Former Miss Universe Malaysia and humanitarian Deborah Priya Henry has opened up about the many challenges faced by the refugee communities in our country.
“To some Malaysians, refugees can be very scary. They don’t know who they are, where they are from, or what they want to do now that they are here,” she said to the Malay Mail.
Henry, 34, has been championing refugee causes ever since she became Miss World Malaysia in 2007. She said that she “had to do something” after seeing first hand what they go through.
“I was first made aware of the difficult situation that refugees in Malaysia go through when I hosted an in-house documentary about refugees for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2008,” said Henry.
“During the shoot, I met a Somalian refugee family with four children aged 10 to 14. The children were living in very difficult conditions. They weren’t going to school and could hardly speak, read or write in English,” she said.
“I was devastated knowing that not only were they going through such difficult times, at that moment, but they had less chance of changing those situations for themselves because of their lack of education.”
That chance encounter with the runaway family paved the path for her journey into humanitarian work.
In that same year, she co-founded a nonprofit education hub called Fugee School which provides primary, secondary and tertiary education for refugee children, mainly from Somalia and the Middle East.
Students at the school are also part of its very own accessory-making social enterprise named Fugeelah, which funnels profits back into the school, aiding their education.
With World Refugee Day that falls on June 20 under a month away, the Miss Universe and Miss World Malaysia titleholder is keen to raise awareness about the struggles these communities face, now more than ever, due to the impact of the Covid-19 virus.
After over a decade of working with refugees that have docked in Malaysia, Henry said that they often live in constant fear of persecution because of their troubled pasts and legal status in the country.
News Credit: Malay Mail