“The MCO brought drastic changes not only in the adult world but also in the child’s world. Confined to their homes, the normal support systems that children have other than their immediate family like friends, peers, play, sports, teachers and school were all taken away so quickly.
“While adults have friends, colleagues or counselors they could call or go online to get support from or to continue their social and work responsibilities children on the other hand had limited options. Who could they go to to share and get help for their own worries and troubles?
Buddy Bear is the only dedicated helpline for children in Peninsular Malaysia.
Set up by registered social enterprise HumanKind, the Buddy Bear helpline is aimed at providing a safe space for children (6 to 18-year-olds) to talk about their worries and concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was initiated during the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March amid concerns about the impact of the lockdown measure on children. With the extension of the MCO order the Buddy Bear team decided to continue with the initiative.
“Buddy Bear was born out of this need, to give children a safe space to share and talk about their worries and concerns to an adult trained to listen to worries of children in a way they can feel supported and empowered,” said Pam Guneratnam, the founder of HumanKind.
But in order for children of marginalised community to be able to call in to this helpline, they need to be able to pay for the phone calls. Many children will not be able to call in because they couldn't afford to pay the phone bills.
“It is our hope that Buddy Bear is a trusted space that children can go to when they need a safe person to express to. We want children to feel empowered, to have a sense of their own agency. We hope that knowing they can call Buddy Bear will enable them to feel like they are not alone with their problem. Sometimes all one needs is knowing someone is there for you is enough to get you through a tough time. And that is the aim of Buddy Bear, to let children know we are here for them, we listen to kids and that it is important to reach out for help,” said Guneratnam.
The Buddy Bear helpline operates from 12 noon to 12 midnight, 7 days a week, with volunteers who can speak Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, and Tamil.
All Humankind volunteers have been trained in Psychological First Aid and are supervised by registered mental health professionals. They are committed to provide a responsible and ethical phone line for children.
To speak to Buddy Bear, children can call 1-800-18BEAR.
In order for children from marginalised community calls the Buddy Bear helpline, we need to make this a toll free number. This fundraising campign is to raise funds to pay for the calls and essentially make this helpline a tollfree number.
This fundraising campign will allow children who cannot afford to pay for phone calls will get to access this service. By sponsoring the calls, you are giving access to crucial mental health support to vulnerable children.
Raised of MYR 10,000.00 target.
Humankind is a registered social enterprise based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We are on a mission to improve the social and emotional well-being of all communities especially communities that are underserved and vulnerable.
Pam Guneratnam, a psychologist by training, and a registered Counselor with the Malaysian Counselling Board, founded HumanKind with the vision of a world where everyone recognizes themselves as valuable, needed and connected, and having the ability to make a positive difference.
The first project HumanKind embarked on was a full day Expressive Art workshop at a shelter for trafficked girls. A team of 8 individuals together with a trainer conducted an Art Retreat for the young women at the protection facility. Since that project, the Organization has conducted more than 20 projects with various at-risk community groups, training more than 100 volunteers and delivering at multiple projects in Malaysia each year.
In early 2020, HumanKind was invited to train a group of volunteers in Jaipur, India - its first overseas initiative and the very first Expressive Sandwork Project to be conducted in India.