Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Life as a medical student #13 Yayasan Chow Kit

Around the corner from the glittering glass and concrete buildings in the heart of Kuala Lumpur lies a seedy part of town where prostitution, drug sales, crimes and undocumented immigrants are nothing unusual. It is the Chow Kit Road, where hundreds of innocent children roaming and living off the streets, with nowhere to go and no one to rely on.

We come across them almost every day on the busy streets but all we do is hurry away and avoid them. We never stop and ask ourselves where they sleep, when they had their last meal, what they do if they fall ill. When most of the kids in schools nowadays come up with all sorts of excuses to skip classes, the kids in Chow Kit can't go to schools. Their parents are busy making a living. They are left on the streets to deal with their sorrows and harsh living conditions. Shattered dreams, abuse of all kinds, hunger and lack of affection are the only reality they know.  For most of these children, the future is dark and unpromising. All that matters to them is day-to-day survival, something to eat, something to wear, and somewhere to sleep.

As part of requirement of Student Selected Component (SSC), I spent 6 weeks volunteering at Yayasan Chow Kit (YCK). YCK is an NGO which takes care of the street children's health and welfare. It provides a temporary shelter for these children. While I was there, I saw how the children lacked adequate health care access and knowledge pertaining to health and medicine. They were born with no legal documents, and because of this, they are not entitled to the free health care services provided by the government. Our task is to look into these inequalities, and make suggestions of how the condition could be improved.

One of my most memorable moments at YCK has got to be the hand hygiene programme. Chern Meng and I decided to come back after completed our SSC to conduct this programme for the kids. We wanted to teach the kids what has already become a routine for us medical students - the seven proper steps of hand washing.

We first showed them a video. Then by using body powder, we demonstrated how germs transmit from one person to the other if they do not wash their hands properly. Finally we instructed them to use the hand sanitizer to clean their hands thoroughly. All the kids LOVE the powder. They had so much fun playing with the powder. I stood at a side and watched them. Their smiles were contagious. I could not stop thinking about how I could actually influence these children to live healthier lives. 

I was hopeful, but at the same time wondered if they would remember anything from this short teaching session. Would they even remember me? Would they ever be able to educate themselves about their own health?

Then there's a voice in my head. It tells me that it's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. Do the right thing. It may not be in my power, may not be in my time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean I stop doing the right thing. Yes, I won't be able to stay at YCK forever to guide the kids. There's only so little I could do. But who knows, what we taught them today would plant a positive thought into their mind. I don't expect much - so even there's only one - one of the many kids here think differently after today, this is a success.

Do the right thing. And we could all make a difference.


  1. love to read your post on your medical student life~~ ^_^

    1. You wouldn't know how much your words meant to me :) Will continue to share more stories!


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