Dignity: transforming lives through holistic education
26 June 2023
Dignity for Children Foundation provides skills classes such as sewing. (Moganraj Villavan @ FMT Lifestyle)

KLANG: Non-governmental organisation Dignity for Children Foundation was recently chosen as the winner of the National Press Club of Malaysia (NPC)-Macrokiosk Muhibbah Awards for the month of June.

Dignity provides holistic care and education for the urban poor and marginalised children in the country.

The monthly award series was launched in April by NPC and enterprise solutions platform provider Macrokiosk, to recognise any individual, group or organisation that best exemplifies the true spirit of muhibbah in Malaysia.

The judging panel comprised Malaysian editors and senior journalists. Winners received a cash prize of RM2,000, a certificate, as well as vouchers from Tealive, Jaya Grocer and frozen yoghurt brand llaollao.

Over its 25-year history, Dignity has helped more than 14,000 children in the country – not only Malaysians, but Cambodians, Indonesians, Myanmarese, Somalis, Indians, Iranians and Kenyans, too.

In 2015, they hosted then United States president Barack Obama during his visit to Malaysia.

They have also received various awards such as, in 2018, the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support, which recognises outstanding initiatives to improve the lives of refugees, by the The Big Heart Foundation in collaboration with the UNHCR.

(From left) Petrina Shee (Dignity), Ahirudin Attan (National Press Club of Malaysia), Rev Elisha Satvinder (Dignity), Kenny and Henry Goh of Macrokiosk. (Moganraj Villavan @ FMT Lifestyle)

Based in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, Dignity offers a comprehensive Montessori education programme from pre-school to upper-secondary level.

Beyond academics, the NGO’s Skills Training Education Programme provides various classes such as hair dressing, tailoring, jewellery making, baking, woodworking, hospitality, and F&B.

Meanwhile, the Dignity Farm Academy in Bentong, Pahang, gives students the opportunity to enjoy camping and farming in a tranquil setting.

Simple beginnings
The early days of the NGO were tough. Dignity chief executive officer and co-founder Petrina Shee, 56, revealed that when she and her husband, Rev Elisha Satvinder, embarked on this venture in 1998, they only had 10 children and two benches for a classroom.

“It started with a simple thing of seeing the needs of fractured, broken, and disregarded lives. And saying, ‘you matter’,” said Satvinder, 58, who is also a co-founder.

Unable to turn a blind eye to the plight of illiterate children, the couple obtained a van, picked up the kids, and taught them their ABCs.

“It was very informal. We were just stepping in to say that we’re going to help you to read and write,” Satvinder added.
Woodworking is among the other skill classes offered by Dignity. (Moganraj Villavan @ FMT Lifestyle)
Although it wasn’t easy going, they were fuelled by a passion to make a difference.

“We came up with this idea because the poor have taught us education has to be holistic. What good is it that you can calculate one plus one equals two, but you don’t have the right attitude?”

From one floor at Sentul Raya Boulevard, today, the work of the NGO has spread over several blocks in the same area.

For the couple, receiving the Muhibbah Award is particularly special.

“Our hope and dream for Malaysia is that we no longer have to pick the race and religion checkbox. We are just Malaysians and that’s it,” shared Shee.

As for what keeps them going, Satvinder said: “One of the things that keeps us happy in the mornings is hearing testimonies of kids turning around. There are those who fall out or make mistakes, but when we hear of someone doing well, it inspires us.”
Satvinder and Shee remain passionate about giving the urban poor and marginalised children a better quality of life. (Moganraj Villavan @ FMT Lifestyle)
How YOU can help

On Sept 30, the Dignity for Children Foundation will hold its 25th-anniversary charity fundraising dinner at HGH Convention Centre in Sentul. The foundation aims to raise RM2.5 million to educate 2,300 students this year and 2,400 students in 2024.

“We hope more will come forward to help us improve the lives of these children who deserve a better tomorrow,” Shee said.

Table pricing for the 25th anniversary charity fundraising dinner:

Table of hope: RM10,000
Table of joy: RM25,000
Table of vision: RM50,000
Table of dream: RM100,000
Single seat: RM1,000

Each table seats 10 pax who will enjoy a nine-course dinner.

Additionally, the foundation is also open to contributions and sponsorship. All donations and ticket purchases are tax-deductible.

For more information, contact 03-4044 1397 or 017-378 7579 (Renee Koo) or email dignity@dignityforchildren.org.

Learn more about Dignity for Children Foundation via its website, Facebook, and Instagram.
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We're on a mission to make a bigger impact, and we're not going to stop. We urgently invite you to join us on this journey of making a meaningful and lasting difference in the world as we celebrate our 25th anniversary.

About Dignity

Our work began in 1998 in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur with only 20 students then. Dignity is now a learning centre with more than 2,300 children ranging from 2-19 years old.
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Donations are exempted from income tax under subsection 44(6) Income Tax Act 1967. Tax exemption receipt is available upon request.
© 2023 Dignity for Children Foundation (200001003583 [506188-W])
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