Learning to cope after institutional life
When asked, reserved and quiet eighteen year old Kevin struggled to recollect a happy event in his young life. Like other children who grow up in institutions Kevin finds talking to new people and being in new environments challenging. They need time to adjust and transition to life outside a structured environment.
Kevin only knows orphanage life. He was brought to Rumah Kanak Kanak (RKK) Johor Baru as a baby about a month after he was born in 1998. He does not know where he’s from nor anything about his birth family.
In Malaysia, when institutionalised children become eighteen they have to leave the ‘safety’ and familiarity of the orphanage and fend for themselves. This moving out evokes fear and excitement. They have to learn many things about life outside, how to socialise with strangers, find work and how to self-regulate and manage themselves.
Kevin now stays at Purple Home, a transit home for ex institutionalised children which fellow orphan Che Rozi Azrul helped set up. Purple Home, under the guidance of the Department of Social Welfare (JKM), is helping Kevin decide what he wants to do with his life.
“Kevin is a quick learner and creative. He likes to cook and create his own recipes. He was often allowed to help out at the kitchen in the orphanage. We are looking for someone to sponsor Kevin become a chef” says Azrul, Kevin’s minder. Kevin works at a pizza outlet.
Towards the end of our interview Kevin opened up and talked a little about Encik Irfan, his carer at RKK when he was little, with fondness. He recalled the happy times camping and climbing the jambu tree behind the asrama in Kuantan with his best friend Saiful.
Kevin is a typical institutionalised child. But he has a passion for the culinary arts. Azrul and Kevin hope that passion will find a patron willing to give him a job.