All Together, For Children’s Future

As a component of the application process for a Toptal Scholarship for Women, I have written a blog about my vision to change the world.

About me:

I am a 30 years old medical doctor. After completed my degree in Indonesia, I worked for hospitals in Malaysia. I had witnessed firsthand the poor treatment of the underprivileged received and decided to do something about it. The feeling grew even stronger after I gave birth to my first child. To me, every child is previous, they are jewelry for the country. Children require a loving, peaceful and conducive environment to inculcate positive and healthier development. Currently, I am a staying home mom in a foreign land, following my husband to pursue his dream. But I am also passionate and eager to change the world through innovation and sharing.

My vision to change the world:

Malaysia has made tremendous progress in eliminating poverty. However, not everyone has benefited equally, notably the most vulnerable group, children, are being left behind. For example, children from low-cost flats live in Kuala Lumpur, within easy proximity to amenities; yet, have less access to nutritious food, don’t go to pre-school, live in perceived unsafe areas and have less opportunity to learn and play than most other children in Malaysia.

These data are outrageous in view of the poverty rate of Kuala Lumpur is the lowest in Malaysia. Now imagine other states with higher poverty rates, how are those children doing? The reality is, poor children are among us but they often remain unseen.

Another issue is child abuse. Child abuse’s trend has been on the rise in Malaysia. A significant proportion of these have occurred on children receiving care outside their home in unregistered childcare facilities. Some have died and many more have been left permanently disabled. Apart from violence, poor supervision and unsafe care practices have also resulted in unintentional injuries, accidental drowning and inadvertent poisoning. Children in the care of individuals who lack proper training and have a poor understanding of their developmental needs are vulnerable to injury.

One of the optimal ways to ensure that every child in Malaysia has an equal start in life is by providing a comprehensive social protection floor. This will facilitate equal access to basic services such as health, education and nutrition for the most marginalized families, thus mitigating the effects of deprivation on children, and help break the cycle of poverty.

There is no integrated and interactive platform for children at the moment. There are apps for managing child care center, as well as plenty of toddler online games. There are also organizations that arrange child care services, but their approach is outdated with unsatisfactory result. People are often unaware the presence of such service.

Besides that, registration and regulation of childcare centers based in homes, workplaces or community lack enforcement. In the absence of legislation governing the advertising of childcare, anyone can offer these services on social media and even label themselves as an informal organization of childcare providers without a requirement for specific training, qualifications or adherence to minimum standards.

It is not uncommon for parents to engage childcare services advertised on social media without checking the background of care providers, verifying their registration status or inspecting their premises. Some parents are not able to provide details beyond a contact telephone number of the persons to whom they have entrusted their baby. In fact, there’s not even a house number or street address. Every child deserves to feel safe and has every right to grow in a healthy environment.

At the present time, parents in the lower and middle income bracket may compromise safety standards in their selection of child minders due to limited choice, lack of accessibility and lack of awareness. Many do not know what criteria to apply in their selection of a nursery or babysitter.

We need a revolutionary platform for children from birth. The first three years is crucial for development of the child. We need to think outside the box on how to move these forward.

Another example of how digital market changes life is Malaysian taxi service. Global research done by LondonCabs.co.uk had ranked Malaysian taxi driver as the worst taxi driver in the world for their well known arrogance, hostility, rude and overcharges. It has been an economic and social issue, and remains unsolved by government for years. But all that changed when American ride-sharing company Uber, and later homegrown Grab began to muscle into the public transportation market. Now finally the poor can afford rides to places instead of spending long hours for public transport.

My idea to change the world is to create a digital platform focusing on children well being and child care.

How I can believe I can accomplish my goal:

This revolutionary digital platform will be named ‘Together’ with the slogan “Together, for children’s future”. My aim is to provide integrated quality care and early education services based on the needs of the local community to children below five years old. Program that empowers children, promote family wellbeing and strengthen the community will be conducted.

First of all, parents will have easy access to information of childcare center in ‘Together’. All childcare centers must be registered with the authority, and it will be our role to verify the registration. Information of care providers, especially address, contact number, related training and qualification will be disclosed to parents. There will be a rating and review system for the care providers. This will definitely encourage competition and improve safety net for childcare. For low income family, subsidy for childcare will be given to reduce family burden and as an opportunity for poor children to reach their full potential.

My second focus will be on children well being. Children learn from playing. It allows them to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. However this is lacking in most of the Asian country due to unavailability of well established routine playgroup or programs. It is also not a norm but we need to break it.

In ‘Together’, parents will be able to interact with each other and schedule playgroups routinely based on their location. It will be an informal meeting where mediator or educator will be available to guide parents-baby playgroup. They can meet to discuss baby or parenting related issues, support each other mentally, while their babies play regardless of race, education or financial background. The interactions will encourage children to be more social and confident while learning new skills. Besides sharing ideas and information, we want to also promote reuse and recycle of baby items among parents.

Besides that, our platform can be a channel for local community, governmental agencies and private organizations to promote any child related schemes and programs. We want to give all children the best start in life despite of their origin and financial background. We will work on Children Pass that offer benefits in form of free entries or vouchers for the children to participate in sport, cultural event and education. Parents that participate in community events will get points and take advantage with deals and lifestyle promotions with reward partner.

Our third focus will be empowering children with safety skills. For many families in Malaysia, sex has been a taboo subject to discuss. Sex education often begins late in the child’s development. Sexually-naive children are a common target and more prone to victimization. The victimization can take in different form such as physical assault, child maltreatment, bullying and sexual abuse.

Our platform will have a section to teach children on sexual abuse with age appropriate material. Repetition is the key to ensure better understanding. Supportive modules and teaching materials will encourage a better understanding and empower parents on educating their children at home. They will also be reassured that they are protected by law and should not have any fear in reporting child abuse on suspicion ground. We will set up an emergency Child line and attend calls from children for complaint of abuse, violence and mental health. Cases will be liaised with relevant Child Protector.

In the future, I hope to expand healthcare services that can be provided. These include mental health screening, preventive medicine, online consultation, and rehabilitation programs such as smoking or gambling cessation. Besides that, I want to increase the target audience and to expand the service globally. I will also start a good deeds bank where people can “bank” the time they give to others to use at a later date.

Support and mentorship I need to accomplish my goals

Obtaining a Toptal scholarship will support me financially to achieve my goal. It will be meaningful because I am aiming to pursue Master program in Health Economics and Management, M.Sc. It will prepare me to be a better leader with innovative approaches in this fast-changing and competitive world, to analyze and develop potential solution.

While I consider myself to have the passion, experience and academic support in making the platform a success, I lack the experience in marketing and software development to bring my work to public in a way that is useful and engaging. I would seek support to bridge that gap by hopefully obtaining mentorship by top talent from a marketing and developer background, who can guide me in this process.

It will be my honor to work with the world’s top talent, to change the world for children. Let us eliminate disparities and inequalities that stand in the way of securing good health, safety and well-being for all children. Far too many children are left behind, and we shall leave no one behind.

Thank you Toptal for the opportunity to express my thought.

Reference:

1. Children Without: A study of urban child poverty in low cost flats in Kuala Lumpur. https://www.unicef.org/malaysia/resources_27407.html

2. Babysitters and maids are main culprits in most cases
 https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2014/02/26/five-kids-abused-every-week-babysitters-and-maids-are-main-culprits-in-most-cases/

3. New Straits Times — Many child abuse cases go unreported. http://www.ism.gov.my/en/ism-media-eng/news-clipping/news-clipping/101-new-straits-times-many-child-abuse-cases-go-unreported