Cover Deborah Henry of the Fugee School and Fugeelah help refugees in Malaysia receive holistic education.

These influential leaders are helping people fleeing conflict or persecution get back on their feet and lead full lives

World Refugee Day shines a light on the rights and needs of people fleeing conflict or persecution. The global day, which has been designated by the United Nations, invites people and organisations to direct resources to help the displaced rebuild their lives. Reminding everyone that refugees are just like you and me, with the right to be happy and thrive, these influential allies on Asia’s Most Influential list are sharing their stories and helping them get access to education, employment, and more. 

Deborah Henry, Malaysia

In a video shared on Instagram for World Refugee Day, Deborah Henry, co-founder of Fugee School, reminds, “It is non-negotiable. Seeking safety is a human right.” The clip, which features members of the Fugee family, goes on to say: “Whoever they are, wherever they come from, whenever people are forced to flee, they should be treated with dignity.”

Henry has been fighting for refugee rights to safety, education and more since 2009, when she founded the Fugee School. Today, the non-profit organisation provides holistic education, including academic, creative and life skills, for over 200 students each year. In 2019, she established Fugeelah, the jewellery brand that helps support the school and also provides employment to refugee children. She told Tatler, “Beyond just making jewellery, the Fugeelah girls also gain exposure to skills like entrepreneurship, as they sell and interact with customers.”

Read Deborah Henry’s full profile here


Don't miss: Deborah Henry on Helping Refugee Children Get the Life They Deserve

Ann Hui, Hong Kong

Known for tackling social issues on film, acclaimed Asian director Ann Hui reveals the reality of living in post-war Vietnam in Boat People (1982). Starring George Lam and Andy Lau, the film details the horrors that drive people to escape their country and become refugees elsewhere. Boat People follows Hui’s The Boy from Vietnam (1978) and The Story of Woo Viet (1981), all of which are part of her Vietnam trilogy. 

The film was a commercial and critical success, winning five awards, including Best Director, at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Boat People, along with Ke Tu Chiu Hen (1990) and Septet: The Story of Hong Kong (2020), was also presented at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2020, Hui received the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement from the Venice Film Festival. The first female director to receive the distinction, she said in an interview with Tatler, “In the filmmaking industry, there are more male than female directors. Winning this award as a woman offers more coverage and noise for female directors, and in turn there will be more job opportunities and recognition for us,” she says. “But gosh, I hope there won’t be too much publicity about me. It’ll be difficult to focus on my work.”

Read Ann Hui’s full profile here.


Don't miss: Hong Kong Filmmaker Ann Hui Talks Winning the Golden Lion Award and Her Filmmaking Journey

Lim Yuet Kim, Malaysia

“We chose food as our business because everyone needs to eat, and it's also a universal language,” PichaEats CEO Lim Yuet Kim said to Tatler. Together with Suzanne Ling and Lee Swee Lin, Lim co-founded the social enterprise to provide sustainable employment for refugees. PichaEats trains refugee families into chefs and then markets and delivers their home-cooked meals to clients. 

Ensuring success for its partners, PichaEats has created various avenues for the meals, from a convenient delivery menu and frozen goods to more involved buffet and wedding catering services. Since 2016, Lim’s social enterprise has given back RM2.5 million (around USD568,000) to refugee chefs from Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan. For World Refugee Day, PichaEats is hosting an afternoon tea at Lady Yi's Tea House, featuring food from South Asia and the Middle East, on June 26, Sunday. 

Read Lim Yuet Kim’s full profile here.


Don't miss: What Matters to Me: Lim Yuet Kim, Co-Founder of The Picha Project

Discover the changemakers, industry titans and powerful individuals who are making a positive impact on the region in the Asia’s Most Influential list from Tatler.

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.