Winner of GIS Learner Skills Award, Alumna Safiyyah Rafe!

Alumni Safiyyah Rafe (Class ‘20), who will soon be embarking on a BA Economics at London School of Economics and Political Science, has recently been awarded the ‘GIS Learner Skills Award’ for her inspiring work in supporting the Somali Refugee Community. Having recognised a need for the support of this marginalised group in KL, she has shown exceptional commitment to working with external organisations to ensure sustainable change. 


Safiyyah could you tell us more about this award?

The GIS Skills Award is an award that celebrates those who show commitment, passion and drive in thriving beyond the various learner skills. It highlights the importance of being a global citizen and showcases the inspiring network of GIS students. I am extremely humbled to be a recipient of this incredible award! 


What was your journey behind this award? 

Having observed growing inequality in Malaysia as well as having worked with the Somali refugee community, I got a first hand view of the inequality of opportunities and exploitation faced by the most marginalised segments in Malaysia. Restrictive and non existent laws complicate the plight of the refugees – they are unable to fully assimilate into our community. Deprived of the right to work, the Somali community ended up being exploited as cheap labour in the informal economy, often earning less than RM600 a month. Over the past two years, I learnt that they possess great entrepreneurial spirit and have been working closely with the bakers in the community to commercialise their baking skills in order to become self-sufficient. I organised a fundraiser which successfully transformed the two-toaster kitchen into an industrial style bakery so that they were able to sell their traditional breads for income.

Moreover, realising that the lack of equal access to education will perpetuate their inequality of opportunities, I approached a global fundraising platform, LaunchGood, and successfully raised RM55,000 to upscale the Somali Community School. 

In addition, since the majority of the migrants are single mothers, I arranged sewing, jewellery-making, and English classes so that they can be personally and financially independent. I am proud that the single mothers are empowered to produce various jewellery and clothing to earn a sustainable income. The social media platform I established has also enabled the jewellery to be sold to the local community and at various bazaars in KL. 


What are the core values that you learn at GIS?

Growing up with Garden International School over the past 13 years has taught me the importance of being a global citizen and the positive influence young adults can mould. It has inspired me to drive change in a community that I feel personally connected to. Over the three years of working with the community, I was faced with many challenges. All of the challenges took resilience, innovation and dedication to overcome. The core values that I’ve learnt at GIS have helped me beyond the classroom as it has pushed me to have a positive influence on others. The values instilled within our esteemed school’s learner skills has helped mould me into the young woman I am today. 


How does GIS support your transition to University?

I am extremely grateful for the incredible support I received during my transition into University. Our higher education officers were always available to offer advice and support- sorry for all of the out-of-hours emails! During our university applications, our subject teachers and tutors were understanding and kind. They knew we were loaded with deadlines, personal statements and admission tests so they supported us by always checking up on us and making sure we didn’t feel burdened by our school work. This made the whole process less stressful and eased anxiety. We’ve also been given a plethora of lessons that cover topics like budgeting, personal safety and cooking that will most definitely help us in University. As the next chapter begins, many of my teachers have reached out to keep in touch and we’ve even had class dinners to celebrate us flying the nest. I am very lucky to have met such incredible people at my time at GIS!


Advice to our young students at GIS?

Make the most out of your time at GIS! There are so many amazing opportunities, but it is up to you to make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. If you have a passion project in mind, make sure to reach out and connect. You can be inspired just from talking to teachers, parents or students. There is a fantastic community at GIS and it can open many doors for you. 


Thank you, Safiyyah, for sharing this truly inspiring work. What an example to show the importance of GIS’s Learning Skills! Read more inspiring stories of our Alumni at our Alumni Website.

Do you have a story to share? We always love hearing from our GIS alumni. Do get in touch if you would like to showcase your work. You can do this via Facebook, or by emailing us at, because every story matters. 

Safiyyah Rafe GIS learner skills award certificate (2)