Why Pelangi Kasih (Rainbow of Love)?
There is a Rainbow of Hope school in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I did a documentary for Voices of Children, and one of the characters was a young stateless Sulu teacher who volunteers at Rainbow of Hope. The school is for stateless children in Sabah, most of whom are from the Sulu people. Though we are not connected to them by way of management or funding, I draw inspiration from them. Our Rainbow of Love is also a school for the stateless Rohingyas.
Rainbow because it is many beautiful colours (diversity of people) coming together as One. For the rainbow colours all merge to become white light, and with a prism you can split up white light to become many colours. In Oneness comes Diversity, and in Diversity comes Oneness. This is the unity and interconnectedness of all creations and manifestations, and we and them are part of each other.
If you haven't seen the Indonesian movie "Laskar Pelangi", you should. It is about a poor village with too few children to attend school that the government did not bother to build one. But there were a few dedicated people who did and wanted to prove that there are enough students to justify a school, and the kids who struggled against all odds to arrive to school on time - one of them, a fisherman's son, waits until a crocodile goes to sleep - so that the school won't be closed.
It is an inspiring story of love, live, learning, and friendships.
Let us teach with love. And while we ensure that our children learn their ABCs and 123s, we must impart the values of honesty, respect, compassion, generosity, and kindness.
That is more than any alphabet can do.
Jules Rahman Ong
We established the school when we realized that children from the diaspora of Rohingya communities living around the city outskirts had limited access to learning centers...and none whatsoever to public schools. The children we first met could barely speak or write, living in poor housing conditions, shuttered indoors all day for fear of kidnapping, being stopped by law enforcement agencies and a host of other risks.
To date, the number of refugee children of school going age still far outweighs the number of schooling opportunities available to them. A UNHCR study puts the estimate at roughly 70% of refugee children between ages 6-13 remaining unschooled.
When we first started, we were no more than a floor space above a convenience store. Now, thanks to the kindness of many different people from all over the world - including the tireless efforts of our volunteers and staff - we have a 3-storey learning center which operates daily. We had 12 kids - now we teach nearly a hundred children every month. Our story is one of hope, a microcosm of big dreams coming true in the unlikeliest of places, of how much good we can all accomplish when many willing hands come together.
We believe in a school that caters to children who desperately need quality education to lift them out of a cycle of poverty and disadvantage, but whose families simply cannot afford it. Our vision is one built around practical knowledge and fun learning experiences while cultivating strong social values; a school that advocates for the rights of all refugees to learn and earn an education. We want our kids to have the same bright, colourful childhood memories we were fortunate to grow up with. Hence the name of our school, Rainbow of Love, inspired by our very own Jules Rahman Ong, when he came across a school for stateless children in rural Borneo bearing the same name.
Rainbow of Love was founded to help address a child's right to education, and we hope to continue doing that and much more for children from all walks of life for many, many more years to come. On behalf of everyone here, we invite you to become a part of our journey, a journey that we all share on many different colored paths, one that begins and ends with love.
Badariah Abdul Hamid