In a casual session moderated by Mr Shaifubahrim Saleh, Digital Productivity Nexus with Youth Group Lead, Serena shared her journey of starting Serena’s Secret for her sister Sharleez who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. Seeing how Sharleez struggles with her condition and the worries of her parents about Sharleez’s financial independence later in life , Serena knew she had to take action to help families that might face similar challenges with less resources.
Serena turned her interest in jewellery-making into raising funds to help these children. From there she expanded to making other handmade items and soon other autistic children began making items that Serena’s Secret could sell to raise money for helping people.
‘My school fully supports my initiative to help those with autism. I’ve initiated World Autism Day activities at school and managed to raise RM2000 in funds for the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM)’ Serena said. Over 6 years of her work, RM130,000 has been raised through BSKL’s school bazaar and other events, which is used to fund therapy sessions for autistic children and buy therapy equipment similar to the tools that helped Sharleez. Her work has also created more than 200 job opportunities for people with autism. Her current venture is opening a food and beverage outlet which will be run by autistic adolescents, set to launch in January 2022 in Thomson Hospital.
At the summit Serena proposed motions to the nation’s policymakers to include a paradigm shift in the way people think about autism.
‘Basic education is the foundation strength of any country. In this day and age, every individual is entitled to digital and financial management knowledge taught in schools, including special needs schools. A special organisation assisting people with disabilities needs to be created to ensure equality in receiving this knowledge and a policy that mandates hiring them with flexible hours by focusing on their talents.’ Serena told the policymakers.
Dr Nicola Brown, BSKL’s Interim Principal said ‘We are extremely proud of Serena and support her efforts to increase awareness and initiate fund raising activities completely. Serena's journey as a loving sibling to her sister Sharleez is an inspiration to us all at BSKL. Serena represents the school values of kindness, integrity and resilience as she promotes inclusiveness and support for all individuals. We will continue to provide an environment for Serena and her classmates to express their views and to take the lead on projects and initiatives that have meaning for them and the wider world.’
Great work Serena!