curious onlookers promptly filled the foyer as early as 10 AM on the first day of our visit, indicating there was a great deal of interest in the event. There were ten booths in total, seven of them involving refugee-owned businesses and three were game-related booths.
Located at the Monash University Foyer (or The Rock if you’re more familiar with this name), the open setting of the area coupled with the large overhead fan provided a cool breeze to curious visitors. Due to the overwhelming crowd, we visited the first stall, SevenTeaOne, with the most products on display, mainly various dried teas packed cutely in batik-motif sachets, small glass jars, (delicious) biscuits, and handmade soaps!
“We are very happy today to participate in this Refugee Awareness event under Monash University where we have an opportunity to expose our teens in doing business, getting in touch with the community, and also fundraising for our centers.” We are very grateful to Monash University,” said Mr. Lai Chong Haur, director of SevenTeaOne.
This social enterprise is based in Shah Alam, where they foster inclusivity in communities by providing training and employment for differently-abled teenagers as well as members of marginalized communities. Currently, they have 24 differently-abled teens from the B40 background, all of which are trained under various social and employment skills.
When asked whether they have plans to expand their center, Mr. Lai added, “If we have the financial capability, we hoped to open up more branches in other states so we can help other communities there.”
They also sell their products online and it is available on Shopee, Lazada, Facebook, and of course, their website at seventeaone.my.
Next to SevenTeaOne was the Lady Ayaz Sewing Centre, an organization run by Pakistani refugee women. Founded in 2016, they have trained 31 refugee women with sewing skills and are now a thriving small business that sells an array of handmade goods such as hair scrunchies, toiletries bags, purses, laptop sleeves, and more.
Other notable stalls present during the event were Rohingya Women Development Network, which sold handcrafted items like reusable face masks, reusable sanitary pads, and tassel earrings, Picha Eats where they sold various (and tasty!) pre-made meals, Bread of Hope, led by Somali Refugee Community Malaysia, who sold freshly baked goods by Somali women and lastly, Kneading Peace, a start-up by Same Skies who offered handcrafted products made by refugee artisans.
Of course, the game booths drew some crowd among students. With an admission fee of RM1 across the three stalls, we paid a visit to the Flip Tic Tac Toe booth, challenging players to test their flipping skills in a classic game of tic tac toe. Some players flipped us away (pun intended) with their amazing skills, earning cheers whenever someone managed to complete a row of three boxes with their cups. Then there was a classic party game, of course, which was the water pong booth, an essential serotonin-induced activity to see how many balls a player can get into empty cups.
Before heading off to class, however, we stopped by the Nuts in A Cup booth, where players tested their chopstick skills to fill a cup with as many peanuts as they could in under 60-seconds. It was an entertaining sight, even nerve-wracking as some players went NUTS (again, pun intended) while they scrambled to pick up peanuts.
As the carnival draw to a close on the 26th, we checked out the Refugee Encouragement Board where colorful sticky notes adorned the blue board as people left tons of warm and heartfelt messages to refugee communities in Malaysia. We look forward to this carnival for next year!
Written by Elly Zulaikha; Photos by Luanne Choong