Street kids left in the lurch after funding cut

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KUALA LUMPUR: A second non-profit group, serving at-risk children and youth in one of Kuala Lumpur’s seediest areas, will have its government funding cut next month. This makes its fate similar to another welfare centre catering to the urban poor and the transgender community in the city.

Children’s rights activist Dr Hartini Zainuddin said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry would stop funding the KL Krash Pad, a centre for street youth, from next month.

KL Krash Pad is one of the centres under Yayasan Chow Kit, of which Hartini is founder, and launched by the ministry in 2010.

“The ministry has cut funding to KL Krash Pad. They cut off everything. They have cut off money for the marginalised groups in Chow Kit.

“As far as I know, she (the minister) has cut off funding for all the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with marginalised groups in Chow Kit,” she told The Malaysian Insider in an interview, referring to Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim.

Located in the capital city’s seedy Chow Kit area, KL Krash Pad serves as a second home and shelter for vulnerable teenagers from the streets. The youth who come to the centre are at risk from gang and street violence, crime, substance abuse and HIV infection.

Hartini also contrasted the way the ministry dealt with NGOs working in Chow Kit under Rohani and former minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

“I’m not happy. Honestly, I’m really upset that they don’t look at the marginalised children; they don’t even talk to us about it; they just cut it off. At least talk to us.

“They sent us the letter and just said, sorry, we are cutting off your funding.

“Datuk Shahrizat was supportive of marginalised children because she understood that the impact of not educating and housing the children would lead to even worse situation.”

KL Krash Pad manager M Pusenthi P Maniam said the centre was earlier asked by the ministry to submit a proposal to justify an extension of funding for another three years, but it was rejected.

“They told us to submit a proposal, which we did to extend the funding, but the ministry said they would only fund until December,” she said.

Pusenthi said most of the RM300,000 received yearly from the ministry went towards operations, including staff salaries, while programmes for the youth were sponsored by companies from their corporate social responsibility budgets.

Activities at the centre are designed to motivate, inspire and engage youth in creative expression, as well as to teach them skills for self-sufficiency.

KL Krash Pad also has a “back-to-school” course, especially for dropouts, to help teens complete and sit for their Form Five exams.

Pusenthi said she had informed the ministry about how much KL Krash Pad depended on the government’s funding. Around 40 to 50 teenagers participate in the centre’s programmes.

“I told the ministry with its funds, a lot of teenagers now do very well in their life. Some of them have even furthered their studies in medicine.”

KL Krash Pad is now in the same predicament as Pusat Bantuan Khidmat Social (PBKS), another charity group operating in the Chow Kit area. PBKS is run by Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kebajikan dan Persekitaran Positif (SEED), whose annual funding of RM700,000 will also be stopped beginning next year.

PBKS was opened in 2007 by the ministry and the recent move to cut its funding was reportedly linked to its work with the transgender community. Its registered clients are 1,345 transgender, 2,664 women and 5,793 people with HIV/AIDS.

For KL Krash Pad, however, there is still a chance that funding might be renewed, provided Pusenthi can come up with a convincing proposal.

“They [have asked] me to submit a new proposal by the middle of January to state why we need the funds, so it’s a 50-50 chance of whether we will get it or not,” said Pusenthi.

Hartini said the ministry had to work with non-profit groups on the ground to understand the root causes of urban social problems. — The Malaysian Insider


This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 24, 2014.