For Raeesah Khan, volunteer and social work are the things she is familiar with. Growing up, she has watched her mother volunteer at shelters and orphanages. When Raeesah’s birthday comes, her mother took her to celebrate it with other children who are underprivileged.
Raeesah grew to be a woman of big heart and sense of empathy. She is always concerned about the welfare of others around her. She realised that she has been living a privileged life, having the opportunity of education and comfortable living, that she feels the need to give back.
Her childhood upbringing brought her to what she is doing today.
Back in 2014, while she was pursuing her degree in economics and marketing, she met a family of refugees in Australia. She helped them to settle and the work sparked something in her.
Since then, she started looking for ways she could be involved in empowering marginalised communities. For a year, she went to a service trip to Aceh and then Kuala Lumpur, conducting research and consultations on ground, while also starting an initiative to distribute food and menstrual products to refugees.
In 2016, she started Reyna Movement. It is a regional non-profit organisation whose aim is to empower marginalised women and children through community engagement and vocational programmes. The name Reyna came from the Spanish word that means “queen” and so it became the perfect symbol of this movement.
At the moment, Reyna Movement has two running projects: Project Ria (Singapore) and Project Kakak dan Adik (Kuala Lumpur).
Project Ria is an initiative to create a space for support and learning for women in Singapore. The project aims to establish a community through initiating conversations about issues around women in Singapore. They organise numerous workshops and programs with the help of their partners in Singapore, such as Singapore University Social Sciences and Casa Raudha.
As for Project Kakak dan Adik, it is an initiative to create spaces of support, opportunity and healing Rohingya women and children refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The project wants to improve their physical health and education by creating a sustainable funding program.
One of the key products from this project is Recipes of Resilience, a compilation of recipes and stories from Rohingya women. The royalties from the book and other related incomes are used for health fund for the refugees. Besides the royalties, the recipe book is also a great way to preserve Rohingya culture.
Reyna Movement also has an education centre in Kuala Lumpur for refugee children called Rohingya Refugee Education Center. The centre provides primary school education for over 30 students. Not only academics, but the centre also provides a place for healing and development.
We shouldn’t take our privileges for granted. Raeesah has proven that the opportunities she was given can turn into more opportunities for others. As stated on Reyna Movement’s website, she “strongly believes in empowering women and girls, and will carry on the fight for their right to education and independence.”