Friends, family and colleagues pledged to raise funds if I completed the Tokyo Marathon
BY TENGKU DATUK SERI ZAFRUL AZIZ
I WANT to thank Compassionate Care Foundation (CCF) and Protect & Save the Children Association (PSC) for inviting me to this fundraising dinner aptly themed “Healing & Empowering Lives”.
I would also like to acknowledge the good work that both NGOs have done since their inception: CCF, in partnership with IR Care, provides complimentary molecular hydrogen therapy to help the underprivileged heal from their chronic diseases.
PSC, I was made to understand, is focused on protecting and healing the victims of child sexual abuse through education, awareness, case management and healing therapy.
The 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) has set out Malaysia’s strategic priorities to promote sustainable economic recovery and provide better social protection to vulnerable segments of society. Under the second theme of the 12MP, which is Strengthening Security, Wellbeing, and Inclusivity, one of the key game-changers to strengthen inclusivity and uplift the B40 and vulnerable groups is to address poverty holistically and increase the standard of living of the rakyat.
One key reason this is important is that those mired in poverty and stuck in a poor standard of living are more likely to compromise decent values to survive. And stress due to poverty could also lead to domestic violence and abuse.
Therefore, it is extremely important to alleviate the effects of poverty in society, even while we find ways to improve their ability to earn better incomes. And, in addressing poverty and its effects, the annual budget breathes life to the aspirations of the 12MP.
There are always pockets of society that may still not be captured in the government’s central database. And this is where partnerships with NGOs – with their strong ground network – is extremely crucial, particularly to identify those that fall outside the social safety net.
NGOs as the government’s partners in developing a kinder Malaysia
A few years ago, I raised funds for Make-A-Wish Foundation via a marathon I was running. Friends, family, and colleagues pledged to raise funds if I completed the Tokyo Marathon, which I did on Feb 28, 2016.
Together, we raised over RM200,000 for Make-a-Wish Foundation. What was most meaningful for me is what the Foundation stands for: making the wishes of children with critical illnesses come true.
One of the young children chosen had leukaemia. He was eight years old and his wish was to be an army officer for a day. So, using some of the funds raised, we took him to the Sg Besi airbase, kit him up in an army uniform, and pretended that he was our army general for a day.
The sense of happiness in that child’s eyes melted the hearts of the toughest army officers there on that day. It was an incredibly fulfilling experience for me, and after that I continued to raise funds for charity through the London, Boston and Chicago Marathons.
I am not recommending that we all run marathons to start raising funds for causes closest to our hearts. What I am saying is that there are so many ways we can help, and now that I am in the Ministry of Finance, on the policy-making side, we do appreciate suggestions and proposals on how best the Government can help in ensuring as many people as possible in our Keluarga Malaysia are supported, and most importantly, enabled to heal, so they can thrive and lead their best lives.
And when we talk about charitable leadership, it is not just about championing obvious and popular causes. True leadership is about all of us caring for people who have been forgotten, or who have been discriminated against, or who have been subject to unspeakable violence, or must make difficult choices on a daily basis. To lend a voice to the voiceless and be the support to the helpless. That’s true leadership.
In terms of the cause championed by PSC, for example, many children who are victims of abuse are likely to suffer mental health in later life and are also likely to become abusers themselves. Many spend a lifetime trying to forget dark episodes of their childhood. Although the Government has provided an allocation for mental health, prevention is always better than cure, and this is where NGOs like PSC should be supported.
And it isn’t just kids that deserve love, protection, and stability. The underprivileged, particularly those suffering from chronic diseases, need such support, which is what CCF provides.
And I see in this ballroom tonight, faces of the people who have selflessly dedicated their time and resources to these two noble causes. I believe that the more that we help, the more compassion we are spreading, particularly among the younger generation, creating more opportunities to support their respective communities as future leaders.
Rebuilding Malaysia to be more socially resilient
Part of the MOF’s commitment to sustainable development and building resilience is to create a better, safer and more inclusive society for our children and the underprivileged. And while we have made significant progress, particularly in areas such as poverty eradication, public health and well-being, there is always room for improvement, which brings me to my next point.
In the last two years, MOF has begun quite a few reform initiatives to pave the way for sustainable socio-economic progress. These include several ways in which the Government and NGOs can work better together in the future.
Firstly, through Budget 2022, the MOF has also allocated an RM100-million matching grant for NGOs for programmes such as capacity building and tackling mental health issues through awareness programmes and after school education and online teaching. The MOF is also open to receiving proposals on allocations meant for other purposes for Budget 2023.
Secondly, we have a CSR-related coordinated platform via the Government Linked Investment Companies (GLIC) and Government-Linked Companies (GLCs). Called GDRN, which stands for GLIC/GLC Demi Rakyat dan Negara, this aligns GLCs/GLICs’ existing social impact contribution in three key areas which are (i) education, (ii) sustainable livelihood and well-being (including environment) and (iii) humanitarian response.
Thirdly, building a better and more resilient society is a shared responsibility. The MOF will soon start its Budget 2023 engagement process and I welcome proposals from NGOs such as PSC and CCF on how best to empower civil society organisations so that we can all do our part to create a better society.
In a world full of harshness and cruelty, having a soft heart and compassion is a mark of courage, not weakness. And having the courage to champion causes that are so difficult for people to talk about openly, let alone accept – like child sexual abuse and the sick underprivileged – requires even more courage and stronger hearts and minds.
Therefore, I urge all of you present here tonight, representing your organisations, to support NGOs like CCF and PSC generously. Because a nation’s economic progress is pointless if our vulnerable and children are not cared for and protected. — The Health
Senator Tengku Datuk Seri Utama Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz is Minister of Finance. He delivered a keynote address at the Healing & Empowering Lives Dinner in aid of Compassionate Care Foundation and Protect & Save the Children Association on April 1, 2022.