Fw: Travel Pool #4 --arrival at the Dignity for Children Foundation

From: Nelson, Colleen [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Saturday, November 21, 2015 11:43 AM
To: Barnes, Desiree N. EOP/WHO
Subject: Travel Pool #4 --arrival at the Dignity for Children Foundation

After an uneventful drive, President Obama arrived at the Dignity for Children Foundation at 11:08 a.m. The center serves low-income families, and most are refugees who have fled to Kuala Lumpur.

Here, he is taking a tour and meeting with children served by the center.

The pool was led into a classroom where 9 children -- most of them 7 to 9 years old -- were hard at work on assortment of projects. Some were painting pictures, others worked on puzzles. Most sat at tiny wooden tables, and a couple children had projects spread out on a rug.

A rabbit hopped around in a glass cage up against a wall, and kids' drawings adorned the bulletin boards.

The kids were sharply dressed in uniforms, all wearing white shirts, navy pants or skirts and neckties (girls included). A young teacher moved from group to group, talking with the kids.

President Obama walked into the room with a cheery, "Hello, hello." He had ditched his tie but was still wearing a suit.
"What are you working on today? Doing some drawings?" Obama asked the kids.

He said hello to the teacher and asked, "How long have you been doing this?"

He greeted the kids, one by one, asking "What's your name?" and "How old are you?" repeatedly.

"Are you learning English?" he asked one girl after greeting her and shaking her hand.

"You're working so hard," he told her.

Obama squatted down at the kids' tables to come face-to-face with the children. When he greeted the kids who were sitting on a rug, he broke out his patented down-on-the-floor move that you've often seen in photos of Obama with babies at the White House.

"What's your favorite subject?" he asked a young girl. "Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?"

She said she likes math and wants to be an engineer. "You're going to be an excellent engineer," Obama told her.

The president grinned through most of these interactions and appeared to be delighted to be hanging out with the kids. The children seemed pleased to meet the president but were quite calm about the whole affair. They continued to work on their projects and paid relatively little attention to Obama when he wasn't speaking to them directly.

"So nice to meet you," he told another child. "What's your name?"

"What's your favorite subject? What do you like?" he asked a boy who replied that he likes science and animals.Another girl who was painting a picture told Obama she likes art.

After a just a few minutes of observing these interactions, the pool was led away. The president's tour continues.

Updates to come.

The White House sends along this background:

On Background:

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports 153,880 Persons of Concern (POC, includes refugees and asylum seekers) in Malaysia as of August 31, 2015.

The majority of refugees in Malaysia are from Burma, comprising mostly Chin and Rohingya along with smaller numbers of Mon, Shan, Rakhine, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, and other minorities.  Malaysia also has a number of Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Somali, Iraqi, Afghan, Iranian, Syrian, and Yemeni refugees. During the maritime migrant crisis in May through June 2015, Malaysia, as ASEAN chair and the destination country, took a leading role in its response to save lives and coordinate with regional governments to work on solutions.  

In Malaysia, the United States provided NGOs nearly $1.3M in FY15 to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, and other Persons of Concern in the sectors of physical and mental health care, and GBV awareness, prevention, response, and support services. ‎ The United States also provided $6.25 million towards the humanitarian emergency appeals of UNHCR and IOM to support Rohingya and ethnic Bangladeshi migrants in the region during the migration crisis in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.

Since 2006, when the United States began large-scale group resettlement for urban refugees from Burma, more than 64,000 refugees - primarily minorities from Burma and smaller numbers of Iraqi, Iranian, Pakistani, and Somali refugees - have been resettled from Malaysia to the United States.  Just over 12,000 refugees were resettled in FY15, including some 2,000 Rohingya who had been in Malaysia for five or more years.

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