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Giving a voice to the youth

08 Jan 2020 / 10:04 H.

HE IS best known as the ‘voice’ of the radio station THR Raaga (now rebranded as Raaga), using the platform not just to entertain, but to change lives.

Now, R. Jayaram, fondly known as Ram, is a champion of many causes, all stemming from one goal and one place.

In November, Ram attended Climate Action Day in Perak, which was touted as the biggest environmental event in the state’s history. There, he advocated saving the planet through reducing the use of plastic.

He tells theSun: “I find that money is the greatest motivator when it comes to reducing waste. Just by educating others that they can [monetise] waste like plastics, [it also] encourages them not only to reduce, but also reuse and recycle plastics.”

He believes that not only is this an opportunity to indirectly teach youth how to take better care of the environment, but also to educate them on how to make money from almost nothing.

With a firm belief that the best way to a better society is through its youth, Ram champions educating students about utilising skills as an alternative to the standard academic route.

Ram says: “We [are currently motivating] students in Form 3 and above. We [are encouraging students from] the lowest-scoring classes [so that] their lack of academic achievement does not restrict them, and points them towards a path of a better future.”

He adds: “Did you know that you can join college at any age after 12? With a school leaving certificate. You can go into skills.

“Under PTPK (Skills Development Fund Corporation), the government will provide you with a loan, and over 4,000 certified courses from singing, to photography, to early child care.”

He gave an example of two students. One finishes Form 5 and waits a couple of months before getting into college. They may or may not have a student loan, and their success depends on their academic achievements.

The other student completes Form 3 education at age 15. Their academic achievements are irrelevant, but they manage to study early child care (through PTPK). At age 17, they graduate with a diploma.

“In the long term, we need to help the youth,” says Ram. “[They] can change the country by voting. That’s why we push these youths to pursue what interests them and go for it.”

He firmly believes that showing struggling youths that there are other paths to success aside from academics will save many of them from a life of poverty or crime.

Ram realised this when he was working at THR Raaga, where he could speak directly to members of the Indian community, and provided them a platform to reply.

The radio station initiated a programme where it would find someone to help. Ram says: “We maintained the programme for a long time, though the name kept changing. We started with tough cases.

“One of the biggest successes we had was with this family – a single mother who lost her son and her husband. Her daughter, who was two or three at the time, had a liver failure. Her eyes were almost yellow, and time was running out.”

“A liver transplant operation would cost over RM300,000. So we went on air.

“Eleven to 12 days later, people all over the world donated about RM320,000 to the cause.”

“The mother closed the account after that, and said [further contributions] should now go to someone else who needed it as much as her family did”.

What drives Ram are his own experiences as a youth.

“I started working when I was 10,” he explains. “I left home after Form 3, a week after I finished my exams. I had a big fight with my late father. I slept at bus stations and on benches in the Klang area for one week. Eating [or] stealing whatever I could.”

“I think my first proper job was at a factory, working 12 hours a day. I earned RM360 a month.”

“I moved all the way up from there, and opened a business. Somehow I got into the entertainment industry.

“Music was in my blood, I had a band, we were called to radio stations. But THR Raaga changed my life.”

“[I do this] because I’ve been there, and I know how bad life can be and how easy it is for people to not feel motivated. When you have seen the hardship of life, then you realise how good you had it.”

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