I am (Imaam) Joomun Muhammad Arshad, 32 years old, and I have been working as a social worker since 2003. I founded and lead M-Kids, an organization that supports vulnerable youth in Mauritius, with the vision of 'No Child Left Behind'. I feel very privileged and honored to be able to participate in the Asia Awards 2021, under the category “Asia’s NGO/Social Service Awards”, with a praiseworthy award title “Social Impact Award for Child Rights”.
Since childhood, I have been interested in social work. It all started when I noticed that some of my friends were victims of drugs and gambling. I thought that instead of letting them go down a bad path, I could use my free time to help them. With 20 friends, we developed an empowerment program and every Sunday we went to the beach for sports activities. These activities helped our youth manage their time more effectively. From then on, our group grew to 80 members. We were gaining visibility and popularity, everyone was praising us.
One day, a mother approached us and told us that her husband had recently passed away and that she needed help with her children's education. That's when the idea of offering remedial education to children whose parents are facing financial difficulties came to mind. We also went to visit her house, and were shocked to see that she was living in squalor. We collected money for her and rebuilt a proper house for her. After this incident, I thought of dedicating myself more to the fight against poverty, despite the obstacles I encountered.
In 2002, I surrounded myself with people who had the same ambition as me and created the M-Kids organization, so that I could help more people, especially children. Since then, M- Kids has become a support for families in Camp Chapelon (a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital) who are unable to meet even their basic daily needs, such as food.
We have 4 main axes of intervention:
• Child Poverty Eradication
• Remedial Education
• Psycho-Social Support
• Youths for the Environment
Several times a week, as part of the 'Share a Meal' program, M-Kids distribute hot meals to homeless and poor families. We place special emphasis on children whose parents are out of work or who are addicted to drugs. These children are our main beneficiaries.
On Universal Children's Day, my team and I conducted a workshop on the issues facing children in society, and what M-Kids does to help the vulnerable.
We also focus on education, which is one of our priorities, and offer our beneficiaries after- school support classes to prevent children from getting into trouble and dropping out of school. We also help university students with financial problems to find the means to have a good year of study.
We were the first to organize creative and educational residential seminars for children in grades 1-6, which was a new experience for them, as they had never visited a luxury villa or a 5* hotel in their lives.
At M-Kids, we also have a psychologist who follows the children and their families and provides them with daily support. It is also important for us to raise awareness about ecology and the environment. To this end, M-Kids organize clean-up and waste collection days in various neighborhoods and plants trees with the children.
M-Kids also offers emergency assistance, which consists of helping families to pay their rent, their bills, to do some work in their house, to distribute food packs or vouchers, etc... We launch calls for solidarity in order to pay for expensive medication, as well as assistive equipment for the elderly or disabled. Every year, I organize lunches for seniors so that they do not feel isolated, outcast, and free medical checkups.
However, M-Kids do not only help the residents of Camp Chapelon. Every year we send boxes of clothes and food to Rodrigues Island, and have even gone further to collect donations for the Rohingya. We went twice to the border of Bangladesh to help these people suffering from genocide and persecution by Burma. I also set up a medical camp there, which cost over 3 million Mauritian rupees. In addition, I have sent many containers of food and gifts to the children in Syria. Finally, I have not forgotten the children of India, to whom I have sent winter clothes, and the Somali children, containers of food products.
I am also a member of the Council of Religions since 2013, and through this function, I rub shoulders with Buddhist, Christian and Hindu priests alike. I have always been impartial to both, regardless of religion or culture. Some time ago, on Monneron Hill, there was a race war. I was the first Muslim priest to go there to calm the problem. I have always wanted the citizens of Mauritius to unite and form one nation; that is why I am very much involved in bringing them together by promoting interfaith activities. One of the activities we do every year is to distribute roses and dates to everyone who pass by. And at M-Kids, we help all communities, not only Muslims, because I truly believe that as a Mauritian, we should help all those in need.
As a member of the Council of Religions, I met with the President of the Republic as well as other members of the Council to discuss the various social problems, and how all religious bodies can work together to promote harmony in the country.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit our island paradise, my team and I did not lose hope. We were always on the ground to help people who were affected financially, or who found themselves without any support. We helped about 8000 people on the island.I do all this with a purely humanitarian aim, sympathy and empathy being two essential and primordial values in our society today.
In addition to my role as a social worker and member of the Council of Religions, I have also served as president and vice president of the Camp Chapelon Community Center (7 years), assistant president of the National Youth against Drugs Addiction (9 years), and official trainer in leadership skills, peace program and capacity building.
I have also received several awards in recognition of my work in the social sector:
· International Volunteer Day 2013, Awarded 2nd Prize for Voluntary Social Work at National Level by Mauritius Council of Youth Leaders
· International Volunteer Day 2014, Awarded 3rd Prize for Voluntary Social Work at National Level by Mauritius Council of Youth Leaders
· Winner of 'Healthcare Award 2018 by the World CSR Congress
· Winner of 'African NGO Leadership Award 2018 by the World CSR Congress
· Winner of 'NGO Leadership and Global Leadership & Excellence Award 2019 by the World CSR Congress
· Winner of 'Men of the Year 2019', Men Super achiever (Charity, Voluntary & Humanitarian)
· Winner of NGO Award 2020, (For improving our Social Indicators) powered by MAAAJ
· Winner of 'Men of the Year 2020', Most Impactful Man (Charity, Voluntary & Humanitarian)
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