By Lan KB
These are people-centric stories carried by us in the past months which we are now republishing to give you, our readers, another glimpse of these inspiring personalities.
From Penang-based Dr Chew Yu Gee who started a school for children with special needs and had allocated countless hours to be with them to the social worker Elaine Surin who has dedicated 20 years of her life to volunteer and social work with no pay and has dealt with a range of communities including the LGBT and Orang Asli communities. Elaine’s heart and soul now lie with the community at the PPR Lembah Subang.
And finally, we give you Thavasothy S. Mailvaganam Pillai – visually impaired since birth but had withstood all obstacles coming his way to become a successful teacher, and now a lecturer.
We hope these personalities will give you encouragement and inspiration to do something right and positive. Do enjoy reading them and share your feedback with us.
Dr Chew is a highly successful, much-respected pediatrician. He is the medical director of the Hope Children’s Hospital and a resident pediatrician who owns seven clinics all over Penang.
It was in the midst of building clinic number eight, within the grounds of his enviable seafront home in the prized Batu Ferringhi stretch, that life took another turn for the good doctor. Dr Chew’s desire to give back to society was already very strong and he was known for giving poor patients free treatment, but what was to come next, is what makes the man he is today.
Sitting with his beautiful wife Melody at a table in the lobby cum coffee house of The Lost Paradise Resort, a niche boutique hotel by the sea, Dr Chew tells his story with exuberance. The lobby used to be their living room, and the hotel, their house.
Elaine’s heart and soul now lie with the community at the PPR Lembah Subang. At the moment, Elaine is a lifeline and comfort-giver: she is playmate, teacher, and friend to the children and counselor and friend to the women and men there. Almost every day of the week she walks all the eight blocks and is familiar with the families and their backgrounds. Pick a child or a woman and she can give you a detailed picture of their lives.
Walk even a short distance with her and you can understand how much she is revered there by the youngsters, senior citizens, women and men alike. Kids want to play with her or sit on her lap, a senior citizen stops his motorbike to say “Hello”, offering her fruit from his carrier basket and a heavily pregnant woman waves from afar. Without a doubt, Elaine has become a ray of sunshine in their lives, touching their hearts and lives in a magical way.
It is no surprise that Elaine is privy to their dark troubles and neither is it shocking to hear of the abuses, health scares and crimes resulting from neglect and poverty. We have heard them all before.
As a young teacher, it was with some degree of nervousness that Thava walked into his first class in SMK Taman Petaling in Petaling Jaya, full of teenage girls about to be taught History by a blind teacher. “I hid my nervousness as best as I could, not just because it was my first formal class but also because it was an all girls school and I wasn’t sure about how to act or react. The girls too I imagine must’ve been curious and perhaps anxious.”
So how did the girls react?
“Oh, they bombarded me with plenty of questions, as if to test me,” again the happy, carefree laugh, before continuing, “…but we got along very well. Once they realised I could deliver the goods it was alright. The principal at the time too was very supportive, as were the teachers. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement and to cut a long story short, I remained in the school until retirement.”
It wasn’t as unadventurous as all that as Thava actually went on to achieve many milestones during the time, including setting a record in 1985 when all 49 girls of his form three class scored a distinction for History in the then SRP exams (now PT3). He was also involved in various co-curricular activities, including as house master and as advisor to the Tamil, English and Foreign Language societies, in which capacity he managed to arrange for Japanese and French classes in the school, probably a first for a government school in Malaysia. “The girls even did Japanese or French cooking and dancing during the school’s annual prize-giving day,” he quips.