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Beams of Hope : Inspirational Stories Amidst COVID-19

Nowadays, it is difficult to scroll through social media, turn on the TV, or read the news without being enveloped by a grim sense of despair. Sometimes even frustration, grief, and numbness all at once. With Covid-19 cases showing no signs of decline and uncertainty being at its all time high, there is no question that the rakyat is feeling the brunt of unabating hardships arising from COVID-19. 

However, during these trying times, it’s important to remind ourselves that all hope is not lost. Amidst the bleakness, this pandemic has given rise to acts of kindness that shine through darkness like luminescent beams of hope. The #BenderaPutih Movement, #KitaJagaKita and growing aid efforts from all segments of society reveal one important truth: that caring for one another has never been more important in facing a challenge as unprecedented as this one.

Here are some heartwarming, inspirational stories that have happened in recent months. We hope these stories can serve as reminders that acts of kindness (no matter how big or small) can go a long way in changing the lives of others, as well as ourselves.

#1: Stranger Helps A Homeless Man & His Feline Find A Home & Job 

A trip to McDonald’s turned into a life-changing encounter for Mohamad Faris Mohamad Fuard when he drove past a man wearing a green shirt at the traffic lights. Faris was on his way to seize the RM2 deal for selected drinks during Father’s Day when he caught sight of this man holding up a sign asking for donations. 

Source: Malay Mail

Faris chatted up with this man and found that he was homeless, living in his car and had picked up some furry felines from Elmina Reststop in Shah Alam. Shahrulnizam was his name. The 53-year-old had lost his livelihood and was struggling to survive in the midst of the pandemic[1].

Faris immediately gave Shahrulnizam some money to buy food and even bought 1kg of cat food for the furries. Then he took this story to Twitter and it quickly went viral. In no time, he managed to raise RM3,000 in donations. After the overwhelming response, Faris decided to reach out to Selangor State Assemblyman for Kota Anggerik, YB Najwan Halimi[2].

Source: World Of Buzz

Lo and behold, Shahrulnizam was offered a job as a lorry driver, alongside medical protection and housing for him and his furry friends!

Generosity and helping others gave Faris a fresh perspective on life. 

I’ve learnt to be more grateful for the things that I already have, and to refrain from being jealous of what other people have. – Mohamad Faris Mohamad Fuard

So, the next time you stop at a traffic light, do glance over to your right or to your left. You never know if you could change their lives – or if they could change yours, too.

#2: A Baskin Robbins Employee Sparked A Nationwide Discourse on Sign Language

On 5 June 2021, Azizul went to work expecting a regular day of serving ice cream. Little did he know, that day would turn out to be a memorable one as it was the first time he was going to service a deaf customer who happened to walk into the store during his shift.  

Initially, Azizul felt worried and was unsure about what to do. Thankfully, he remembered a friend who knows sign language and got on a call with him to help translate. The three-way conversation was captured on video by Azizul’s coworker and has been retweeted over 10,000 times[3]. Touched by the moving clip, many praised Azizul and his friend for attentively catering to the deaf customer’s needs.

Azizul’s tweet stirred insightful discussions on how Malaysians can create more inclusive spaces for our disabled community, with many commenters expressing their interest in joining sign language classes. Some also advocated the integration of sign language into our education syllabus. 

Let’s play our role in creating a more empathic society that gives unwavering support to the disabled community.

Visit Malaysian Sign Language’s Facebook Page for more information on how to join their sign language courses!

#3: Two Best Friends Launch A Mental Health Project For Students 

The pivot to online learning due to COVID-19 has negatively impacted students’ mental health, with many reporting heightened anxiety and loss of motivation[4].

In an effort to help students build emotional resilience amidst these challenging times, Trisyia Firds and Zarith Sofea, young students themselves, recently embarked on a passion project to help people navigate the complex terrains of mental health and other social issues. 

Through a Telegram Channel entitled ‘Train Talks’, the two girls aim to create a safe space for the youth to unpack emotions and explore their train of thoughts.

Monthly self-reflections, a daily dose of productivity, and social awareness sharings are some of the interesting content they push out regularly. In less than 24 hours after its launch, Train Talks gained more than 1,600 Telegram subscribers proving the need for a space like this. 

Train Talks started because we were learning how to articulate our train of thoughts. That said, whether you are juggling with a ball of mess or you feel like you are carrying the baggage of emotions at this point, we hope that this channel will help you through your journey.

#4: Senior Citizen With A Dark Past Now Brings Light To The Community And Feeds The Hungry 

Wan Kamariah Daud, fondly known as ‘Mak Wan’, is a 69-year-old changemaker who continues to pour love into society, despite having received much of the contrary throughout her past.

Source: Malaysiakini

As a former drug addict, Mak Wan has gone through hardships one could hardly imagine: having to scavenge for food from rubbish bins, sleep on cold concrete in the alleys, and even returning home only to be shunned and turned away by her own friends and family[5]

However, despite the numerous afflictions she experienced, Mak Wan’s innate kindness evoked a feeling within her to help the less fortunate. After finishing rehabilitation, Mak Wan wanted to create a community centre for the homeless. With the help of Harun Abu Bakar, Maryam Salwany and Muhd Syafiq, she was able to turn this dream into reality. 

Warung Makan Sahabat was set up in Jalan Chow Kit, emanating kindness to anyone who knocks on their doors. 

Source: Warung Makan Sahabat | Facebook

Over the years, Warung Makan Sahabat’s goals evolved from providing free meals to extending all kinds of help for those in need. Alongside Quranic classes and counselling programs, the centre also provides job opportunities for single mothers and former drug addicts[5].

Now, many volunteers come on the weekends to cook and prepare food. On normal days, we can order from single mothers or food providers. – Mak Wan

Source: Malaysia Gazette

Warung Makan Sahabat has now become more than what its name suggests; it is a place of warm refuge for marginalised communities. Those who were turned away by society, Mak Wan accepts with open arms.  

Mak Wan’s story is a clear example of how we humans are not confined to our past. It also serves as a reminder that we should facilitate other people’s growth as they transition into better versions of themselves. Mak Wan’s acceptance, empathy and love for the community are important values we should all strive to emulate.

#5: Liyana Helmi’s Petition for Pregnant Mothers

As Malaysia strives to increase its vaccination rate in the race towards herd immunity, one group, in particular, had been left behind with pressing and unanswered questions. They are pregnant and nursing mothers. 

Lack of clarification about the vaccination process despite the rising number of premature and stillbirths has led to heightened anxiety among mothers. Moreover, the MySejahtera app did not require its applicants to declare if they are pregnant; making it impossible to tailor specific responses to the vulnerable community. 

This prompted Liyana Helmi, a pregnant mother herself, to launch a petition– one that would urge the government to address the vaccination plan for expectant women[6].

The online petition. Source: Change.org

I started to consider whether I should apply for AZ that is opening on 26 May. But with not enough information provided by the government, I couldn’t make an informed decision. – Liyana Helmi

Liyana’s petition amassed over 4000 signatures and gained support from people of all backgrounds, including prominent figures YB Yeo Bee Yin and YB Teo Nie Ching. Within a short period of time, Jawatankuasa Has Jaminan Akses Bekalan Vaksin (JKJAV) quickly took action and published guidelines for pregnant and lactating mothers[6]

Liyana’s successful campaign also led to the addition of new features in the MySejahtera app, allowing these mothers to be easily identified within the national immunisation program.

Liyana Helmy reveals how a strong sense of initiative can be transformational in ensuring the protection of vulnerable groups, especially during this pandemic. The solidarity of the public in pushing for governmental action also reveals how crucial the rakyat’s voice can be in generating change.

#6: ‘Iskul Sama DiLaut’ Is More Than A School For The Stateless 

Sekolah Bajau Laut Omadal, also known as Iskul Sama DiLaut (in Bajau language), is a community-based initiative based in Pulau Omadal, Sabah. It aims to provide basic literacy lessons for undocumented children on the island who are unable to attend school. It is estimated that there are 900-1000 stateless individuals living on Pulau Omadal[7].

Source: Iskul Sama DiLaut | Facebook

Iskul uses community participatory methodology, whereby Bajau Laut students who were able to attain education become teachers to their less fortunate peers. Known as “Mastal Arikik,” these students teach basic Bahasa Malaysia and conduct simple arithmetic and art classes for Bajau Laut children[8].

Upon the onset of COVID-19, Iskul decided to go beyond this by embarking on relief efforts, too. Alongside their literacy lessons, they have distributed food packs, groceries, and even set up water tanks for households on the island which lacked access to clean water[8].

Source: Iskul Sama DiLaut | Facebook

Simultaneously utilising their learning centre as a distribution hub, Iskul partners with relevant authorities to send out much-needed aid to the Omadal community. As most residents rely on seafaring activities as a means to generate income, their relief efforts have proved life-saving amidst movement restriction orders. 

This crisis is hard for everyone, and for those of us that can, it’s about doing a little more to help. – Iskul Sama DiLaut

For those interested to help or support their work, please visit Iskul Sama DiLaut or drop us an email via iskul.samadilaut.omadal@gmail.com.

Written by Hasya Atiyah and edited by the Wiki Impact team.

Explore Our Sources:

  1. Velusamy, T. (2021). M’sians Rally Together To Help Homeless Uncle Who Lives In A Car With His Cats. World of Buzz. Link. 
  2. Najwan Halimi. (24 June 2021). Twitter. Link.
  3. Azizul Dean. (5 June 2021). Twitter. Link.
  4. Sundaresan, S, et al. (2020). Psychological Impact of COVID-19 and Lockdown among University Students in Malaysia: Implications and Policy Recommendations. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Link
  5. Khazizi, N. A. (2021). Mak Wan’s ‘dark past’ inspires her to serve Chow Kit homeless. Malaysiakini. Link
  6. Zamri, N. (2021). Liyana Farzana, Class 2006 launches a petition for Clearer Vaccination Info for Pregnant Mothers. Cemerlang. Link
  7. Letter. Iskul hopes to help bring aid to stateless community in Sabah island. Malaysiakini. Link. 
  8. Tong, G. (2021). The gift that keeps on giving – how the Iskul community school pays it forward. Malaysiakini. Link.
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