BOOK DRIVE: Projek Pelita is an example of how Malaysians can improve the quality of life of their compatriots
WHILE most youth would spend their summer holidays relaxing or doing an internship, at least one young man is using this time to help the needy.
Muhammad Razin Rozman, a Business Management student at King’s College London, has spent his break back home in Malaysia heading Projek Pelita.
The project — under the United Kingdom and Eire Council for Malaysian Students — aims to alleviate poverty through education.
“The founders of the initiative realised that there is a major shortage of reading material in the rural areas of Sarawak so they came up with an idea to collect books for libraries in these areas,” says Razin.
This is done by holding a book drive where the public are encouraged to donate new and used books.
While last year’s inaugural book collection was concentrated in Sarawak, this year’s effort took place in Sarawak, the Klang Valley, Kelantan and Johor.
Nearly 58,000 books — ranging from fiction and non-fiction books to revision and reference ones — were collected over a seven-day period.
Of this, some 55,000 were shipped to nine beneficiaries in Sarawak while the rest will be distributed to orphanages in the Klang Valley.
“The means of breaking the poverty cycle is through education. We hope that these books will expose rural children to opportunities outside their villages and inspire them to study and reach their full potential,” says Razin.
The beneficiaries in Sarawak were identified with the help of Pustaka Negeri Sarawak, one of the group’s strategic partners.
Collection counters were set up in participating malls and tertiary institutions, among others, from July 16-22.
The committee’s aim for this year’s project was to do more than collect books — it also wanted to promote volunteerism among young people.
In line with this, a competition to get the most number of books was held for selected schools during the book drive.
“The Pelita Youth Challenge was held to involve school students in this endeavour and to enable them to do something positive for those who are less fortunate.
“The winning school will be getting a prize of RM1,000 and a trophy as well as certificates of achievement for each of its students who contributed,” says the 21-year-old.
Razin was heartened by some of the schools’ sentiment that the prize was a small matter in comparison to getting youngsters to work together for a good cause.
Razin adds that this type of youth-for-youth participation will encourage privileged Malaysians to start thinking about ways to improve the quality of life of their compatriots.
By privileged, he means those who have access to many reference materials and are able to attend private tuition.
It was not easy heading a committee of students who, like him, were new to the operation as well as overseeing more than 100 volunteers but Razin found the experience rewarding.
“The response from the public is overwhelming — in terms of donating books and helping out,” he says.
Another aspect of the project he enjoys is how it has brought Malaysians from all walks of life together.
“Irrespective of ethnicity, religious belief or political ideology, people came together for a single reason — the betterment of Malaysia.
“This was great; why should we wait for the government to act on a problem when we can do something about the situation now?”
Even more gratifying is the fact that there were people outside of the collection areas who took the initiative to collect books themselves to donate to the project.
Razin has always been active in school, especially during his days at Kolej Yayasan UEM, but taking on something such as Projek Pelita proved to be a different challenge altogether.
“This is a very new experience — I would have never thought that we could pull off such a large scale event in the short time that we had.
“But this is not about the organisers; without the help of volunteers and the public, this wouldn’t have become a reality, which is why the tagline on our website — ‘let’s make this happen’ — is apt,” says Razin.
He adds that the group’s sponsors and partners — M&C Saatchi, Malaysia Airlines, Noble Star and Frinjan, among others — were also instrumental in the success of the initiative.
Aside from donating books, the group is also helping to refurbish the beneficiaries’ facilities to turn them into areas conducive to reading and studying.
“I may not be an avid reader but I want to help people realise their full potential — and one way of doing this is through books.
“Running this project has been a steep learning curve but it has also been very fulfilling — hosting a charity event is one of the things you should do before you die.”
Pictures by NST photographer Danial Noordin and courtesy of Projek Pelita