Event / Project details

Project start
22 Jul 2013
Event / Project end

Event / Project duration
This project is ongoing

Event / Project ID

Event / Project Name
Event / Project City
Event / Project Country
Preferred skills
Some experience or qualifications would be excellent, but are not necessary. The only requirement is a big heart and a desire to provide care and support.
Number of volunteers

Minimum age
Event / Project types
Community development, Child welfare and Education

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Brief overview


A live-in residential care project to help children with mental, physical and emotional disabilities as well as some young adults and abused women/children. Physiotherapy work available to those who are qualified.

The home is close to Sabah's beautiful coastline and around 15 minutes drive from it's thriving capital, Kota Kinabalu. 

You'll assist at Bukit Harapan, a publicly-funded residential home near Kota Kinabalu offering care for the underprivileged and helpless community. It is a shelter for abused women and children, victims of rape and children with mental and physical disabilities.


Start Dates

All year round - you choose your start and finish dates!


From 4 weeks and up to 1 year, subject to visa requirements


Some experience or qualifications would be excellent, but are not necessary. The only requirement is a big heart and a desire to provide care and support.


From £1,295 for 4 weeks, ranging to £2,295 for 12 weeks.

Full Price List and other Currencies

What's included

►Accommodation ►Food ►Meeting you at the Airport ►Transfer to your accommodation ►Full pre-departure support ►Local in-country team support and backup ►24-hr emergency support.

What's not included

Flights, Insurance, Cost of Visas (if a visa is required, but we'll provide necessary documents and assistance).

Who can do this Project?

All our projects are open to all nationalities.

Unless otherwise stated, you need to be aged between 17 and 70+


At the Centre, the children are given the necessary care and love (some on a one-to-one basis) according to their physical and emotional needs – bathing/washing them, feeding and general care (e.g washing of clothes, room cleaning and sweeping, cooking and playing). The home is constantly alive with the caregivers tending to the needs of the 48 residents, 33 of which are either orphaned, abandoned or have no proper home.

Some of the children have multiple disabilities and need close attention most of the time. There is a varied range of disabilities including; Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, Attention Deficit Disorder, Learning difficulties, Paralysis and Deafness. If you have experience as a Physiotherapist you'll be able to get involved with treatments.


  • An exciting, never-to-be-forgotten adventure into South East Asia and the fascinating Malaysian culture.
  • The enormous satisfaction of helping disadvantaged women and children and knowing that you made a difference to them.
  • New skills, more confidence, a greater understanding of a different culture, invaluable personal and professional development.
  • An entry on your CV or résumé that will put you head and shoulders above most others in the job market

And best of all ... an unforgettable experience!


Only 5 of the 48 residents go to normal schools so one of your main responsibilities will be to provide additional support and care for the children during the day. You’ll help by talking, playing and reading with them. You will also assist with mealtimes and some times cleaning up after them. The main mode of communication is Bahasa Malaysia but English is widely spoken and used amongst the staff.

It has always been the goal of Bukit Harapan to aid the helpless so that they may find confidence in life again, see the reason to stay alive, stand on their own feet and forgive those who have hurt them, giving them the chance to look forward to the future.

Each child is given an Individual Education Plan (IEP) according to his or her needs. They then follow a special educational programme that is modified or particularized for those students with special needs, such as learning differences, mental health problems, or specific disabilities (physical or developmental). Modifications can consist of changes in curriculum, supplementary aides or equipment, and the provision of specialized facilities that allow students to participate in the educational environment to the fullest extent possible. Students may need this help to access subject matter, to physically gain access to the school, or to meet their emotional needs. Support is targeted to the needs of the individual student and can be short or long term.

The home is also engaged in some outreach work to remote communities and a Rural Youth programme to help support individuals in the area and provide them with the skills required to care for those with disabilities.

Bukit Harapan relies heavily on public and private support to run as it supports 48 residents and 16 full-time and live-in staff, who do not have any fixed days off. The home is grateful that many individuals from middle to high-income brackets have been giving their support in the form of donating food essentials and other necessities to run the home. These are anonymous philanthropists who only wish to see the welfare of the home’s residents taken care of. However, the home is constantly in need of donors either in cash or kind to ensure the health and well being of its’ residents.

To sustain the livelihood of Bukit Harapan a nursery project has recently been initiated with the hope that sales from the plants and orchids will assist in the smooth operation of the home. An orchid mist house has been built with a herb garden in the pipeline. It is also part of the homes ‘green’ effort to rejuvenate the environment.


08.00 am – 12.00 pm : Special Education

12.00 pm – 12.30 pm : Lunch

12.30 pm – 01.00 pm : Cleaning

01.00 pm – 03.30 pm : Afternoon Nap

03.30 pm – 03.45 pm : Afternoon Tea

03.45 pm – 05.00 pm : Recreational Activities

05.00 pm – 06.30 pm : Shower

06.30 pm – 07.30 pm : Dinner

07.30 pm – 09.00 pm : Free Activity

09.00 pm : Bed Time

"It feels so unique to be helping people with a bad start to life, and all this experience is done in a culture I knew nothing about. I have seen how the staff work every day of the week for little money and share a room with the children so get no privacy. They do not ask for holidays and never complain. By living in this environment I have learned how the Malaysians care more about the group than the individual. Also, I have learned how fortunate us Westerners really are, and I hope I will use this information to fully appreciate everything.

There are 46 children here, all with a sad story, so it really opens your eyes. It is good because you do not have to be able to speak much of the language with the children, you just want to be able to make them laugh and play games.

Imagine walking into a room with lots of children running at you all incredibly happy to see you. For example with me they scream 'Brother' when I walk into a room. They are all happy which is rewarding. This is a worthwhile placement in which you generally make a difference not just to the children but to yourself. You make other people happy, and in return learn a lot about the culture and how fortunate we are in the Western World.

I will never forget it and have no regrets." 
David Llewellyn


The home was first established in 1989 and has recently moved to new premises built on land donated by the Sabah State Government. Its new location is just 15 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu. The home now consists of seven residential blocks, with 3 to 4 rooms each, to make up the dormitories for the residents and caregivers. It also has a Sundial school block consisting of five classrooms and an office. The main 2-storey block houses the dining, living, kitchen, laundry and staff room while the upper floor consists of an office, an interview room, visitors’ hall, store and bedroom with an ensuite.

This is a live-in volunteer programme, so you’ll be accommodated on site and will live, eat and sleep at the home. In this way you’ll get to know the staff and children quickly and will become part of the community at Bukit Harapan. You’ll be encouraged to join in with all activities and will be fully immersed into Malaysian culture in a very unique environment. This is a challenging but incredibly rewarding placement to take part in.


Some of the staff at Bukit Harapan are qualified care-assistants and others are ex-residents who have been successfully rehabilitated. For example;

Hamid, a 51 year-old orphan who is paralysed from the waist down and has been at the home for 15 years. Despite being wheelchair bound, he takes care of the garden, does minor maintenance around the home as well as care for the younger residents. Hamid is a very artistic person with great carpentry skills.

Jaafar, a 46 year-old orphan who is a slow learner. Jaafar helps in cleaning and sweeping around the compound.  He runs errands for the home, as well as ferrying children to and from school and picking up food.


Ideally you should have some specific skills in nursing, physiotherapy or caring for those with physical and/or mental impairments. If you have a background in physiotherapy, you can take a wider involvement in this instead of the care elements. If you don’t have any such skills but are very enthusiastic about getting involved please speak to us and we’ll be able to confirm whether this placement is suitable for you.


When you arrive you will be welcomed at the airport by Albert, our Malaysia Manager. He will take you to your accommodation in Kota Kinabalu where you will spend the first few days of your trip. Albert will give you an induction during this time, so that you can learn about the country and its culture, as well as useful information like how to use the phones, transport system etc.

You will then be taken to your school and accommodation and introduced to everyone concerned. You will be made to feel very welcome by all! 

Our projects in Malaysia are very popular and you are sure to have a wonderful time during your stay in Sabah.


You will fly into Kota Kinabalu International Airport where you will be welcomed by Albert, our Travellers Organiser and Malaysia Manager. Albert will settle you into your accommodation in KK for the first few nights of your stay. 

As there is so much to do in Sabah and the surrounding region, we recommend that you do some travelling around the country once your placement has finished. If this is the case, we can arrange your flights accordingly.

You have the option to arrange your own flights or we can assist you with your flight arrangements. If you would like us to do this for you, we will liaise with you regarding available flights and dates to suit you. All arrangements for your flight bookings/payments will be fulfilled by Murray Rogers Travel Limited, ATOL No. 6856. Where possible, we arrange for two or more people to travel on the same flight and we will let you have the names and telephone numbers of other volunteers on your flight, so that you can chat to each other or even meet up before leaving for your placement.

VISAS:. In countries where visas are needed, we'll send you all the necessary forms and information and make the process very easy for you.

Where possible, all flights we arrange for you have changeable return tickets because many of our volunteers choose to extend their stay once they are in their destination country. Changeable return tickets enable you to do so, within the limits of your visa and the level of your air ticket, of course. If you choose to book your own flights, you should endeavour to get a changeable ticket.

To read about the excellent Support & Backup we provide before you leave and during your programme, please click here.


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