Green Growth: The Picha Project

In 2013, Kim Lim, Suzanne Ling, and Lee Swee Lin, fellow students at University College Sedaya International (UCSI) in Malaysia, were working on a project which helped university students find volunteer opportunities helping refugees and special-needs schools. Children from a local refugee community came to them for tutoring help in English, math, and science, but there was a high dropout rate for those students. They therefore decided to visit families whose children had dropped out to see where the problem lied. They so learned that many families in the community were facing extreme financial challenges, and that school was not free for their children. Because of this, some families had to pull their children out of school as a matter of survival.

During one home visit, Kim realized that many of the refugees knew how to cook and some of them had done so professionally. Using those skills could provide a way for them to earn an income with which to take care of their families and allow their kids to stay in school.

In January 2016, the idea became a reality as they launched the Picha Project, a social enterprise that seeks to empower marginalized members of their community by providing them with dignified work. The business started out working with a single family that came from a community of Chin people in Myanmar. That family had a child who was learning music but was in danger of dropping out.