There is no better way to start the year than to talk about good and hopeful stories that spur generosity, encourage empathy and stir a sense of community among Malaysians. While the needs are mounting and sometimes overwhelming, there is always someone we can reach out to to show some kindness, care and love.
In a world where sensational news takes ample space in the headlines, we compiled six stories of transformation spurred by changemakers on the ground.
#1: Holding The Torch For Stateless Children
Syhikin and Najwa, two stateless children, were given a chance to blossom at Cahaya Society, an NGO dedicated to providing stateless children opportunities and alternative forms of education in Sandakan, Sabah. Both Syhikin and Najwa entered as illiterate and have never stepped into formal education, a story shared by many more stateless children in Malaysia.
Since 2019, Syhikin and Najwa have attended alternative education provided by the Cahaya Society. In addition to enhancing literacy and numeracy skills, the children are also exposed to arts and music. Both Syhikin and Najwa are able to play the ukulele and have dabbled in poetry.
These two girls have big souls and a passion for arts and literature, so they train themselves to produce works of poetry and poets related to environmental issues, emotions and cultural backgrounds as coastal children who are neglected in education.
From not knowing the letters to being good at composing stanzas, poems recording their feelings and souls in literary paragraphs, that’s the great change we see.
– Cahaya Society
15 and 14 years respectively, the young ladies have since graduated from Cahaya Society’s programmes and are now leading the Cahaya Alumni Club consisting of Cahaya’s former students. Both Syhikin and Najwa are now community teachers mobilised to teach and facilitate community programmes. The two ladies however have bigger dreams. They are currently working on a manuscript which is a compilation of their poems due to be published soon.
#2: A Beating Heart
The Miracle Baby Programme, a Ministry of Health collaboration with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and a team of doctors from Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital (SSSSH), sees patients with a congenital heart given a new lease on life.
The programme targets children outside of Klang Valley as unfortunately most of the cardiological facilities are in the Klang Valley.
Up until December 2022, 12 patients have undergone surgery including three from Sabah.
Eisya Marzuki, 16, is one of the beneficiaries of the Miracle Baby Programme. The form 4 student at SMK Hamid Khan, Penang expressed her gratitude that she was given another go at life.
My mother took me to the doctor and it was discovered that I have a hole in my heart. I never showed any symptoms before this although I lead a very active lifestyle and take part in sports. I am looking forward to going back to school. – Eisya Marzuki, a beneficiary of the Miracle Baby Programme 
#3: Turning Orang Asli Youths Into Paramedics
The MedikOA initiative started at the height of the pandemic as part of the DRsForAll outreach programme at Kampung Dayok, Pos Lenjang, Pahang. The intention behind Medik OA is to equip Orang Asli (OA) youths with first responder treatment and basic life-saving skills to treat medical emergencies in the community.
Out of the 33 pioneering youths, 17 are currently doing it full-time. Dr Steven Chow Kim Weng, the founder of the Medik OA initiative, has seen immense growth.
Over three years, we find that they learn very fast. Now they can converse in English. They have matured. – Dr Steven Chow Kim Weng, the founder of the Medik OA initiative 
The next step for budding paramedics is to take ownership of the Medik OA administration and programmes. Some of the youths have also been offered scholarships for further courses.
We have obtained five scholarships for the youths ready to be sent for such programmes at the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology University. – Dr Steven Chow Kim Weng, the founder of the Medik OA initiative 
#4: Rebuilding Homes For The Less Fortunate
Wan Chew Liean, a 42-year-old, single mother to four children, has been living in dilapidated conditions. However, fixing their home is the least of her concern as she tries to make ends meet after her husband, Wan Chew Liean, passed away in 2020.
IJM Land, a property developer, first met Wan and her family during IJM Land’s Chinese New Year charity programme in 2021.
We first met Wan and her beautiful family during IJM Land’s Chinese New Year charity programme in 2021 — that was when we discovered that her house was in dilapidated condition and we needed to do something to ensure she and her family have a secure place to live in that is not only cosy but also fully equipped with the basic necessities. – Chai Kian Soon, senior general manager of IJM Land 
The family lived in a termite-infested single-storey wooden house in Kampung Kayu Ara, Seremban, and through IJM Land’s annual Home Rehabilitation programme (myHome), the home received a facelift. The new home for Wan and her family is also equipped with new electrical appliances and desktops for her children’s learning.
#5: Shashi Thevaraj, Painting A Better Future For Indian Youths
Shashivarmaan Thevaraj or fondly known as Shashi had a colourful past. He was often involved in fights and nearly expelled within his first week in secondary school.
Due to peer influence, I started getting into fights. My mother was called to my school. She cried in disappointment, saying that I was her only hope to elevate my family’s circumstances. That was when I started to change for the better. – Shashivarmaan Thevaraj, Tunku Scholar 2019 
In 2019, Shashi was awarded the Tunku Abdul Rahman scholarship. Shashi pursued his studies in international affairs undergraduate at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) in Kedah. At the same time, scholars were required to undergo a two-year leadership programme to create positive waves of change in the community.
As a Tunku scholar, I was also required to carry out at least one community project. That was what got me to initiate the social media page with infographics and resources to raise awareness of the plight of my community. – Shashivarmaan Thevaraj, Tunku Scholar 2019 
The community project was the start of Shashi’s journey to highlight the struggles faced by the Indian youths. Some of his community projects involve running a book drive to obtain more reading materials for students in SJK(T) Ladang Tanah Merah, Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan.
The school is in dire need of books as it plans to kickstart a reading programme to improve its pupils’ literacy level. – Shashivarmaan Thevaraj, Tunku Scholar 2019 
The Youth Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) fellow at Portland State University in the United States has bigger plans for the future. Shashi hopes to initiate a social enterprise that would address the plights of the Indian community.
I aspire to start a social enterprise that focuses on organising development programmes for the Indian community and doing research to advise on policy implementation. – Shashivarmaan Thevaraj, Tunku Scholar 2019 
Recently, Shashi received the prestigious Tunku Gold Medal Award, that prize include an RM10,000 cash reward and an RM10,000 grant for a community program.
#6: K-9 Cottage Bounced Back From Flood Woes
When the #daruratbanjir hit K-9 Cottage in Hulu Langat, a centre that provides therapeutic services for people to play with dogs in a natural environment washed away in debris and landslides following the flood.
The owner, Salehin Othman and his 8 canine friends were safe, but their homes were damaged. It was a slow rebuilding process for Salehin, who resolved to live in a tent with no proper amenities.
I have received about RM30,000 in donations but, to rebuild the whole place, I think I need a lot more funds. I’m hoping, if there are more volunteers and donations, to get the place up and running in six months. – Salehin Othman, owner of K-9 Cottage 
Thanks to public support and donation amounting to RM 100,000, at the end of December 2022, Salehin is greeting the new year on a happy note as he was able to rebuild his and the dogs’ home and beautify the surroundings of K-9 Cottage, set to reopen soon.
It’s about 80% done but not open to the public just yet because of the rainy season. Hopefully, after January, I will be able to open it. – Salehin Othman, owner of K-9 Cottage 
Explore our sources:
- A.Dermawan. (2022). Miracle Baby Programme brings heart surgeries to children outside Klang Valley. New Straits Times. Link
- A.Lai. (2022). Equipping Orang Asli with medical skills. The Star. Link
- Nuprop.(2022). PROPERTY NEWS: IJM Land renovates home for underprivileged family through their Home Rehabilitation programme (myHome). Link
- D.R.Suraindiran.(2022). Tunku scholar commits to life of service. The Star. Link
- N.Zulkifli & R.Supramaniam. (2022). K9 cottage’s cry for help. The Malaysian Insight. Link
- R.R.Ganesan. (2023).Flood-hit canine centre almost fully restored a year later. Free Malaysia Today. Link