• Zarith | Fearless journalist, powerhouse poet and wannabe astronaut

Zarith shares his many riveting journeys as a human migrant.

From a boy who runs around the village half- naked with my mum’s veil, while playing at serving ‘regal ’ afternoon tea to becoming a young scientist at 13, it has been a global soul searching for me to fit in somewhere I can safely and finally call my ‘home’. Born in a tropical island in Malaysia, a multicultural home set a deeply rooted, dynamic and diverse foundation that would carry me in various parts of the world. Not much interested in ‘manly ’sports in my younger days, romantic English literature from the likes of Jane Austen & William Wordsworth took me to faraway misty English countryside, often fantasising of my knight in shining armour. Thanks to my sister, she also introduced me to classical music, and I demanded to learn to play piano and master a few languages.

As a chubby kid who loved a myriad of intercultural gastronomic delights, food has become central to one of my passions which is cooking. Having a beloved grandmother on my side who cooked almost every day, she lovingly hand-fed me simple, flavourful, home cooked meals. Having both of my parents who worked full time, my late grandmother was not only my source of inspiration but also the most altruistic soul who instilled in me bountiful gentleness, affection, empathy, and kindness to become the softhearted person that I am today. I could not thank her enough to be in my formative life to my mid teenage years. When she passed on, it was the biggest blow in my entire life as I felt as my wings had been clipped & my heart had been wrenched out of my ribcage. I remember reading her newspaper articles in her later years as she was unable to read due to her vision impairment, not knowing that I would become a journalist one day.

I was academic which enabled me to be admitted to one of the best boarding, religious school. But the shocking brutal treatment that I received there cemented my purpose of life to help people like myself and the displaced, stateless and the marginalised even more.

I overcame these challenges by focusing on scientific research into breakthrough medical intervention. After losing and winning local and national science fairs and competitions, we finally won first place in the world class innovation competition held by the British Council. We flew to the UK and visited leading scientific tertiary institutions. A few years later, I cheekily applied for a selection to be Malaysia’s first astronaut! I was almost sent to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan but the dream was dashed as the organiser realised I was far too young to participate.

At the University of East London, I was honoured to be part of former alumni to campaign for equal and fair access to tertiary education for people seeking asylum and beyond. I even created and proposed a flag to be used by many universities in Europe and in the UK as a mark of these universities who accepted this scheme.

My wonderful former lecturer, Miss Erica Masserano inspired me through her Creative Writing classes to the point that my poems now being used as teaching resources in a Hungarian university. I was chosen to give a presentation at Bard University in Berlin in October this year, and although the bureaucracy with the Home Office stopped me from going, I was not fazed by it. Another lecturer, Ms Sonia Quintero then introduced me to Newham Poetry Group which I am actively part of. I even performed at the Newham Poetry Festival, National Maritime Museum and Queen's House in London.

Together we even kickstarted Borderless project that is an initiative to create, friendly, safe spaces for people of colour (POC), those from different backgrounds and refugees and forced migrants to challenge prejudice and dismantle hate. Since I have completed a few courses in University of East London (UEL), I am hoping to start another one next year in University of College London (UCL) with full scholarship.

I also have had an ongoing risk due to my role as a journalist and the fact that I discussed politics. When I was working as a broadcasting journalist I whistle blew on the Malaysian government about embezzlement. Fortunately, there was a change in the government, and currently after many years, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia has been convicted & jailed for his involvement in the largest kleptocracy crime in the world. When I see injustice anywhere in the world whether it is here in the UK or elsewhere, it compels me to fight to make it right even if it endangers my own life.

Having seen & lived in a society where racism is profoundly institutionalised and having many friends who are of minority ethnic backgrounds, I utterly understand the challenges the world is facing right now. This battle to vanquish racism & inequality regardless of any colour, creed, orientation and nationalities has been and will always be close to my heart. I do not want just to be the voice of the voiceless, but I would love to empower people and mould them to have conviction within themselves to be their best version. This would then set an example and create a multiplier effect for many more people to be successful in their lives.

With my wealth of experience, I aspire to create a community that can champion kindness and caring. Community is an amalgamation of different people coming together to create a society. If you want to have a glimpse of a better future, we must have kinder and more caring communities. Then we can change the whole narrative and course of a country, and love will win over hatred. It starts with community, and it takes a community to bring tangible change to a reality. That will be real progress for everyone: if we can set aside our ideological differences & focus on humanity.