Sixteen-year-old Arvint R Ganesan and his fellow students who live at Rumah Pengajian Xavier have been raising funds by selling plants to buy their own computers.
“We sold plants to raise funds because we wanted to be independent and not just ask for money or donations to buy the laptops,“ says Arvint who is a Form Four student at LaSalle School Petaling Jaya. “Since we already grow a lot of plants to beautify our home, we thought why not share our plants so that others can beautify houses too.”
Rumah Pengajian Xavier is an educational boarding home for boys from poor families, run by Society of St Vincent de Paul Malaysia (Church of St Francis Xavier). The home, which is located in Petaling Jaya, supports secondary school boys right up to tertiary education. There are currently 13 residents from Form One to Six and one in Year Five, the majority of whom are studying at LaSalle School and Bukit Bintang Boys School, Petaling Jaya.
“When the boys struggled to attend classes online during the lockdown because of the limited number of computers at RPX, we encouraged them to embark on a fund-raising project to acquire additional computers and laptops because we wanted them to take ownership of their needs,” says Society of St Vincent De Paul, Church of St Francis Xavier president Irene Sibert.
“We believe in inculcating in the boys that one needs to be determined and work hard to reach one’s goal, and after discussion, they decided to grow Indian Borage plants to sell to buy additional computers for their online studies,” she says.
All about teamwork
Silbert says that it was “all about teamwork”, with the tasks divided among the boys according to their strengths. “Those with green thumbs did the potting and planting, while those who are creatively-inclined did the photography and social media marketing, and the studious ones did online research on the benefits of the plant and costing,” she says.
When KitaKitar, the secondhand uniform store of St Joseph’s Institution International School Malaysia (SJIIM) Petaling Jaya heard how hard the boys at RPX had worked last Christmas to raise money for laptops to study online during the MCO lockdowns, they decided to help.
This is how the two-week “Plant Joy” campaign, which ran from Nov 22 to Dec 3, came about, reveals Joanna Chellam, who is part of the KitaKitar team.
KitaKitar is a parent volunteer service. It operates based on the reduce-reuse-recycle principle, and provides parents with the opportunity to co-participate with their children on CSR projects with 100% of the net proceeds channeled towards disadvantaged communities.
“We were drawn towards supporting RPX when we saw how the boys worked hard last Christmas to raise money for laptops so that they could continue their studies virtually during the MCO lockdowns. Their plant sale last year helped them purchase three new laptops and they were hoping to get at least another two new ones this year,” reveals Chellam.
SJIIM deputy head of school and deputy principal (high school) Gary Cairns says: “Through this project, the boys are learning practical skills that I believe will also help our students: how to grow plants, how to nurture something so that it thrives. There’s an entrepreneurial element too: they’ve to collaborate with others and work as a team. Most importantly, there’s a sense of pride and dignity to their enterprise, and I believe the skills and traits developed will help them in the future.”
The project exceeded expectations.
The initial target was to raise RM7,000 to buy two new laptops for the boys at RPX. But when the campaign ended on Dec 3, they had raised an overwhelming RM32,740, and were able to purchase seven laptops for RPX and another three desktop computers for Rumah SVP Klang, which houses 12 younger boys from the ages of six to 12 and two caretakers. The success of the project has boosted the boys’ confidence and belief in themselves, says Silbert.
“It has awakened in them a sense of pride and determination to succeed, which are important elements in self-development to break the poverty cycle. The project has also taught them the importance of teamwork, having leadership skills and the need to collaborate with one another which are head-start lessons that will be useful when they enter working life in the future,” she says.
“The thing that struck us the most was the awareness the boys had about being responsible for their future and having the confidence and ability to make things happen. Plant Joy is a success not because of the amount raised, but because it brought people together to celebrate the achievements of these wonderful boys,” says Chellam.
“While the boys planted and potted Indian Borage, Spider and Money plants, KitaKitar volunteers sewed and crafted pot covers, tree toppers and other decorations to dress up the pots into ‘KitaKitar Festive Pots. And, when the demand exceeded the 170 pots that the RPX boys had prepared, SJIIM parents stepped up with more plant donations. In the end, there were 343 Festive Pots distributed to parents, students, families and friends – who ‘planted joy’ this Christmas,” she concludes.