In 2020, hundreds of students and teachers joined the #StandTogether competition to make their schools and communities a kinder place.

Following the competition’s theme to “reimagine a world filled with kindness and empathy”, schools all over Malaysia ran projects to empower students, tackle bullying, raise donations and so on.

“Having youth-driven Kindness Projects makes a much stronger change as it is their ideas and voices coming forward,” said Datin Wong Poai Hong, project director of Childline Foundation, a partner of #StandTogether.

SK Sandau Kinabatangan, SMK Bandar Baru Sentul, and Universiti Malaysia Sabah were crowned “Malaysia’s Kindest Schools” for running the most impactful campaigns among all the entries.

They each received a cash grant of RM4,000 from Unicef Malaysia to keep their outstanding initiatives going.

Mental health a priority

The team from SK Sandau Kinabatangan, Sabah, launched “We Are All in This Together”, a campaign to uplift everyone’s spirits.

According to the team’s teacher advisor Mohd Hafiz Yatin, the campaign was to help students take care of their mental health as they adjusted to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Online learning can be hard on students, especially since we’re in a rural area,” he observed. “Sometimes they feel overwhelmed by the workload.”

The events involved fun, simple activities for students to unplug, practise self-care and bond with friends and family. Some of the activities include home exercises, writing kind messages, and art projects to express their emotions.

“My favourite activity was making doughnuts with my family as we could de-stress,” shared team leader Jacynthia Christine Julian.

The entire student body took part in the events, with parents also calling in to express their heartfelt gratitude.

Hafiz was elated when his students started showing more empathy. “One of them reached out to ask how I was doing,” he laughed. “It’s really nice that they care about our well-being.”

Moving forward, they plan to make this a regular programme so that students can learn how to support one another and overcome challenges together.

Caring for their community

When the lockdown drove many into financial insecurity, the team from SMK Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, stepped up to help their community.“WIth this project, we didn’t really prioritise winning. We just wanted to help people,” said team member Muhammad Syaqir Muhammad Mustafa.

The team managed to raise over RM50,000 in donations and sponsorships. They distributed thousands of face masks, basic necessities, tablets and internet data within their school and to nearby communities.

The SMK Bandar Baru Sentul team with the necessities to be distributed to underprivileged families. Photo: SMK Bandar Baru SentulThe SMK Bandar Baru Sentul team with the necessities to be distributed to underprivileged families. Photo: SMK Bandar Baru Sentul

Students who did kind acts could earn points on their “Kindness Card”, which allowed them to reduce their demerit points and redeem free items. This led to a huge reduction of disciplinary cases.

They also conducted peer-to-peer counselling, esport competitions and motivational talks to support students’ mental health.

According to teacher advisor Mohd Farez Atan, the team was shocked to win the competition. “Our school has a reputation of having ‘naughty kids’ and we’re not as well-funded as other schools.

“But we hope to show that, given the opportunity, anyone can make a difference and do good deeds,” said Farez.

Team member Lailatul Fitria agreed, adding: “No one is born evil, just that difficult circumstances or upbringing can pressure them to do bad things.”

Their teacher, Norhakimah Abdul Rahman, concluded that the experience will stay in their hearts. “As these are our future leaders, we’re glad they are learning about these issues and also actively helping those in need.”

Amplifying unheard voices

Students of Universiti Malaysia Sabah held a Zoom event to break stigmas and stereotypes.The Asian Medical Students’ Association of Universiti Malaysia Sabah launched The Unjudge Project to promote empathy and kindness among future doctors and nurses.

Students of Universiti Malaysia Sabah at a Zoom session aimed at overcoming stigmas and stereotypes. Photo: Universiti Malaysia SabahStudents of Universiti Malaysia Sabah at a Zoom session aimed at overcoming stigmas and stereotypes. Photo: Universiti Malaysia Sabah

The team conducted a virtual event, “Safe Space: Open Discussions”, which featured guest speakers from marginalised groups such as persons with disabilities, refugees, and many more. The special guests shared their experiences of discrimination and held Q&A sessions with medical students from 15 different universities.

They also held a sign-language workshop and social media campaigns to raise awareness about overlooked communities.

According to team leader Amber Tan, they learnt lessons that “couldn’t be found in a textbook”.

“We are definitely more sensitive towards discrimination now,” she said. “In the future, we’ll be able to point it out and say, ‘that shouldn’t happen’.”

They plan to upscale the project by hosting on-ground events and inviting more special guests.

Ultimately, they hope to create awareness and combat discrimination among future healthcare professionals, so that everyone can have safe and equal access to healthcare.



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