As the day came to a close, the MSRI Open Day and Children’s Festival was transformed. Filled with heartfelt memories of Alijah Gordon – the woman who started it all and whose legacy still ripples of impact – the night traced the lives she influenced and the transformation of MSRI into the non-profit organization it is today.
There was a story Alijah used to tell called ‘The Starfish Story’. It begins with a little girl on a beach where there were thousands of starfish stranded and unable to reach the water. The little girl began to pick up the starfish one by one and placed them back in the water. A man came by, looked at what she was doing, and said “Look little girl, what you’re doing is pointless. You’re not going to change anything.” And the little girl looked at the man and said “In the grand scheme of things, yes, there might not be change, but for those starfish back in the water- everything has changed.”
We cannot change the world but we can change the lives of individuals. And that is ‘The Starfish Story’.
-Executive Director Lia Syed
“As we remember Ibu Alijah and her unwavering commitment to others, let us make MSRI her legacy that all can be proud of. Because greatness comes not from a position, but from helping build the future. How true it is when Churchill once said that “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
– MSRI Chairman Dato’Halim
The legacy of Alijah Gordon may have began with the formation of MSRI, but it was truly her work with the Sponsorship Programme for Palestinian Children in refugee camps in Lebanon that left such an impact on the world.
Today, as a knowledge based organization, MSRI strives to educate a wider population about humanitarian issues, especially on the situation of refugees in Malaysia; and struggle to provide basic services – such as schooling – for the ever growing number of refugee children in the country.
“Even with all the efforts by UNHCR, NGOs and refugee community schools, less than 50 percent of these kids can go to any kind of school. I see our school, which has children from 17 different countries, as a peace building mission for the future.”
– Executive Director Lia Syed
The reality we live in is ASEAN, the Association of Southest Asian Nations. It is a linkage formulated from the top by the ruling governments of our lands and reflects their shared interests.
It is for WE – THE PEOPLE – to turn ASEAN around into a unity of the common man in the face of shared realities.
To do so, we must know both the particular realities of our constituent states and the phenomena common to and joining our destinies.
The content of our educations are still the reflections of the different Western colonialisms our peoples were put through. We know little of the historical and present struggles in each of our lands, as even within one constituent state the people have been severed from their own historical inheritance.
So we dedicate this issue of Intisari and coming issues to the forging of a shared peoples’ consciousness
– Dato’ Alijah Gordon,
(extracted from the never
published last issue of Intasari,
the MSRI research journal)
We need Malaysians and refugees to come together. We need to be inclusive of all members of society to create change – including refugees and asylum seekers. It is through working together from the ground up that we can truly make a difference. In the words of Alijah from over 40 years ago: “it is the forging of a shared peoples’ consciousness”.
It begins here, it begins now with the actions we make today.
– Executive Director, Lia Syed