“Is this for real?”, I thought to myself. I have to admit, when I first heard that a Malaysian beauty queen was doing some work with refugees, I was too quick to assume that she was merely following through, for a short time, the promises she probably made in her campaign as part of her efforts to bag the crown.
Did you notice that I casually dropped words like ‘assume’, ‘merely’ and ‘probably’ into that sentence? Yes, I am guilty of typecasting, of thinking so little of a pageant girl. It turns out, I was the shallow one and was I blown away when I started my research on this amazing woman.
Like many others, I first came across the name Deborah Priya Henry back in 2007 when she represented Malaysia in in the Miss World pageant. Undeniably gorgeous, she did us proud by making the top 16, a feat last achieved by Malaysia in 1998 when Lina Teoh emerged 2nd runner up.
Then, in 2011, she made a comeback on the competition catwalk when she was chosen to represent the country in the Miss Universe. Till this day, she remains as one of the most successful bearer of the Miss Malaysia crown, having built a solid career as a host, model, actress and professional emcee.
But before the glitz and glamour came-a-rolling, Deborah found a different calling early on, and that is to work with refugees in Malaysia. Her mission was elementary; to bring the fundamental rights of access to education to the displaced and stateless refugee children. In this edition of In Person, she talks about Fugee School, the organisation she founded with this objective in mind.
The school, in its 7th year of operation and with 173 students now, serves as a platform for the refugee communities who are mainly from Somalia to learn English, Mathematics and Science.
AWANI Review sent Reporter Ooi Zi Shan to check the school out. Watch the video below.
The school is looking to the public for help and donations to facilitate its expansion in order to serve larger groups of refugee children. Find out how you can help by heading over to Fugee School's Facebook.
According to Deborah, we need to care about refugee children because they form a unique thread that is part of the colourful fabric of the Malaysian life. The onus is on everyone to ensure that they are not neglected and in turn, they will give back to society in the future.
Podcast of the interview: