Sokong Team
Tue Jul 09 2024

From Shadows to Safe Havens: The Transformation of Chow Kit Road and the Birth of Yayasan Chow Kit

Youth & Children
This article features :

Chow Kit Road is often associated with negative activities like prostitution, drug activity, gangsterism, and homelessness. However, in 2000, the Pusat Aktiviti Kanak Kanak (PAKK) was established in response to a UNICEF proposal to safeguard children’s welfare.

Initially partnering with Yayasan Salam Malaysia, it evolved into Rumah Nur Salam. In January 2012, it became Yayasan Chow Kit through collaboration with the Federal Territory Social Welfare Department. Co-founder Dr. Hartini Zainudin, a child rights activist, has driven the mission to create a safer space for at-risk children and their families.


CEO Ananti Rajasingam has been leading the team for the past seven years, starting as a volunteer 16 years ago. Kaladewi Balakrishnan manages the Pusat Aktiviti Kanak-Kanak Yayasan Chow Kit. The organisation provides safe havens for underprivileged or at-risk children, offering weekday enrichment programs and corporate-sponsored weekend activities.

These include motivational talks, career exposure, financial literacy, trips to places like Kidzania and the zoo, and various classes such as henna painting, football, Taekwondo, art, and homeschooling for stateless or undocumented children.


Despite their efforts, street life remains a significant challenge. “We gear the learning and extracurricular activities to keep them at the centre as much as possible so they are occupied throughout the week,” said Kaladewi Balakrishnan. Added Ananti: “The children walk in themselves, purely voluntarily without coaxing, but get to know us through friends and our daily interactions with the community of Chow Kit.”


Yayasan Chow Kit runs two centres: Pusat Aktiviti Kanak Kanak (PAKK) for children aged seven to 12 and Kuala Lumpur Krashpad (KLKP) for those aged 13 to 18. Additionally, the YCK Safehouse provides shelter to higher-risk children and infants at an undisclosed location.

After 24 years, the people involved know the needs of the children and community of Chow Kit Road. “The children are attentive and resilient coming from a tough neighbourhood, so they grab at activities that not only teach, like arts and crafts, money management and even hip-hop,” said Kala. Many involved now were children of the PAKK and KLKP. “We work with seven to 12-year-olds at PAKK, and from 13 to 18, they are at the KL Krash Pad, but we were always concerned about what happens after they turn 19?”

Currently, there are 70 active kids at PAKK and 70 teenagers at KL Krash Pad. However, this number can quickly swell as kids come in and out, especially during activities. With 24 years of existence, YCK has witnessed ups and downs. Still, while learning from the downs, some stories warm the heart and spur the volunteers to continue.


One such story is John. Ananti shared the touching story of this refugee child: “We had many unaccompanied minors from UNHCR, children who arrived in the country without their families. John was one of the children who stayed with us. He participated in our schooling program, and we applied for his resettlement through the UNHCR program. Eventually, he moved to Utah, America. Last year, John returned to visit us during a sports day event, bringing his parents along to meet the people who supported him during his time in Malaysia. It was a truly heartwarming moment.”

For many Malaysians, meeting educational requirements means progressing to higher education. However, for undocumented and refugee youth, education in the national school system is denied. So where do they go after KL Krash Pad?

Part of the answer lies in Chow Kit Youth, a social enterprise founded by Awaludin Jalalu Shuti, a 32-year-old who grew up in the Chow Kit area. Awal graduated with a diploma in electrical engineering but started Chow Kit Youth to address this pressing question.

Awal shared his journey, saying, “I attended the programmes at YCK in 2001 when I was 8 years old. I’m lucky I did because PAKK and KL Krash Pad positively influenced my life. If not for YCK, I am unsure what I’d become.” He described the rough environment of Chow Kit, where an 8-year-old could encounter drug users, pushers, homeless people, sex workers, and gangsters. Despite the chaos, Awal fondly remembers the good times spent with friends and swimming in the Klang River.

Chow Kit Youth aims to assist KL Krash Pad graduates, both Malaysians and undocumented youths, in finding meaningful work or starting small businesses. The initiative began in 2013 with a grant from a company, and their first project was repainting an orphanage called Titian Kasih in Taman Tasik Titiwangsa. Since then, they have set up small-scale catering operations, cooking in the kitchen of Awal’s small flat. Continuing their activities beyond the kitchen, Chow Kit Youth organises exhibitions and performances.


Their first play, “Lorong Pemimpi,” was performed at the DBKL Auditorium from March 20th to 22nd, 2015, and earned RM2,000 over its three-day run. The play conveyed a powerful message: “Aku, kau, kamu, kita punya mimpi. Jangan pernah biarkan mimpi sekadar mimpi, terbitkan mimpi ke dalam diri, agar ia menjadi realiti” meaning to turn your dreams to reality. In addition, Chow Kit Youth organised a charity premiere of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” on May 4th, 2022, raising RM11,000 in donations for YCK.

Once introverted and self-conscious of his background, Awal has been determined to give back to the organisation that changed his life and the lives of other alums. His batch of KLKP graduates has done well, with some becoming managers of companies and retail outlets while others run their businesses. They all come together to support each new batch of graduates from KLKP.


Yayasan Chow Kit is staffed by 22 volunteers who run all the weekly activities. At the same time, counsellors come from a social enterprise called Humankind. Ananti revealed that the yearly operational cost of running Yayasan Chow Kit is RM5 million, including core services, rents, food, emergency cases, etc. “We have raised RM3.5 million this year, but we need help from the public and organisations to raise the balance, which will go to medical support, the food programme, education, and extracurricular activities,” concluded Ananti.

To find out more about how you can contribute to Yayasan Chow Kit and support their vital work, visit Sokong. Your support can make a significant difference in the lives of these children and help build a brighter future for the community of Chow Kit.

by malaysiakini

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