Mission & Vision
Promote and protect the right to health of marginalized communities.
HEI believes that universal access to affordable, high quality health care is a fundamental human right and recognizes that community participation and empowerment are instrumental to the realization of these rights.
A socially just world in which every human being is entitled to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity.
To establish and reorient laws, policies and programs to recognize and advance the right to health of marginalized communities so they are better able to achieve equity and justice in health.
To improve the physical and mental health of marginalized communities thus enabling them to live with increased dignity and well-being.
To strengthen marginalized communities to enable them to become more effective in promoting their right to health through interventions, advocacy and policy making at the community, national and international levels thus enabling them to gain increased agency over their health and lives.
To advance and operate on the principle that every individual is entitled to full and equal access to all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.
All relationships shall be guided by a dynamic of mutual respect, which recognizes the opinions, beliefs, values, experiences, and status of others
To advocate for women’s equal access to and participation in all aspects of society, including economic, political, legal, education, and health systems, and freedom from all forms of discrimination, violence, abuse, and exploitation.
Since 2007, HEI has provided community-based mental health programs for refugees and asylum seekers, which include prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Look at how we’ve grown over the years.
Founded by Dr Sharuna Verghis and Dr Xavier Pereira
Health Equity Initiatives is formally incorporated
Community Based Mental Health Program established with the first Community Health Worker Training Program in Mental Health, and part time counseling services
Medical Clinic held for the first time at HEI’s new office
HEI’s Community Centre open its doors
Health and Human Rights Internship and Elective Program established. Under this program, an intern from Tulane University carried out Tuberculosis Adherence Study
HEI began community engagement with the Myanmar and Afghan communities
Participatory Action Research carried out by HEI on the Barriers to Access HealthCare for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Malaysia
Case Management Services Established
Mental Health Services expanded to a full fledged team of eight
Interns from International Medical University carried out a study on the Afghan refugees living in Malaysia published as Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Experiences of Afghan Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Malaysia
Mental Health Services in the community expands to include the Care and Support Program. Transportation Subsidies for Patients. The Support Group Starts Conducted Rapid Appraisals for the three Government Run Shelters for Victims of Trafficking. HEI subsequently ran trainings for the care providers at three shelters to address their capacity building needs
HEI’s Recreational Club Established
Co-organized the National Consultation on Forced Labour and Human Trafficking: The Malaysian Experience and Response with the Bar Council and the Malaysian Trades Unions Congress where the Forced Labour and Human Trafficking Research Report was launched
HEI Team Building at Morib
Follow up Roundtable Discussion on the National Consultation on Forced Labour and Human Trafficking. Launch of the “Forced Labour, Human Trafficking and Mental Health” social media campaign
Roundtable discussion on the Sex Education Needs of Children. Publication of Sex Education Needs Assessment in Burmese Refugee School-Aged Adolescents launched
Developed the Basic Psychosocial Support Guidelines for Government Shelter Staff as commissioned by International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Tuberculosis Treatment and Adherence among Refugees and Asylum Seekers from Burma in the Klang Valley report presented in a poster presentation at the 43rd Union World Conference on Lung Health
Four capacity building workshops. Trauma Care Workshop, Critical Incident Stress Management Workshop, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) workshop, Interpersonal Therapy Workshop
Mental Health Services in the Community expands with the Support Group and Psychosocial Rehabilitation Program
Farsi speaking volunteer CHW joins the team
Start of a Two-Year Pilot Project for the Provision of Training on Psychosocial Support for Care Providers at the Government Run-Shelters for Trafficked Persons
HEI Team Building at Raub
Mental Health Services in the Community expands with Transportation Services, Physiotherapy Services, Teaching Clinics in partnership with Taylor’s University School of Medicine, and weekly case supervision/discussion convened by the Mental Health Services Director
Rohingya volunteer CHW joins the team
HEI becomes a member of the Subcommittee on Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee of the Bar Council of Malaysia
HEI’s director, Dr Sharuna Verghis, is nominated as the advisor to the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN）steering committee
HEI presents its work at the MHPSS thematic session at Annual UNHCR_NGO consultation in Geneva
HEI presented at the Southeast Asian Human Rights Studies Network (SEAHERN) Conference panel on the Regional Responses to Asylum Seekers- HUman Rights and the Shrinking Protection Spaces in Southeast Asia and Australia
Dr Xavier as the Chair of the Human Rights Committee on the Malaysian Medical Association, organized a symposium on the Right to Health in which an issue discussed was the health of marginalized populations
Establishment of the Medical Volunteers program and Psychosocial Support Services Unit
Arabic Speaking CHW speaking volunteer CHW joins the team
Community Health Workers Training Program in Mental Health’s Graduation Ceremony formalized
Capacity building workshops. Training on Suicide Risk Prevention for the Community Faith Based Leaders, Facilitation Skills Workshop
Dr Sharuna invited to form the Expert Group on Women, Migration and Health in order to inform the World Health Organizations’ (WHO) Director General’s Report on the Health Contributions and Consequences of Women’s Mobility
Dr Sharuna Verghis forms the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network advocacy mission
Full time Urdu speaking translator joins the team
Publication of Human Trafficking and Mental Health: A Primer
Three capacity building workshops: Interpersonal Therapy Workshop, Suicide Risk Prevention for the IAWC MHPSS
Monitoring and Evaluation Unit established: Acceleration of the Information Management System
HEI celebrated its 10th Anniversary!
Relaunch of HEI’s website and social media campaign
Trauma intervention starts its Door to Door Service
HEI presented Malaysian Association of Social Workers Seminar
Three capacity building workshops: Psychological First Aid Workshop. Psychological Techniques for Managing People who have experienced Torture Training Workshop and Community Engagement Strategies
MHPSS training for Trauma and Recovery (HEI/UNHCR/Monash)
Participatory Action Research on Social Emotional Learning -PARSEL (Kachin Refugee learning Center, HEI and Monash University)
WHO/HEI – REWIRE: A Complexity-Based Community Engagement Training Program for Working with Urban Refugees
PARSEL Project – Ongoing
Covid 19 – transition to working from home and telepsychiatry services
HEI will celebrate its 15th Anniversary in December
STAR-MH Screening Tool
FIND Project – Improving access to Covid 19 testing in refugee learning centers in Malaysia
Board of directors
Dr. Sharuna Verghis PhD
The co-founder and Director of HEI. She is a public health researcher, educator, practitioner, and advocate. Dr. Verghis has worked extensively on the issue of migration and health for more than 20 years, at community and regional/international levels. She was the first Coordinator of Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM Asia) and set up its regional secretariat in Kuala Lumpur. Dr. Verghis has served on national, regional, and international research and intervention projects related to migration and health. Her doctoral thesis used an interdisciplinary approach uniting international human rights law with public health to examine the access of urban refugee women to maternal health care. She is a Senior Lecturer at the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University, Malaysia.
Dr. Xavier Vincent Pereira
A Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist, and Adjunct Professor at Taylor’s University’s School of Medicine. He consults at two private hospitals and the Sg. Buloh General Hospital. He has more than 20 years of experience in various forms of community work. He is also the founder Chair of the Catholic Counselors and Therapists Malaysia. He serves as a Director, Mental Health Services Director and pro bono psychiatrist at HEI. Dr. Pereira is an alumni of St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India. He did his Masters in Psychological Medicine at University Malaya and has a certification in IPT by the International Society of IPT. He gained further certification as a supervisor and trainer in IPT under the IPT Institute, USA.
MS. ASHA LIM
A lawyer by training and has vast experience in working with disenfranchised communities. She has worked with interest groups focusing on people with disabilities, child abuse, trafficking, HIV and AIDS, refugees, and disaster response, in a number of countries including Malaysia, Thailand, India, Uzbekistan, and Cambodia. In the midst of diversity of interests, her focus has always been the delivery of services to and the empowerment of persons in great need, especially children. Her personal mission is to facilitate the delivery of these services to the standard of good governance, transparency and accountability.
MS. AshLEY KOH
Steering Committee Members
Dr. Alice Nah PhD
A Research and Teaching Fellow at the Center for Applied Human Rights at the University of York. She is actively involved in transnational civil society networks – she is the Vice President of the International Detention Coalition and a member of the Steering Committee of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (serving as its previous Chair). In recognition of her achievements in migrant and refugee rights advocacy, the US State Department in its 2009 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report named her as one of its nine heroes. She conducts research on state power and non-citizens in Malaysia as well as security management practices of human rights defenders at risk around the world.
MR. MARTIN JONES
A lecturer in international human rights law at the Center for Applied Human Rights at the University of York. Mr. Jones has been a member of the executive committee of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration and chaired its 11th biennial conference in Cairo. Mr. Jones is a member of the steering committee of the Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network and a consultant to refugee legal aid organizations in Cyprus, Egypt, Hong Kong, Jordan, Malaysia and Turkey; he has provided advice on refugee policy to UNHCR and the governments of Canada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Taiwan. In 2008, he co-founded the Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights which is now the largest provider of legal aid to refugees and migrants in domestic courts in Egypt. He was the first chair of the Legal Aid Working Group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, a regional coalition of over 100 NGOs, and is an advisor to its steering committee. His research interests include the reform of the governance of the international refugee protection regime, the interaction between international and national refugee law, and refugee law in Asia.
We work in close collaboration with refugee community organizations in Malaysia. A spirit of partnership informs HEI’s work, as community members are involved from project design through to implementation, and are regularly asked to give feedback.
Our partners include:
- Alliance of Chin Refugees (ACR)
- Afghan Community Centre (ACC)
- Ahmadiyya Refugee Community (ARC)
- Arakan Refugee Relief Committee (ARRC)
- Burmese Refugee Organization (BRO)
- Chin Catholic Refugee Community (CCRC)
- Chin Refugee Committee (CRC)
- HUMA Cultural and Educational Centre (HUMA)
- Kachin Refugee Committee (KRC)
- Kachin Youth Refugee Committee (KRC Youth)
- Lisu Refugee Committee (LRC)
- Myanmar Christian Fellowship (MCF)
- Malaysia Karen Organization (MKO)
- Mon Refugee Organization (MRO)
- Myanmar Ethnic Women Refugee Organization (MEWRO)
- Myanmar Muslim Refugee Community (MMRC)
- Multinational Women’s Organization of Burma (MNWOB)
- National League for Democracy (NLD)
- Organization for Karenni Development (OKD)
- Rohingya Society of Malaysia (RSM)
- Rohingya Women Development Network (RWDN)
- Shan Refugee Organization (SRO)
- Siyin Organization of Malaysia (SOM)
- Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees Organization of Malaysia (STROM)
- Sri Lanka Refugees Migration Community Service (SRMCS)
- TANMA Federation (TANMA)
- Yemeni Refugee Women Organization (YRWO)
- Zomi Association of Malaysia (ZAM)