Continuing legacy of service to needy and education

Voluntary workers with students at year-end prize giving in la Salle Centre, St. Joseph’s.

GIVE a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to catch fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

This proverbial saying drives home the importance of education which is the basic right of every person and no one should be deprived of it.

Perhaps it is the cognizance of such a fundamental concept that prompted Brother Albinus O’Flaherty, former principal of St Joseph’s Secondary School, Kuching, and Sacred Heart School, Sibu, to found the Yayasan LaSallian Kuching (YLK) in 2002.

The Foundation’s executive secretary Allan Tan told thesundaypost Brother Albinus and a few former students of these two schools started YLK to continue the legacy of St John Baptist de La Salle.

He said in 2004, the Foundation was formally registered as a non-profit organisation. The core mission of John Baptist De La Salle, the De La Salle Brothers founder, is educational and providing service to the poor.

There were many young boys and girls facing difficulties in their studies. Brother Albinus saw the need to reach out to them and responded to their needs. By helping them in english, maths and science after school, and engaging with the children in their Primary Five and Six formative years, YLK could cultivate a deeper understanding of them.

Tan said YLK had also put in place a means to ensure the pupils’ moral and spiritual development, adding that in this way, the Foundation hoped to improve the confidence of “the least, the lost and the last” and help them to believe they also had the potential to overcome their challenges.

The hope is that this will boost the kids’ morale and spur them to develop and upgrade themselves and become useful citizens of the country.

Tan added that so far, YLK has set up 10 centres — the first at Kampung Sibuluh in 2002, followed by the others in Singgai, Apar, Stass, Skibang in Bau, Entebeh, Bunan and Sinjok in Serian.

Later, it was found there were also quite a number of poor and disadvantaged children in the urban areas who should be given the same opportunity to benefit from YLK tuition centres as well.

In 2009, the first urban La Salle Centre was set up at Stutong Baru, Kuching, for children of re-settled families, followed by two more at Taman BDC and St Joseph’s Brothers Quarters, Kuching.

Learning programme at La Salle Centre, Singai.

Free tuitions

According to Tan, a solid foundation in education is crucial for children.  With this in mind, YLK centres offer free english, maths and science tuitions to help disadvantaged and underprivileged children in Primary Five and Six obtain better UPSR grades for a stronger foundation when they go to secondary schools.

“Where there is a need, YLK runs special classes with specially-designed learning programmes for children with different learning abilities,” he added.

Positive changes

Tan said the De La Salle philosophy is giving students a holistic education, encompassing the need to prepare them for their future and offer them better choices in life.

“YLK is not only concerned about school work but also educating the children about life outside the classroom such as the importance of family ties and the virtue of hard work. For this, they are given as much exposure as possible to social awareness programmes.”

Tan said the immediate changes could be gleaned from the improvements to the children’s grades in english, maths and science subjects apart from an observable higher number of students passing UPSR with better results.

Because of the positive outcome, there have been many requests to set up more YLK centres in the kampungs.

Scholarships

Tan revealed that since 2016, the Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, through the board of management of St Joseph’s Private School, had approved two scholarships each year for deserving students from YLK centres.

The scholarship covers the school fees for Form One to Form Five,  a fixed monthly allowance as well as costs of transportation, uniforms and text books on loan.

YLK now has four students studying at St Joseph’s Private School — three in Form One and one in Form Two. The number is expected to increase.

“This is an excellent opportunity for YLK students to study in a premier urban school where they can get to experience a competitive educational environment,” Tan said.

YLK is now working on either acquiring or leasing (long term) a residential building to provide board and lodging for rural students who have been accepted for the programme. In this respect, the Foundation will be appealing for public support.

Allan helping in a team building session in la Salle Centre, Stutong.

English as second official language

Tan noted that for the many rural youths working in the city, their poor command of the English language could be a hindrance to their career.

He stressed that to address this problem, YLK has started an English For Working Adults (EWA) class to help these youths improve their English usage and enhance their career advancement.

The programme, based on the New Head English Course, is conducted by qualified teachers.

Volunteer teachers

Tan revealed that an on-going problem had been the shortage of volunteer teachers, pointing out that the 10 YLK centres would need at least 60 teachers.

Presently, most of the YLK volunteers are retired teachers and some serving teachers. Some centres are understaffed.

Under such trying circumstances, he said the Foundation was indeed fortunate to have the  present batch of “very committed and dedicated” teachers.

He also said YLK depended entirely on public support to run its centres.

The main source of income is from personal donations and corporate sponsors to defray operating expenditures for office administration, rentals and honorariums for volunteer teachers to cover petrol expenses and such like.

Tan said the Sarawak Foundation, ECM Libra Foundation, KTS, Sarawak Timber Association, corporate individuals and the Old Boys’ Associations of St Joseph’s School, Kuching, and Sacred Heart School Sibu-Kuching, have given YKL their “invaluable support.”

The Foundation has been in operation for about 15 years and its management is looking for  new blood to come onboard and eventually assume the duties of its current senior founding pioneers.

“We are looking forward to younger people joining the YLK team. Volunteers need not necessarily be from among old boys of St Joseph’s or Sacred Heart Schools.

YLK can be reached at ylkuching@gmail.com or tel: 082-230988 (office). It welcomes donations and contributions from well-wishers to continue its welfare programmes.

YLK members in a meeting session with parents in a squatters area.

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