Last Tuesday was Divali, or Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Light. The celebration of the victory of good over evil. On the Saturday before Deepavali, our two present volunteers from the UK who are both of Tamil origin, decided to take a group of Myanmar refugee children from the school to Kuala Lumpur’s Little India to show them how the festival is celebrated. They were accompanied by our Programme Coordinator who is always keen to ensure that the children experience different activities! She gave us a summary of the day.
The teachers gathered the students at the meeting spot in Little India just before 12 and reminded the students of the safety rules. In the case anyone got lost they were told where to meet!
The group, of 11 students, 2 volunteer teachers and myself made our way around Little India. The convoy always had one teacher at the front, one in the middle and one teacher at the end of train to ensure none of the students get left behind.
The place was very festive, endless shops with manifold colours brightening up the whole street. The main thing was to explore the culture and get a small taste of what the Indians in Malaysia do for Deepavali.
Lathangie and Tharuni [our two volunteers] brought the children to the shop where they sell traditional Indian clothes such as Saris, Punjabi and Pajama. Afterwards, they brought the students to a shop where religious statues and prayer materials were sold.
After the tour the group had lunch at a Sri Lankan restaurant which had a buffet with a plentiful choice of food for the kids, who loved the experience and were able to take their pick of whatever they wanted.
After the tour of Little India we headed for the National Museum (Muzium Negara) and the Orang Asli Craft Museum and Malay World Ethnology Museum.
From this visit the group learned there are many similarities between the Malaysian old tradition and livelihood with their own tradition and livelihood back in Myanmar.
At the end of the visit the group made their way to a small coffee shop inside the museum to have some cakes and rest while waiting for the van to arrive.
It was a great day, we all had a lot of fun – but the children also learned a lot.
On the day itself Tharuni and Lathangie organized more Deepavali activities for the children as Tharuni explains…
On Tuesday (day of Diwali) we met up with the some of children locally. Firstly, we brought them to our flat to draw some henna, as this is something most people do in our culture around the time of Diwali.
The kids were able to do this amongst themselves so they also found it fun to draw on each other’s arms.
Then we handed out bangles to the girls and gave out some bindis which the girls really enjoyed wearing.
We gave the children some spicy and sweet snacks (the kids are used to eating very spicy food) which they liked. Finally, we took the children to the playground nearby where we lit up some sparkler sticks (very safely of course). We ended the night by making sure all the children got home safely!