MOST of us take hotel stays for granted.But for some people, it’s a rare luxury. Take the residents of People’s Housing Projects (PPR). Most of them can’t afford luxury hotel stays. They struggle just to earn a living. So, just imagine their excitement when our team brought them for a two-day-one-night stay at a hotel in the city centre.

Many of them were “scared” to take more than one type of food at the buffet line. Someone asked me, “Will I be charged extra if I take more than a few items?” Meanwhile, the children just couldn’t wait to enjoy the facilities, especially the pool. But more importantly, they got to enjoy family bonding time, and parents, the opportunity to refresh their parenting skills.

Organised and sponsored by Yayasan Hasanah and Smart Parents Network, the Smart Parents Retreat was held on Sept 16 and 17. Participants came from three People’s Housing Projects and comprised 30 families or 115 people.

The destination? Ther five-star Vistana Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

A mother approached me, with tears in her eyes. “My children have always wanted to experience a hotel stay. But I could never afford it. Without this event, they’d probably never step foot in a nice place like this. Thank you all for bringing us here.”

A father added: “When the children got into the room, they touched everything, even the light switches. I felt embarrassed but sad at the same time. They’d never seen so many nice things. I’m now determined to turn them into successful people so that they can earn well and enjoy these luxuries.”

While the children may not have much, they have each other. A cold day didn’t stop them from having fun. My heart melted when I saw them conquering the pool without any fear. They did back flips, double flips and “setiakawan” jump — huddling and jumping together into the pool.

MIRACLES HAPPEN

On the first day, we did a “Heart 2 Heart” session followed by a 10-second hugging moment. The scene was priceless. Children and parents alike cried. Due to their unpredictable schedules, they hardly get to enjoy such family moments together. Many of the parents work odd jobs; some are labourers, or taxi drivers and food stall workers.

When a husband was asked what he was most proud of about his wife, he said: “I admire my wife’s patience in moulding me and the kids. I used to be a bad person but thanks to her, I now enjoy staying home with my family. Now I just want to do the best for them.”

However, the most heart-wrenching feedback came from a woman who shared: “My husband and I are separated, and we have a Syariah court appointment pending. We’re getting a divorce. He reluctantly attended this retreat after my son insisted.” But a miracle happened. She continued: “After the first day session of Heart-to-Heart and the 10-second hug, he invited my son and me to perform the maghrib prayer together with him. It’s the first time in a long time. He prayed longer than usual and I think he cried.”

Her voice cracking, she added: “Before my son went to bed, he hugged him tight. Then he hugged me, and said, ‘I want to cancel our Syariah court appointment.’ They were the sweetest words, happiest moments of my life. I felt happier than when we first got married years ago.”

Credit goes to Yayasan Hasanah for its community development initiatives. My team and I were grateful to be entrusted with running this programme.

If you’d like to be a part of this wonderful initiative, either by being a volunteer or through sponsorship, do drop me a line. Together we can change their world — one child at a time!

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