Browsing articles from "October, 2011"
Oct 21, 2011
wilsonbeh

10×10 Educate Girls, Change the World

The best part of Washington DC is its historic buildings which preserve the past and offer a fascinating glimpse into the changes in architecture and daily American life since the independence.

This is probably the only city in US which makes you feel as if in Europe.

I attended Girl Power – A Photo Gallery Exhibition at the USAID Knowledge Services Center, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. It was an invitation by colleagues of World Learning at the Department of States.

Outside the Federal Triangle orange line metro station, 24 minutes from Ballston-MU station. I came here before my Financial Management night class started at 630pm.

The leaves start to Fall and weather turns cold these few days.

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is just opposite the metro station.

Inside Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Girl Power – A Photo Gallery was exhibited at the USAID Knowledge Services Center.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

USAID’s stated goals include providing “economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States“. It operates in Sub-Saharan Africa; Asia and the Near East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Eurasia.

10×10 is a feature film and a digital action campaign launched by an award-winning team of former ABC News journalists. Their message is simple: Educating girls in the developing world will bring about transformational change.

The 10×10 film tells the stories of 10 girls from 10 countries.

10×10 partners with forward-thinking corporations (such as Intel), NGOs (such as World Vision), celebrities, policy leaders, and concerned citizens to build a global grassroots and transmedia movement well in advance of the film’s release.

I talked to Lauren Mitte, the Project Manager of 10×10 from New York. She is so passionate in this cause and wants to use film technology to showcase to the  entire world.

I met Global Water Resource Sustainability Manager from the Coca Cola company too. It is good to see big corporations like this spend a huge amount of money in social projects.

Kathy, who works in USAID for 18 years truly broaden my eyes on why USAID is so important.

So, what’s the issue?

Inequality in gender is still very serious in many countries. Young girls do not live as they deserved. 

This is Beni Suef from Egypt. She is the one of only three in her family who has the ‘luxury’ to get an education.

 

This is Bardiya from Nepal.

Girls in Nepal do not have an easy path to getting an education. Basic literacy for girls is almost hall of that for boys (35% for girls vs 63$ for boys).  With more than half of the country surviving on less than a dollar a day, girls provide desperately needed labor both inside and outside the home.

10×10 is working with a new NGO called Pink Bike to provide girls in need with bicycle. With this simple intervention, the education that was simply out of reach for ten of thousands of girls, is now a real possibility.

Life without an education is like a book with blank paper.” – Purnima, 15, Nepal.

I feel unsafe everywhere. I don’t even feel safe sitting here.” – Kitana, lives in a refugee camp in Haiti.

While many of us are contemplating whether to buy a new iPhone 4S or planning a trip in the coming holiday; there are so many people suffering from illiteracy in the world you live.

While many of us are complaining of our studies and heavy assignments, there are so many people out there – all their dream is just to get an education.

Through education, there is a chance – a chance to escape from poverty and change the destiny of an entire family even the community.

In India, only 11% of girls get college education.

In Cambodia, 4 out of 5 girls drop out of school when they turn 13.

In Nigeria, 60% of school drop out are girls.

Most of they succumb to child marriage, prostitution and die young.

They don’t have much choices, do they?

Shouldn’t we feel grateful of what we possess now compared to these girls?

But we can give them hope. We can make a change in their life.

How?

To me, it is about living our life to the fullest and be the person we aspire to be. Maximize our potential, lead a good life with people we care and give back to this society. It doesn’t need to be a “big” or “glamorous” thing – it can be as simple as making someone lives a little bit better because of your presence.

To know about the young girls’ stories and see how can you help them?

Just click here http://10x10act.org/take-action/

Oct 17, 2011
wilsonbeh

Raise RM 200,000 for Beh Kuan Kyn Medical Fund – An inspiring story of community love

376765 is not a code as in Dan Brown’s fiction <Digital Fortress> nor a magical number.

It is RM 376,765 (120,000 USD) –  the total amount raised for Beh Kuan Kyn Medical Fund in less than 2 months.

I am writing this post to tell a story.

It is an inspiring story of how communities from Parit Buntar, different states in Malaysia and also overseas coming together as one to help Beh Kuan Kyn, a King Scout who suffers from Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis.

As I was gathering information for this post; every word of encouragement, motivational pictures, donations and spread of words have touched my heart deeply. Now, I truly believe there is love in this community.

If you have made a contribution regardless of amount to Beh Kuan Kyn; started a campaign at your college, company, organization; or just shared at your Facebook wall – You are already saving a life.

It is a noble act of love, self-giving and an up most respect towards a human life.

On behalf of Beh Kuan Kyn Medical Fundraising Committee, I salute and thank for your help.

It all started with a wish.

Kuan Kyn is in our batch – we had great fun together especially in scouting life.

On Aug 4, Wei Jien, Dalton, Ilman and I paid a visit to Kuan Kyn’s house. To be honest, it’s been almost a year since we last visited him. Zheng Cong used to be the most enthusiastic one and always initiated the visit, but this time he was away from hometown.

Her mum welcomed us warmly as it is always good to have friends to cheer Kuan Kyn up. We went into Kuan Kyn’s room and talked to him. He can’t really move but is mentally aware and active. He winked to respond us. From his cheek, we noticed he has grown some weight and definitely looks healthier than last year.

Meanwhile, we had a conversation with his mum – an individual whom I respect a lot. She has done her very best to take good care of Kuan Kyn, and never give up on her only son even facing tremendous obstacles.

She told us appointment with a Beijing hospital was even made few months ago and showed us the official letter. Before that, Kuan Kyn’s MRI scan and medical reports were already sent to Beijing. The only matter is the exorbitant medical fee, which costs at least RM 200,000 just for operation and flight ticket, excluded further treatments and cost to support post-treatments. According to experts, it will reach a staggering cost of RM 350,000 or even more.

She told us: “想都不敢想” (Dare not even to think of it)

True indeed. It is not easy for a middle class family to spend RM 300,000 just on medical expenditure, not to mention to a family which used all their saving over the past 3.5 years for Kuan Kyn’s medicals.

On the way back, I discussed with Wei Jien, Dalton and Ilman. On the same night, I sent out this Facebook message to my close 33 hometown friends.

From then, things were not the same anymore.

The message received overwhelming responses from all. Xin Kun, Chu Meng, Kok Lim, Chloe and many suggested different ideas. Wah Ching kicked start by forming a Facebook group Kuan Kyn – You are not alone which later gathered 300 strong supporters for this cause.

This was the picture we took during our first meeting. Kuan Kyn’s sister was present too.

As all hometown friends progressed towards different paths of life, we had little time together.Some of us have not met each other since graduation 4 years ago; but because of Kuan Kyn, all of us are closely tied again.

We formed Beh Kuan Kyn Medical Fundraising Committee and also set up this Facebook page. The Facebook page reached 2,000 likes in less than 48 hours.

We brainstormed on different alternatives – to raise RM 200,000 at the soonest of convenience. A timeline was set: before 11.11.11, the amount must be raised.

Frankly speaking, we were not quite sure whether this huge amount of money can be raised. It is not RM 20,000.

But ingrained in our spirit we knew it is possible and we must do it professionally, transparently to win credibility from the society.

Our idea is simple – 1 person to raise RM 200,000 is very hard, but if we can gather 20,000 people and each contributes RM 10, it is possible

 

The next day, we met up with Krian X Scout and also Luvotion team.

Krian X Scout – From left Soon Kiang, Geoffrey, Wei Jien (Our batch Parit Buntar Agent, haha, u will understand if you’re 37th Krian Scout), Khok Zhen, Ken Qi, David Thian, Zhan Feng.

They are many years elder than us and all having their own career and family. However, they are the one who spend the most time, standing at the forefront and do all the sweat and toil – to help their junior scout Beh Kuan Kyn.

During the first 2 weeks, we had meeting relentlessly almost every night.

I would say, without them, this medical fund will not be raised in such a short time.

We treat this as a project by undertaking professional methods. The secretary team – Jia Hui, Hui Di, Heng How worked closely with Kuan Kyn’s family to gather all official letters, medical reports and also updating meeting outcome to the entire team.

 

Luvotion team led by scout senior – David Thian started a video campaign for Beh Kuan Kyn.

Chan Brothers the famous Car Medic Center in Penang came all the way to Luvotion’s studio for recording at Nibong Tebal on Sunday morning. Chan Brother was also a scout from Chung Ling High School. As he said:” Once a scout, always a scout. We will help our scout brother Beh Kuan Kyn by all means.

Friends from SMJK Krian all turned out at the video shooting day to support Kuan Kyn through actions. There are many other friends who are raising fund from family and friends.

The team also went to Kuan Kyn’s house to record a video – and this video turns out to be the most important starting point for public awareness.

 

Raise 200k for beh kuan kyn on Vimeo.

PicBadge was created by Ken Qi and more than 200 wearing this badge to support the cause.

An official website was set up, too, to publish important background information of Beh Kuan Kyn. It is especially touching to read articles by Kuan Kyn’s friends at ”Write To Kuan Kyn” section.

When this campaign was first launched, we had some difficult time to come out with a proper bank account. This is due to organization we approached did not want to take risk. Disappointed, we turned to another group.

While our bank account was in process, the donation part had already started aggressively.

In less than a week even without bank account, we had collected RM 16,492 from Parit Buntar community who are so kindhearted to help.  They are mostly friends to the committee members, mutual friends and also scout members of different generations.

A lot of people telling us:” I will donate this amount. Just let me know when the bank account is ready. I will Maybank2u“.

Another friend of mine from Simpang Empat passed me a RM 1,000 ang pao and said:” This is from my mum to help Kuan Kyn. We don’t know him but just wanna help“. I did not receive but asked her to deposit when the bank account is ready.

This is the kind of  force that keep us going and worked even harder.

Finally, thanks to Lion Club of Krian district, the bank account is ready by August 18, 2011.

The transparency of bank account is the most imperative above all.

There are so many deceptions nowadays and we can’t afford to lose the faith from public.

We publish every single information of the bank account in our website, Facebook and also through the presses.  To make it even more reliable, official receipt is issued on every 15th upon request.

 

Once the bank account was ready and coupled with media highlights, the real momentum started.

I still can recall vividly on Monday, just 3 days after the bank account was activated; Soon Kiang phoned me while I was on the way to airport:” The donation collected in bank is over RM 16,000 now“.

At that very moment, I was saying to myself “Kuan Kyn, this time you really have hope!“.

In just about 2 weeks time, the amount raised had exceeded RM 200,000.

Contribution from everyone counts – from as little as RM 5 to as much as RM 5,000 and more.

It is a sincere wish from you so this young man can stand up once again.

Damansara Metro N.C. Lions Club & LCKL Mega City are among the first few organizations which stand by closely with us in this cause. They came all the way from KL to Penang and started their own campaign through video.

Donations from different organization, colleges, companies, individuals and many who remained anonymous.

Throughout the process, we really see the positive side of this society.

A story after another on encounters with kindhearted people around Malaysia and not to mention Singapore and Brunei.

Most of them they don’t even know Beh Kuan Kyn personally.

They have nothing to ‘gain’ by doing this. No tax rebate. No fame. Nothing.

It is purely a good deed.

Translate:

An encounter with Anonymous Uncle 

Soon Kiang: “Uncle where are you from?

Uncle:” This is not important, can you bring me to Kuan Kyn’s house?

<At Kuan Kyn’s house>

Soon Kiang:” Uncle, how do I address you?

Uncle:” This is not important

After that, the anonymous uncle asked a lot of questions regarding Kuan Kyn’s conditions. Then, he took a pile of notes from pocket and told Soon Kiang.

Uncle:” This RM 3,000 is to help Kuan Kyn.

Immediately after, the anonymous uncle left and we never have the chance to know who is he.

Shall we not salute this person who does not want any fame but pure kindness?

All the major newspapers such as Kwong Wah, Sin Chew, Nan Yang published Beh Kuan Kyn Medical Fundraising news and propelled this into a national issue.

The Star and Sinar Harian also covered on this issue and reached out to non-Mandarin speaking communities.

Deputy Minister from MCA and Member of Parliament from PAS also visited Kuan Kyn and pledged to help.

And we witnessed the real 1 Malaysia, too.

Persatuan Siswa/i Islam Perubatan Universiti Malaya (PSIPUM) – University Malaya Islamic Medical Organization passed the fund raised to Kuan Kyn’s mum all the way from Kuala Lumpur. They didn’t know Kuan Kyn, either.

They got to know this news from Facebook and started their fundraising campaign.

This is just an example of many self-initiated campaigns national-wide.

This is a card designed by fellow scouts from Chung Hwa Middle School, Brunei.

I found the sentences simply inspiring.

More than a thousand people contributed to this medical fund and yes, most of them do not know Kuan Kyn personally just like the brother and sister scouts from Brunei.

But they know – his spirit and courage can overcome all these difficulties. They support and stand by him through actions.

Kuan Kyn has never given up on himself. Same goes to his family.

Do you think it is easy for a family to seek for help publicly?

No and never.

Kuan Kyn’s mum has to wake up many times in the middle of night to make sure he is well. His sister did not finish her ACCA papers due to this incident. However, his family is strong in facing all these ordeals and we should keep supporting them.

Today, the committee is working together with Kuan Kyn’s family on hospital matter.

This is the most important decision to make and details will be updated through Facebook from time to time.

Beh Kuan Kyn Medical Fundraising  is a real story of community love.

Thank you for being in this journey which has just started. There are challenges ahead but we can surely overcome through teamwork, faith and love.

Let’s us keep the dream alive, keep supporting Kuan Kyn.

Remember, when there is great love, there are always miracles.

Oct 15, 2011
wilsonbeh

Georgetown Cupcakes at DC

One preference I put in Global UGRAD Program application was to study at urban area.  This is because I simply love to see city planning and learn how the quality of a city affects standard of living.

When I first got to know I’m placed in Marymount University at Arlington, Virginia; I was like… where the hell is this?

But after few weeks staying here, I feel so grateful to be here.

Yes, Arlington was voted as the no. 2 best city in America by Bloomberg Businessweek.

It is not hard to understand why.

It is a well-planned city at Washington Metropolitan Area with efficient public transportation.

Of course, Washington DC is not New York City but your weekend can never be boring here.

It is so close to the nation’s capital in a way you just have to walk across the Key Bridge from Rosslyn Metro station (Arlington) to reach M Street, Georgetown.

Malaysian at Georgetown yo.

I believe they are many Malaysians at Georgetown area too.

For example, the daughter of Malaysia’s Prime Minister had just graduated from Georgetown University – a very prestigious and oldest Catholic University in the US.

Georgetown is a high-class, thriving business neighborhood located at Northwest quadrant of Washington DC.

Mostly people refer Georgetown to M Street – a major street at downtown with a lot of upscale shopping and fine dining restaurants along its cobblestone street.

It’s just like the “Orchard Road” or “Jalan Bukit Bintang” of DC.

Upscale shopping? You name it you find it.

Distance away it’s the Georgetown Waterfront Park along Potamac River where you can enjoy the sea breeze.

 And there is a place you must stop by at M Street – the famous Georgetown Cupcakes.

Georgetown Cupcakes was opened by sisters Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne at 2008. Katherine was actually a graduate from Marymount University.

If you go after 8pm, it’s gonna be a long line. So, it’s advisable to go there as early as possible.

See, how excited Austin, Joey, Vincent were to choose the cupcakes they like!

By just selling cupcakes, they made it to the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Their book is going to publish on November 8. Besides, their successful story of running this small business was filmed at a reality 6 parts series titled “DC Cupcakes”.

Georgetown Cupcake offers 18 flavors daily including multiple varieties of chocolate, vanilla and red velvet that are available each day.

The cupcakes are baked throughout the day at the shop and specially-sourced ingredients such as cocoa from France and vanilla from Madagascar are used.

It costs $2.75 each – erm… it’s acceptable for this yummy cupcake. I’ve tried more expensive cupcakes but they are not as delicious as this.

The lovely red velvet cupcake – the top seller among all flavors.

Guess how many cupcakes they sell daily?

5,000.

Yes, 5,000.

The cupcakes are packed in a gift box and a Gucci-like paper shopping bag. From far, you would think someone is holding some expensive shopping bags.

What a good packaging, huh?

I have tried a number of different cupcakes at US. But so far this is the best I have ever tasted.

Appreciation from the crew of Air Force One… erm… wait a minute… does this mean President Obama tasted it as well?

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