Moving to a different state in pursuit of higher education can be very challenging for students living on a paltry budget.
It was certainly so for 23-year-old Sarawakian Mika Liviana, who took a giant leap of faith last year by accepting an offer to study at a private college in Kota Kinabalu.
Having lived in Serian her entire life, Mika struggled at first to acclimatise to her new environment. Food, for one, was hard to come by.
“This is my first time living away from home and being independent. I’m slowly learning that finding money to buy food is tough.
“My older brother gives me RM150 pocket money every month. But after paying for stationeries and other necessities, I barely have enough funds left for food,” she related.
However, a trip to YouthPREP Centre Alamesra with her roommate managed to allay Mika’s financial woes when she was introduced to the BAH Makan” feeding programme.
Under the programme, young adults like Mika can enjoy a simple and nutritious dinner at the centre on the first and third Monday of each month, and get supplies from its food bank.
“The programme has helped me immensely. Getting canned sardine, noodles, drinks and rice from the food bank means that I need not worry about finding food for an entire week,” she related.
For the young Bidayuh lady, the support she received from the centre was what helped her overcome spells of homesickness.
BAH Makan was the brainchild of Good Shepherd Services (GSS) manager Anne Baltazar, who was inspired to start the programme in June 2016 after noticing physical changes in the students who frequented the centre.
“I noticed that they were becoming thinner. They confided in me that they have been eating only once or twice a day to save money,” she said.
Baltazar said the students were reluctant at first to take supplies from the food bank, but warmed up to the idea after some coaxing.
“We want to be a friendly party that students can reach out to in times of crisis.
“Local colleges that know about BAH Makan would direct students to our centre, but some students also find out about the programme through word of mouth,” she explained.
It is Baltazar’s hope that the hundreds of students who benefitted from BAH Makan over the years would “pay it forward” by helping others in similar predicaments.
“With this programme, we want to foster the spirit of ‘what you give, you get back’.
“Maybe the students don’t have the means to help others right now. But I hope they would be inspired enough to lend a hand to other youths in the future,” she added.