Malaysia: JRS, my friend
21 February 2021|JRS Malaysia
Alom* (28) came to Malaysia as a child refugee at 10 years old to find a safe place. Alom said he will never forget his experience and the sacrifice of his family. When he was a child, he only remembered that his parents told him to leave the village, so he can survive. His village in Rakhine state was not safe for him. His parents arranged his transportation to escape from Myanmar and paid around 5,000 MYR (1,250 USD) to an agent. In a boat packed with 100 persons, they sailed the open sea for two months. He does not remember much during the journey, as he prefers to erase the trauma of his past. When he and others finally landed in Thailand, they were then smuggled to Malaysia via Padang Besar.
When he reached Malaysia, he was caught by the police and was put in jail for two months. Upon his release from the police custody, he was assisted by the a community in Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia. He has been living in Malaysia for 17 years now and has since worked to support himself, and now his wife and children.
Before March 2020, he had a regular job at a construction site. But when the city of Alor Setar was under lockdown twice this year due to COVID-19, and the economy suffered, he was unable to find a job. To survive, he did any kind of work. Sometimes he could work for two (2) days, but most of the time he has to stay home. For him, this situation was really difficult as he has children, and the children do not only need food, but also milk and other necessities.
He heard about Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and New Thessalonian Apostolate (NTA)’s assistance from his friend in the community. His friend gave him the JRS-NTA’s WhatsApp number and followed the assessment interview. When he encountered the JRS staff, he said “the feeling that someone cared for me is something new. my life was all hardship because I had no one, and I did not know anyone in Malaysia.” He was very touched and brought to tears when he met a JRS staff who approached him as a friend. He would never forget it in his lifetime. He also stated that the aid provided really helped him because one of his children needed medical attention.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.