As of the end of 2020, about 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with UNHCR Malaysia. Almost 86% are from Myanmar and from this figure, around 102,000 are Rohingyas. The rest of the refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia are from 50 countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Palestine. There are also many undocumented migrants (some say five million) who are absorbed into the rural workforce and, as elsewhere, are exploited.
Malaysia is an accepting multi-faith and multicultural country and rich in all aspects from food to architecture. However, the refugees, despite local NGOs and individuals providing support, are restricted from Malaysian education institutions and working. Their needs are acute. Myanmar refugees will probably never be able to return to their country as their villages are razed and burned and they lack evidence of title to their land.
Norani Abu Baker of The Blue Ribbon (TBR) Global and a co-organiser of the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course in 2019, champions permaculture and sustainability at every opportunity, is the driving force behind UCSI University Living Lab and founder of Teens4CAP. Teens for Climate Action for Peace or Teens4CAP was initiated by The Blue Ribbon (TBR) Global in June 2020 and was developed out of the need for enhancing teens and young adults’ resilience towards extreme climate change. This non-formal education program is offered to teens regardless of their backgrounds or legal status.
Norani shares that by expanding our mind to constructive opportunities amidst COVID-19 lockdown, we can turn problems into solutions: Teens4CAP climate action program is now offered virtually to any forced migrant and stateless teens. Twelve, majority forced-migrant teens, completed the 3-month Climate Action Incubator Program (CAIP) despite the challenge of relying on smartphones for online classes. One of CAIP’s partners, the United Arakan Institute of Malaysia (UAIM), has committed to collaborate in setting up a permaculture garden at its compound. UAIM runs primary and secondary education for the Rohingya community.
Teens4CAP World Soil Day National Competition and virtual celebration, led and co-organized by UCSI Schools and Teens4CAP, is a ground-breaking initiative that brings together teens regardless of their backgrounds, to learn and appreciate soil biodiversity at a common platform. The collective effort to run this program is truly a demonstration of permaculture ethics at work – people care, planet care, and share of surplus!