No Christmas celebration is complete without the comforting sounds of Christmas noël, especially coming from those with a history of hardship and a special story to tell. About 25 underprivileged Myanmar refugee children of United Learning Centre (ULC) in Jalan Imbi were invited to hotel Novotel KL for meaningful and magical Christmas celebration. The community-based learning centre accomodates up to 140 children who come to the centre daily for food, education and other basic needs organized by the refugee community, and also doubles up as a daycare centre and home for about 30 orphans.

Boys and girls aged between five to 16 were requested to sing christmas carols to herald in the festive spirit and get hotel guests, diners and management staff in the Christmas mood. After the performance, the children and caretakers were treated to a hearty Western dinner complete with dessert spread prepared by Executive Sous Chef Muzri and his entire team, while Novotel KL’s staff took turns to serve the children at the buffet line. Right after an enjoyable meal, laughter, song and dance filled the air as Stanley the clown surprised the children with fun games, magic tricks and balloon-animals.

This would mark the children’s first Christmas celebration in a hotel since coming to Malaysia from Myanmar. Some have been here for as little as 10 days while others one or two month and are slowly adapting to the modern world before leaving permanently for First World nations. The Head of School and Myanmarese pastor Jonathan Tan says : ‘’the children, both Rohingya Muslims and Christian Chin, fled their home country to avoid persecution or other threats to life. They also do not get formal education so they come here for better opportunities.’’

As part of the hotel’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, Novotel KL’s head of departments each played the role of Secret Santa to the children and had prepared Christmas gifts weeks in advance to be given out that evening. General Manager of Novotel KL Ms Susan Anthony commented: ‘’It was a blessed Christmas celebration with all staff, hotel guests and friends of ULC. The ambience was filled with joy and laughter, and all our guests enjoyed the night. We hope the best of future for the children and know that there are always people who will help them in times of need.
After all it is a season of goodwill, and this is our way of giving back to the community.”

Mink Ong, founder of ULC said, ‘’on behalf of ULC, we wish to thank all the angels who have given our children so much. For many, it may be just a meal, for the children, just being allowed to enter a luxurious hotel is already a blessing. We hope many other hotels will follow the good deed set by Novotel KL in giving back to the society in such a meaningful way.’’

ULC is registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since 2011 and is located at No 18, Medan Imbi, Off Jalan Imbi 55100 Kuala Lumpur. It is open to all Myanmar refugee children regardless of their ethnicity or religion, and come from various tribes who face displacement and discrimination from the ruling military junta. Neighbouring countries like Thailand and Malaysia serve as a transitional asylum while they wait to find resettlement in recipient countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway. The school is funded through donations and staffed by volunteers. Donation of non-monetary items can be made via Teacher Sonia ([email protected]) or contact the Head of School Pastor Jonathan ([email protected]) for further information.

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