Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Planting the La Sallian message to youth and children

No place better embodies the spirit of faith, service and community than the La Salle Centre in Ipoh which for years has delightfully blended this La Sallian message into its programmes for disadvantaged youth, secondary school students and adults. The centre sited next to St Michael’s Institution, is an idyllic, quiet haven from busy Jalan S P Seenivasagam outside, but has been the focal point of youth development programmes since 1997, when the La Salle Centre was set up.

La Salle Centre programme director Isaac Stephen Anthonysamy, who has headed the centre since 2001, said the centre has trained well over 2,000 youth and adults through its holistic educational programmes for people of multi faiths. Through its dedicated team of 40 volunteer facilitators (who have experienced the La Salle training programmes), the centre manages to hold an astonishing number of training programmes each year.
A La Sallian Encounter is held for Form 4 boys from June 5-8. Then there is the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child) focusing on children’s needs to be educated, and the La Sallian expedition and development camp (LEAD) aimed at Form Two secondary schoolboys from the disadvantaged group. This essentially means those who suffer from poverty, have poor self-esteem, have disciplinary problems and have never attended camps. They are given a weekend of outward bound activities that help them connect with others, learn how to be motivated and share projects which enable them to learn whilst having fun. More importantly it has provided an avenue for youth to voice their opinions and to be leaders.
The icing on the cake is the National La Sallian convention, held once a year when people from all over the country come to attend. Prior to the convention volunteers go for a two day “exposure” stay at a marginalized community, such as a squatter settlement, or Orang Asli village. (This is made possible because of the good links the La Salle Centre have with the Orang Asli and marginalized groups).
At the convention, they report the impact of their experiences. The facilitators, including university lecturers, analyse and report the participants’ finding. At the end of the week, participants go back to their States, focused on the need to help others with the knowledge of the mechanism involved. There have been cases where volunteers asked for longer exposure experience, including a two month stay for two girls at longhouses in Sarawak. A doctor requested to stay a month to provide a health and hygiene programme for Orang Asli in Bidor.
“We want to create a society where youth are able to speak for themselves and have critical thinking. The exposure programme makes them think,” Isaac said. Its runaway success with the youth development programmes has given rise to the National Educators conference, held each September. It is organized for teachers and administrators from La Sallian, Catholic and Christian schools. Whilst it may be true that nothing under the sun is new, the La Salle Centre team has surprised many with its creative ways to use skills in teaching.
The secret is to let oneself think “out of the box” or try fresh approaches. Many teachers have come back from their programmes revitalized and with a new purpose in their teaching careers, so it is no surprise that teachers of all faiths come in for the training sessions after hearing about it. Once, the National Convention fell during the Puasa month, and since there were several Muslim participants, the group voted to fast with their Muslim colleagues and then have a solidarity meal in the evening. Another time it fell during Hari Raya Korban, so the team arranged for ketupat and lemang to be brought in, and a Muslim teacher said the opening prayer for the spiritual session.
“The thrust of our programme of La Sallian spirituality is that all people come from different faiths but we must be a people strong in our faith,” he said. Essentially, the La Salle Centre programmes focus on personal development and value formation, human relations training, leadership training, communication and counselling skills, faith and spiritual formation, and development of skills in community organizing. There is a La Sallian Volunteers Formation programme in January and August, where participants learn skills in psychology, gain an understanding of issues of racism and discrimination and have a social analysis of why the poor exist and the barriers that hold them back.
Most of the programmes are held on weekends at the La Salle Centre except for the National La Sallian Convention which is aimed at the 16-18 age group. It is held for five days during the school break in December. Even then it can only take about 90 students each time. To cope with the influx, a regional conference is held in each State including Sabah and Sarawak.
“These students go back and duplicate the message to their peers, and so more youths are reached this way,” Isaac said. At the end of the day, the rewards of serving in the La Sallian Centre is seeing the benefits to youth, and how they enjoy the programmes. He hopes to see more youth come back to volunteer and serve the centre in future. Those who wish to contact the La Salle Centre can do so at 05-2543297.
Courtesy of Herald Malaysia


St Michael's LEAD starts Friday, 20 August 2010 until 22 August 2010. This year the program will be held in Ulu Kenas Waterfall, some 15km from Kuala Kangsar town. Twenty five students have been chosen to join the 3-day, 2 night program which is organised by the La Salle Centre, Ipoh. Two teachers, Peter Khiew and Brindes Lawrence will accompany the boys and trainers at the camp. We take our hats off to their parents for giving them the permission to go, despite many of them who have never been away from homes. We have to allay the parents'fears, concerns and worries, ensuring that their children are in safe hands. We also would like to thank Mr Isaac and his team of volunteers for their splendid planning and hardwork in making the endeavour a success. Salute goes to all benefactors, particularly Riverview Estates Bhd's Ms Juliana M. Devadason and Mr Adrian Tsen for their annual monetary support in making the program, which grooms young men into individuals of character and values, a success.  

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