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An ELITE Ponggal (F & N Dairies event)


(Left to right) Mrs Van Toh Peng and Mrs Miliee Kassim (centre left and right) kick off the cooking session by pouring F&N; Magnolia Milk into a Ponggal clay pot, while Ms Umayavalli and Ms Yasotha (left and right) look on.

Bandar Kinrara, Puchong — The large parking lot outside PPR Pangsapuri Enggang’s Community Hall was transformed into a festive scene of colour, vibrancy and almost 30 Hindu families working in tandem to ‘fire’ up their stoves to get the milk in their clay pots boiling.

The colourful scene was a Ponggal celebration, sponsored by F&N; Dairies Malaysia’s F&N; Empowering Lives Through Education (E.L.I.T.E) programme and organised by Kassim Chin Humanity Foundation (KCHF) for the Hindu children of KCHF’s Pangapuri Enggang tuition centre and their families.

Ponggal, also known as Makara Sankranti, is a South Indian harvest festival, held to offer thanks to the Sun God, Surya, for a bountiful harvest. As Ponggal is a spring festival, celebrations take place between January 13 and 16 on the Gregorian calendar. Held at sunrise, the highlight of Ponggal is the cooking ceremony of sweet rice, which is boiled with milk in clay pots until it overflows, signifying wealth and a good harvest to come.

The E.L.I.T.E-KCHF Ponggal celebration was held on Sunday, 26 January 2014 as many of the residents who attended were busy with Thaipusam, which was held on the same week as Ponggal.

Getting the F&N; Magnolia Milk in their pots to boil proved to be a challenge for many, as most of the ladies were used to cooking with gas. But soon, the thirty clay pots, neatly lined up in rows on the tarmac, were busy bubbling away, cooking up the delicious sweetened rice.

It was not all hard work, however. Several traditional dances took place, accompanied by traditional music, causing the parking lot to explode into a virtual spectrum of twirling colours. It was a proud moment for the families as they watched their children happily perform the dances.

KCHF teachers Yasotha Dhanapal and Umayavalli Nadarajah, who prepared sweetened rice complete with cashews, raisins and various spices in a larger clay pot, had no problems with getting the fire started. Once the sweetened rice came to boil, it was served to the guests, who thoroughly enjoyed the dish. Following refreshments, a traditional dance performed by volunteer teacher B. Saguntala and student B. Induja closed the event.

“Festivals such as Ponggal are important in enhancing cross-cultural understanding between the various peoples in Malaysia,” said Van Toh Peng, Head of RTD Milk and Juices and Head of Corporate Affairs, F&N; Dairies Malaysia. “The result is one of the beautiful things about Malaysia: how its people so naturally participate in each other’s festivals, gaining an appreciation for other cultures. This is turn helps to build stronger bonds between the various cultures in Malaysia.”

G. Gunasegaran, who is wheelchair-bound, attended the event with his wife K. Malika and 3 children. “We are grateful to F&N; Dairies and KCHF for the chance to participate in this meaningful event,” said Gunasegaran.

“This is my first Ponggal and my first time preparing rice this way,” said Kokila, who was there with her daughter Preyasri, a student at the KCHF tuition centre. “Thank you to F&N; and KCHF for the opportunity.”

The F&N; Dairies E.L.I.T.E. programme was established to assist underprivileged children in taking learning to the next level, by empowering these children and their families to rise above their conditions and strive for a better future, effectively shaping the children into future agents of transformation for their families. In 2011, F&N; Dairies Malaysia partnered with the KCHF through their E.L.I.T.E programme, providing financial assistance for the upkeep of KCHF’s Pangsapuri Enggang tuition centre and food aid in the form of F&N; milk products.

“Our objective is to help our students develop a strong foundation and build a better life for themselves, to help get themselves and their families out of this situation. We want to provide these children with guidance and most importantly, hope for the future,” said Miliee Kassim, Executive Director of KCHF.

KCHF’s Pangsapuri Enggang tuition centre was the first of five KCHF centres to be established and currently has an enrollment of 165 students of all ages, from pre-school to secondary school students. The teaching staff are mostly residents themselves, many with their own children enrolled at the centre. The centre also extends its assistance to the children’s mothers, offering food aid and assistance such as tailoring classes as well as an annual camping trip in Semenyih for the children and their parents.


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