16 February 2009

Beauty a champ of poor children

Let's here from one of Malaysia's most beautiful representative to Miss World. Deborah Priya Henry.

FOR former Miss Malaysia World Deborah Henry, charity is not just about dropping change into a collection tin once in a while, it’s about making sure you make a difference.

The stunning lass who hails from Kuala Lumpur was in Penang recently to promote World Vision Malaysia’s 3,000 Children in 3 Months campaign.

“When I was younger, my parents always sponsored kids. We first had one in the Philippines and then one in Ecuador.

“I sponsored one of my own in 2006 and when I won Miss Malaysia (in 2007),” she said in an interview during her visit to Penang.

The former beauty pageant queen currently has three sponsored children — a boy each in India and Cambodia and a girl in China.

“In the 3,000 Children in 3 Months campaign, our goal is to register new sponsors for 3,000 children by the end of March.

“One of the most frequently asked questions is — does the child get the RM50 I pledge every month?

“World Vision understands that to help a child, you have to help the parents and the community. This is the most sustainable way to break the cycle of poverty.

“Instead of giving a child money, which will either be wasted on toys or be spent by the parents, World Vision builds a hospital that will give that child health care.

“They also build schools and train teachers which will enable that child to get an education,” shed added.

With the multi-pronged approach, she said, communities as a whole were lifted out of poverty and parents ended up earning up to five times their initial income after World Vision started area development programmes in their villages.

“The sponsorship also makes things very personal. It’s nice to get letters from the children saying how they are doing in school and telling me about their grades and hobbies.

“Sometimes you get Chinese New Year and Christmas cards and through all this, you know you’re making a difference to that child’s life.

“It’s easy to throw RM5 into a bucket and say ‘I’ve done my part’ but we need to take it to the next level when it comes to responsible giving and making sure that the people you want to help get that help,” Henry added.

With signs suggesting that the worse of the global economic slowdown is yet to come, Henry reminded the public that this meant more dire times for children in impoverished nations as well.

“It’s RM50 a month which comes up to RM600 a year so a lot of people can generally afford it. However, things are going to be hard and charities like World Vision are definitely not immune,” she said.

On her personal plans for the future, she said she was thinking about creating her own charity organisation one day.

“In the long term, I hope to start a business of my own, possibly in retail.

“I will definitely continue doing social work in my own way and maybe even start something myself,” she said.

Asked whether she had any plans of having children herself, she laughed and replied: “Let’s think about get married first.”

“Being the second of four kids, I’ve grown up with lots of babies and I’d love to have kids.

“For a few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about adopting a child as well.

“I’ve always had a great interest and felt very strongly about the situation in Africa so I’d like to adopt a baby from there one day,” she said.