Way back in 1700, a French missionary, St Louis Marie de Montfort, dedicated his life to serving youths in need.
His steadfast vision was to develop a place to care for and develop the skills of disadvantaged youths, particularly the least, the lost and the last in society. Montfort’s motto: “Those whom the world rejects must move you the most.”
Within Malaysia, four religious brothers – Bro Bertrand Roberge (also known as Bro Elzear), Bro Evariste Zephir Bourassa, Bro Fernand Joseph and Bro Henry (Henri Auray) – realised this vision in 1959. These four Canadian and French Brothers of St Gabriel worked tirelessly, imbued with love, commitment and perseverance, to redevelop a portion of a rubber estate in Shah Alam into the Montfort Boys Town.
Since then, this institution has provided a ray of hope, that everything is possible when ideals are based on faith and determination. Behind its achievements are big-hearted people who have contributed towards realising the dream of its founding brothers.
Forty years later, the brothers established the Montfort Youth Training Centre in Sabah. In 2001, the Montfort Youth Centre opened in Ayer Salak, Malacca. Both places provide the same training as the centre in Shah Alam. The brothers set up these branch institutes as part of their expansion plans and after considering public appeals.
The Sabah and Malacca institutes share the same goals as the Shah Alam centre: providing skills training and character formation to academically and financially challenged youths and nurturing them to live dignified lives.
Monfort Boys Town has come a long way, celebrating its 62nd anniversary in 2021. It can look back with pride at its remarkable development since its formation, its stature achieved through sheer hard work, anchored upon a labour of love for humanity.
This noteworthy history was not achieved at the drop of a hat. Its place in the community grew brick by brick, soul by soul, achievement by achievement despite many limitations.
Monfort Boys Town has blossomed into a holistic learning institution devoted to serving underprivileged youths. In 2002, after careful consideration, the brothers opened up to enrol girls. Thus began the Montfort Girls Centre, with a similar set-up as the boys in Shah Alam.
Today, these skills training centres provide financially challenged youths a path to equip themselves with relevant skills and bring out their talents. Its two-year practical vocational training and living skills programmes also instil in them the confidence to succeed. Indeed, many of these youths have achieved success in life, moving from despair to hope and optimism.
Today, Monfort maintains a community of over 7,500 deserving youths, offering them technical training in automotive maintenance, graphic design and multimedia, bakery and pastry skills, hospitality, electrical maintenance and facilities maintenance.
To be eligible for enrolment, applicants must be aged 16 to 19 and should have the consent of their parents or legal guardians.
Priority is given to academically and financially challenged youths, orphaned youths, those from single-parent families, those from dysfunctional families and those from minority ethnic groups.
Many generous donors among the public have supported the institute’s work over the years. They have been inspired by the success and positive impact that the institute’s programmes have had on the lives of their charges. They recognise the noble and herculean work undertaken in the service of the less fortunate young people in society.
But the past 18 months of the Covid pandemic have hit Monfort’s financial resources hard. The prolonged lockdown has hampered the lives of many donors, many of whom have had to reduce their contributions or cease them altogether.
The institute now faces a critical challenge to sustain its programmes given the huge disruption to its sources of funding. It is against this gloomy backdrop that Monfort Boys Town has had to appeal for financial support to see it through these tough. It needs about RM600,000 to cover its operating expenditure for 2021.
The institute and its students will surely appreciate any act of kindness. After all, its mission is to empower the disadvantaged. In this, Monfort stands as a beacon of hope for a better future for disadvantaged youths in the country.
For those who would like to make a tax-exempt donation to support the work of the Monfort Boys Town, please visit their website here.