Address: No 54A, Lorong Haji Taib, Chow Kit 50350 KL
Total Residence: 85 People
This is Buku Jalanan Chow Kit (BJCK), an education center and a safe space for children in the neighborhood, many of whom are stateless and have no access to education. “It’s a space like the home, where the children can feel safe,” says founder Siti Rahayu Baharin, whose laidback and cheerful disposition belies a steely resolve and a propensity to do good by her principles.
Situated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Chow Kit has a reputation as a poor, rough and overcrowded urban neighborhood. Development is encroaching, but that is of no help to the disenfranchised who are being pushed even further into the margins. “Chow Kit is not a neighborhood for children to grow up in. There are no green spaces or places that they can safely play,” said Siti Rahayu.
She was volunteering at the local soup kitchens when she realized that she wanted to feed the mind as well as the body. “Education is a stepping stone for the children to change their lives,” she said. The effects of poverty on children are far-reaching, especially when they do not receive an education. Without it, their opportunities would be severely limited, and they would not have the resources that might get them out of poverty. BJCK didn’t always have a place to call its own. Siti Rahayu started the program in an alleyway with classes twice a week.
The children would sit on mats placed on the ground, diligently listening to the tutors, mostly students from neighboring universities, and scribbling in their books lit up by torchlights and solar lamps. After three years on the street, Siti Rahayu and her team started envisioning a permanent place for BJCK, which came into being thanks to their efforts along with generous donations and sponsorships. Confectionary company Julie’s Biscuits pays the rent while ThinkCity, a community-focused urban regeneration organization, sponsored the renovations. BJCK held its first class in its new location on the last day of 2017
The center currently has 55 children, 28 of whom attend the school taught by three teachers. The children start coming into the center in the morning and stay on until evening. For many of them, home is often a cramped single room shared with a large family. At BJCK, they have breathing space to study and play. The school uniform is optional, but the children opt to wear it anyway because it gives them a sense of belonging.
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