“I’ve never had to fight for my education but I am going to put in my all to fight for theirs.”
As Amira uttered this statement with unmoving resolve, I began to realise that this was not an ordinary fundraiser. And from then on, the story unraveled..
It was a bright Thursday morning and I was preparing my questions for an interview with the founder of a fundraising platform, Move For Hope. I had only heard about them a couple of days before and I did not really know what to expect.
What I certainly did not foresee was Amira Kamaluddin and her bubbly, determined self.
The granddaughter of Malaysia’s fifth prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Amira struck me as a young woman who always worked tirelessly when she put her mind to something.
However, when we first got on the call and introduced ourselves, the 20-year-old’s enthusiasm, passion and heart-on-her-sleeve personality took me off guard in the most pleasant way possible.
As she smiled radiantly, I asked the first question – “So tell me a little bit about Move For Hope and the team behind it.”
“Okay, I’m going to give you the whole backstory!” Amira quipped.
It was 3 weeks ago and Amira was sitting in her room, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. And not for the big things in life but for the little ones – food on the table, a roof over her head and clean water. Amira was also still able to earn money by teaching dance, a passion of hers.
“And before I knew it, I was crying,” Amira laughs. She realised that something needed to be done. She wasn’t sure what exactly this cause would be, but it needed to be done now.
“I am based in New York and have lived there for 2 years. I came back because of Covid. I decided to become a dance teacher and this has really opened my eyes about a lot of things. My job is a luxury – I get paid to do what I love and that brought about so much gratitude.”
She began thinking about the education system and how so many children do not even have access to learn the basics – Science, Math, English – let alone, art.
Amira, with her newfound purpose, spoke to Ula, a fellow dancer and friend. She told Ula about her idea to teach a few charity classes for fundraising. Her friend thought this was a brilliant idea and wanted to be a part of it.
That was when Ula introduced Amira to a yoga instructor, Vanessa, who had recently completed a project repainting the Hope Learning Centre, a school for refugee children. With beautiful murals on the walls and a more conducive learning environment, the school was transformed.
Ula and Vanessa agreed with Amira’s idea to conduct their fitness classes in aid of the Hope Learning Centre. And as the puzzle pieces connected, Move For Hope was founded.
However, little did Amira know, this initiative was going to expand beyond her wildest imaginations.
More and more fitness instructors expressed their interest to be a part of this noble cause. Fast forward a few weeks, and they now have over 40 instructors under the Move For Hope banner.
As the number of instructors grew, Amira realised she needed back up. “I expanded our team and now there are 7 of us. We built Move For Hope from the ground up over the course of just 3 weeks,” Amira explained wide-eyed, bewildered at how much they’ve grown.
What makes their team so unique is their youth. All of them are between the ages of 20-25, with most of them still in University.
Amira may have stumbled upon this mammoth fundraiser but she is positive that their passion and drive will ensure that Move For Hope is a success.
“I am eternally grateful for the education I have received and I truly think that it is a privilege. Which is why my team and I want to give back to these children by ensuring that they are able to access their right to an education,” the 20-year-old visionary asserted.
Due to the repercussions of these lockdowns, Move For Hope is planning to utilise the money raised to purchase WiFi routers for refugee families associated with Hope Learning Centre so that their children are able to continue with online classes.
The fundraiser has two goals; the primary goal is RM70,000 which will enable the purchase of routers for 36 families who are enrolled in the current semester. The secondary goal is RM100,000, of which RM95,000 is needed to purchase routers for a total of 54 families attached to Hope Learning Centre.
“From speaking with the people at Hope Learning Centre, we found out that these families have phones but they are all a part of a SIM card WiFi plan which is very limited in nature. I realised that they need at least a year’s worth of unlimited WiFi to ensure their learning continues,” Amira explains.
Her tone abruptly shifts, turning pensive, “These kids love school. They love learning and going to school. Although the latter is not possible, at least secured access to WiFi will provide them with an insurance until it is safe for them to go back to physical lessons.”
With the future being so uncertain, students all over have had to acclimatise to online learning in efforts to continue their education.
“Every year of school is important and students should not be hindered solely due to a lack of monetary and technological means,” Amira states as matter of fact.
Initially, Amira had planned to direct her efforts in aid of B40 families. However, whilst conducting research, she came across the YTL’s programme which offers B40 families who apply, a phone and SIM card WiFi plan.
“I saw a big company like YTL already doing something for these families and I stopped in my tracks and thought maybe I should not do anything,” she joked. But then Amira realised that other children are not part of this programme and that was when Hope Learning Centre came to light.
Refugee children, despite the possibility of having a UNHCR card, are severely deterred in accessing education within Malaysia. Amira equated it to having a ceiling over their heads and she wanted to break it down for them.
Intrigued by Move For Hope’s concept of collecting donations through fitness classes, I asked Amira how their idea behind this fundraiser came about. Her eyes brightened as she laughed, “We stumbled upon it!”
“Ula, Vanessa and I are fitness instructors and I figured we should have a theme. I have attended many of these by-donation classes but I haven’t seen an umbrella campaign that brings all these instructors together. I wanted to do that – bring all our communities under one platform.”
The team realised that fitness classes would be beneficial for all sides. The attendees are able to donate whilst improving their mental and physical health. Or as Amira puts it, “We’re moving and grooving during this lockdown even though we’re not able to physically be together.”
While the attendees are able to exercise and stay connected, their money is being channelled towards a great cause – a cause that ensures the online education of refugee children in Malaysia during these lockdowns.
Amira explains how Move For Hope grants everyone involved a learning opportunity, herself included. “My team and I are still learning how to organise and lead this major fundraiser,” she sheepishly grins.
Move For Hope is offering a myriad of dance classes, including Contemporary, Afro Caribbean, Commercial Jazz, Salsa, Ballet and so on. There are also various yoga styles offered and fitness classes such as spin, pilates and boxing.
“The donation is a minimum of RM30 per class but I’m not stopping anyone from contributing more,” Amira chuckles.
The beauty of this concept is that even if you did not particularly enjoy a certain class, it would not have been a waste of money as all proceeds are going to these refugee families and their children.
Amira spent a week going from one virtual meeting to the next with potential instructors, discussing Move For Hope and its aims.
“The thing about me is I have to touch base and I need to have a personal connection. Although there are so many instructors, I like having 20-30 minute conversations with them so they hear it from me and know that they are being led by good hands.”
Amira got to know each of her instructors personally to ensure that they understand what Move For Hope means to her and the team. To infuse the human emotion that social media so often negates, Amira built Move For Hope on the foundations of trust and a sense of community.
The team at Move For Hope is working to also ensure awareness is raised about Hope Learning Centre so that they will always be supported. By speaking to schools especially, Amira hopes to inspire young students to develop an interest in volunteering, teaching and fundraising for institutions like Hope Learning Centre.
“We want every person who comes across our initiative to not only help, but think about how they can further the cause,” Amira excitedly said.
In just the first 4 hours of their Simply Giving donation page going live, Move For Hope raised RM12,000. In a day and a half, this number increased to RM18,000.
The awe and inspiration Amira felt was palpable. “Our classes have yet to start and we’re already at RM18,000! I’m so proud of my team and the community. The more people share, the more people care and that’s how our impact can expand.”
Their first week of classes are already lined up and ready to go, with 25-27 different instructors.
However, the process of building Move For Hope was not a walk in the park.
As their fundraiser has grown in size and goals, Amira ensures to always check in with her team and instructors.
“Mental health is a major factor to me and I am looking out for the wellness of everyone involved. I want to be there for each of them as we progress further.”
Amira and her team spent a lot of time fretting but they also hyped each other up. With phone calls going into the early hours of the morning, assurances of “We’ve got this!” and “We can do this!” transpired amongst the team.
The 20-year-old understood that RM100,000 seems like a terrifying goal but she always tells everyone involved that this cause is only about the kids and their futures. As long as some amount of money and awareness are raised, and they are doing their best, that’s more than good enough.
“Although if we do get to our goal, I will cry!,” Amira laughs, flailing her hands in the air.
A major difficulty was also, as what Amira described, the ‘adult’ factors such as dealing with bigger organisations and banks.
Amira then thoughtfully remembers her late grandmother, Datin Endon, and how despite her passing, she is still supporting her granddaughter through this.
Yayasan Budi Penyayang, a charity founded by Datin Endon, registered Move For Hope under their Friends of Penyayang programme to ease administrative issues such as the opening of bank accounts.
“Although I didn’t really know my late grandmother, I do know she really believed in the power of education and it’s so wonderful to think that she’s watching over me as I go on this journey,” Amira smiles with certainty.
Move For Hope is growing each day and with classes commencing soon, the fundraiser will be in full swing.
With Amira and her team at the helm, it is almost a certainty that they will be able to reach both their primary and secondary goals to ensure that these refugee children are supported in their fight for brighter futures.
If this story and Move For Hope have inspired you, visit their Instagram page or their Simply Giving page to learn more, donate or sign up for a fitness class!
Let’s all Move a little For Hope to ensure these young dreamers are given the education they deserve.