Over the years, thousands of refugees have settled in Malaysia but as displaced people they do not have legal work status and have difficulties accessing rights for education and healthcare . As a result, they are not able to make use of their skills and are unable to create steady income.


From little things, big things grow – that’s the philosophy of the Little Things project, which allows HOST to provide small grants of $5,000 to grass-roots projects that make lives better for refugees around the world.


As a recipient of the Little Things grant, Same Skies‘ work is based on the conviction that every individual has skills, knowledge and experience to contribute to society. Their new programme, Transformative Leadership in Action, offers both refugee and non-refugee participants a chance to become more creative, flexible and adaptable leaders, while contributing to social change. The programme brings together leaders from all corners of the world with varied professional backgrounds. They share their knowledge and experience to develop and strengthen their own leadership approaches.


Together they analyse the challenges and resources of a local refugee community, and co-design a new project to address the educational, health and/or social needs. They establish the project during the seven-month programme, and then the refugee participants take over responsibility for the long-term management – with another 12-months of training and mentoring from Same Skies to ensure sustainability.


According to participants Samira and Zahra, it was a motivating programme within a friendly environment. Same Skies ensured a well-planned and organised structure of activities, containing a wealth of information from a variety of collaborators.

Samira, one of the TLIA 2018 participants
Here is Samira, one of the TLIA 2018 participants. Credit: Same Skies
“The workshop with the refugee communities expanded my knowledge on refugee children, their challenges and proposed solutions,” remarked Samira.
“I have learnt so much from my team and we are now more confident on how to face challenges. We have been able to achieve almost all of our plans.”

Transformative Leadership in Action 2018 commenced in June with eleven participants from ten different countries, including three refugee leaders living in Kuala Lumpur. Last July, the team met in Malaysia for a two-week residential session which was a combination of lectures and group work. One of the main benefits was that they all met in person to build relationships, which furthered the team work they built on in the following months. This also enabled international participants to understand the context on the ground, meet refugees and co-design the project with them.


They spent time with refugees in Kuala Lumpur to identify their challenges and resources, leading to the design of their project with the following objective: 100 refugees in Klang Valley (Malaysia) to engage in livelihood activities by the end of 2019.


The next phase of the programme included the planning and design of their new Refugee Network Centre by using knowledge gained from progressing and engaging with online modules.

Transformation Leaders in Action
Credit: Same Skies

They successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign, having raised over $5,000 AUD which will help pay for a full-time manager, supporting staff, and headquarter space. The office will be a centre that supports refugees to share their existing skills and knowledge, while connecting interested refugees with a network of local Malaysian entrepreneurs to help them form partnerships and be empowered to build up their own initiatives. The overall goal is to give refugees the opportunity to connect and learn from each other, in order to help them create livelihood opportunities and revenue streams.


This programme continuously challenges participants to get out of their comfort zone and to put their new skills to practice. To reflect on their growth and challenges, they are encouraged to develop a learning path and set out their individual learning objectives. With the support of a leadership coach, they continuously reflect on how they can translate their learning into their own professional development.


In 2019, Transformative Leadership in Action will be replicated in Indonesia, starting in June. Same Skies is an international non-governmental organisation (registered in Malaysia, Indonesia, Switzerland and Australia), focusing on supporting refugee-led initiatives.

Transformative Leadership in Action is offered by Same Skies with expert support from HOST International, UNHCR, Monash University’s Border Crossing Observatory, BOOKBRIDGE, Beyond the Fabric, KYS Business School, and others. You can find more information about it here: www.sameskies.org/leadership