The finals of the 5th Refugee Talent Competition, organised by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its corporate partner, IQI, was held recently at the HELP College of Creative Arts and Technology, where 12 finalists comprising refugee children between 9 and 17 years sang, danced, and performed musical instruments to vie for the top prizes in the competition.
The winner of the Dance category was an energetic hip hop routine from three dancers from the Malaysian Karen Organisation.
The winner of the Singing category went to a group of four boys from the Myanmar Refugee Community Learning Centre, for their rendition of pop song “Love Can Turn The World” accompanied by guitar. In both categories, the prizes were cash vouchers worth RM700, RM500 and RM300 for the first, second, and third places respectively.
Themed "I'm A Star", this is the fifth time a talent competition of this scale has been held specifically for refugee children in Malaysia.
In collaboration with dozens of refugee-run learning centres, over 200 refugee children from countries including Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia auditioned for the talent competition semi-finals, in order to qualify for the finals.
There are over 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia, having fled armed conflict and human rights abuses in their own countries. Some 32,000 of them are children below the age of 18.
Displaced by conflict and living in exile means refugee children are often denied normal childhoods, including the opportunity to participate in activities enjoyed by other children their age. These are activities which provide essential lessons for their mental and physical well-being and development - including expressions of creativity, healthy competition, team work, and play. The first Talent Competition was held in 2010 in order to create the space to allow children to develop their creative and artistic side, and the Competition has grown from strength to strength since.
The Refugee Children’s Talent Competition, for most of these children, is the first time they have the opportunity to perform on a professional stage in front of an audience.
The panel of guest expert judges for the Dance and Singing categories of the Finals were internationally-recognised star of stage musicals, Peter Ong, singer and radio deejay, Ady Suwardy, international recording artist, Dasha Logan,
Head of Dance of the Malaysian National Arts Academy, Joseph Gonzales, actress, director, and dancer, Nell Ng, and artist, poet, and activist, Nell-lynn Perera.