Raising Hope

20 November 2017

With a variety of arts programmes, Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainun fosters creativity among children from all backgrounds.

Creativity is a key that not only unlocks the doors of artistry; it also opens the doors to discovery. With it, one can come up with the goofiest of solutions, the wildest of ideas and the most beautiful of creations. But it is not only in the arts where creativity thrives.

Pusat Kreatif Kanak-kanak Tuanku Bainun (PKK Tuanku Bainun) is a playground of self-discovery that offers children and teens a myriad of ways they can harness their creativity, with classes such as Little Dreamers (games and music to stimulate the imagination for toddlers), Creative Art & Craft, Gamelan for Children and Theatre & Creative Storytelling, to name a few.

The centre was founded by Perak’s former Raja Permaisuri, Yang Maha Mulia Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Bainun, a follow-up to a request she made back in 1989 expressing the need for a centre that could benefit the children of Malaysia at all times, in accordance with Article 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. PKK Tuanku Bainun officially opened in 2013.

“The focus has always been maths, language and science. But creativity is actually the basis of being human,” explains Dora Hashim of PKK Tuanku Bainun.

“Some people don’t really realise the importance of creativity because it’s something that happens internally. Nurturing a child’s creativity allows a child to develop their analytical thinking and cognitive development.”

Seen as an extension of formal education, the centre addresses the lack of arts education in schools, especially the stigma of students in the arts stream being deemed as less intelligent than their science stream peers.

“We don't want that,” says Dora. “There is an amalgamation between the two [arts and science]. We’re trying to open people’s minds that art is more than what it's perceived to be.”

“You don’t have to be a painter to show that art helps you. You can be an engineer and still show that art helps you.”

PKK Tuanku Bainun welcomes children from all walks of life regardless of income, gender, religion, language or ability. With 2.2 acres of land comprising open spaces and creative facilities, children are free to learn and interact with one another, even beyond the classroom. To date, they’ve welcomed over 250 underprivileged and special needs children, including Myanmar refugees. Classes are a mix of paying and sponsored underprivileged children, so everyone gets the same education. 

Of its many spaces, KuAsh Theatre – the centre’s black box performance space that’s also rented out to external parties to stage their productions – acts as a platform for these kids to showcase and display the skills they develop. To cite a recent example, 52 students from national schools and shelter homes in Terengganu and Kuala Lumpur, who knew nothing about gamelan a year before, effortlessly performed the joget gamelan to an audience of over 250 people.

The outcome of the Gamelan Sustainability and Cultural Heritage Project (a collaborative effort between PKK Tuanku Bainun, PUSAKA and Yayasan Hasanah), this performance is a great example of what the centre seeks to achieve: to prove that children have the potential to achieve anything, regardless of their background.

Their mission is also further strengthened by The Young Changemakers Award, which recognises a youth’s contribution towards their communities. Held annually, the award is presented to three children between the ages of six to 15 on World Children’s Day.

“It’s not about winning, it’s about helping other people,” explains Raja Mazlena, General Manager of PKK Tuanku Bainun, on The Young Changemakers Award. “We make our rounds around the country to find children who have made a difference in Malaysia and award those who have made changes to the lives of others.”

As an example, Raja Mazlena tells us about ten-year-old Medinah Zaharah Onn, who received the award last year for helping special needs children: “She goes to special needs classes with her parents regularly and she helps the children with art and drawing, reading to them and even writing books for them to read.”

Serena Zara Taufiq, another award recipient, set up her own social enterprise, Serena’s Secret. Assisted by a group of adults and children, handcrafted accessories were made and sold to raise funds for Hatching Center, which provides intervention programmes for special needs children like her sister, Sharleez, who is autistic.  

PKK Tuanku Bainun is funded through several sources of income, which mainly include funding from activities, sponsorships, donations and grants, as well as from collaborations with external parties and renting out their spaces. Although revenue is far from enough to grow the organisation on a larger scale, the centre remains unwavering in its efforts to add more creative programmes and work with more underprivileged homes.

According to Marina Tan, artistic head of PKK Tuanku Bainun, one such effort is to implement an alumni programme next, as a way to follow up with the underprivileged children upon their completion of a particular programme. “We want to stay in touch, especially with the underprivileged kids who have less resources, so that we can help support growth in a long-term basis rather than just ten weeks of classes,” explains Marina.

Inspired by the late Krishen Jit, whose experimental theatre works brought together different art forms, cultures and genres, Marina believes the centre has a similar potential of becoming a creative hub that connects people together. They want to help homes, corporations and schools engage with one another.

“The connection is important,” says Marina. “On their own, the likelihood of making that connection is slim. We want to be the bridge that connects them.”

The future looks bright for Malaysia, as Marina, a fellow patron of the arts, shares that the centre teaches kids the values that come from being in the creative scene. “The people that are out there nurture themselves by going out there, getting support and giving support. That’s what human beings are for, to help each other.”

“And it applies the same with the kids. We deliver classes that teach skills in various fields but it’s also about the human interaction, support and validation to overcome stigmatisation, prejudice and preconceived notions.”

Address: Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainun, 48 Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur (03 7733 8559).

By Muhamad Ashraf

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