“Our Key Club works to make sure [the refugees here in Malaysia] feel comfortable speaking English. It’s our top priority,” said Dr. Chika Kumashiro-Wilms, Key Club faculty advisor at the International School of Kuala Lumpur. “These refugees have been systematically persecuted because of their race and religion, so it’s the least we can do for them.”

Key Clubs working with refugees: the latest discovery of the Key Club Committee on International Development and Expansion. The brand-new committee has been working to provide Key Clubs abroad with resources that are traditionally distributed byKey Club districts. An unintended result of communication with these Key Clubs is the discovery of uniquely impactful projects — such as work with refugees.

“It’s a very special project because it allows our members to build relationships with the refugees,” said Dr. Wilms. “Many of the refugee students are the same age as our Key Clubbers, so a lot of them really do get to know one another.”

The committee was ecstatic to hear about the efforts of this Key Club, but what’s interesting is that the International School of Kuala Lumpur isn’t the only club abroad making headway in refugee work. A club in Brazil, the American School of Rio de Janeiro, also is working to improve the quality of life for refugees in that country. In April 2017, Key Club members held a drive to collect school supplies that were donated to their local refugee camp. Could the Committee on International Development and Expansion be uncovering a new branch of service for Key Clubs in North America?

Committee member Jared Dutko, a Key Club International trustee who works with clubs in Latin America and Western Europe, is skeptical. “I’m not sure about that, but it’s an intriguing possibility,” he said. In addition, he is excited about what the committee will accomplish in the coming year. “Key Club has never actually tried communicating directly with clubs like this before. I find it fascinating to be speaking with clubs halfway around the world. I can’t begin to imagine how our work on this committee will impact the future of the organization.”

Dr. Wilms from Kuala Lumpur expressed her excitement about enhanced communication between international officers and club members. “I think just having someone speak directly with our club officers will help legitimize Key Club. Key Club always boasts that it is an ‘international organization,’ yet here in Kuala Lumpur, we don’t receive much correspondence other than from our Kiwanis district. Emails, videos and resources from foreign countries will help our members grasp how global Key Club really is.”

The committee has discovered some cultural differences in international clubs, though. Clubs abroad tend to focus on one project all year rather than spread themselves out as North American clubs do. One thing the committee has discovered that is apparently the same worldwide?
Dr. Wilms said it best: “Everyone always asks us if we make keys!”

Jack Nannie, International Trustee
Chair of Intl. Development and Expansion
Key Club International