En­gi­neer­ing a bet­ter world

En­gi­neers With­out borders Malaysia raises for fu­ture projects – with a vi­o­lin recital funds by its young pres­i­dent.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - BRATS - By ANN-MARIE KHOR brats@thes­tar.com.my Pho­tos by DAROLD WONG

MAKE no mis­take: Lat­i­fah Hani Hamzah may have played the vi­o­lin in a recital ben­e­fit­ing En­gi­neers With­out Borders Malaysia (EWBM), but she is cer­tainly not play­ing sec­ond fid­dle in the non-govern­ment vol­un­teer or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Lat­i­fah, a sub­sea en­gi­neer in an oil and gas com­pany, plays an in­stru­men­tal part in EWBM – both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively. The 24-year-old is the in­au­gu­ral pres­i­dent of the Malaysian chap­ter of En­gi­neers With­out Borders, which was founded in March 2013.

With 15 people cur­rently ac­tively in­volved with EWBM (mainly based in the Klang Val­ley and Si­ti­awan, Perak), Lat­i­fah cer­tainly has high hopes for the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“I found out about En­gi­neers With­out Borders (EWB) from my time in col­lege, but never had the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate as the projects typ­i­cally in­volved trav­el­ling to a far-off coun­try for a few weeks in the mid­dle of sum­mer dur­ing my in­tern­ships.

“So when I got home, I thought I’d use my en­ergy and skills to help the com­mu­nity here,” she said, be­fore learn­ing that EWB did not ex­ist in Malaysia.

As some­one who gen­uinely found en­gi­neer­ing fas­ci­nat­ing, the Subang-born lass felt it was a shame that there was a dis­tinct lack of enthusiasm for en­gi­neer­ing in the coun­try.

“I fig­ured EWB could per­haps get people out do­ing some re­al­life, ap­plied en­gi­neer­ing and get them ex­cited about it,” she said. With a few other like-minded friends, EWBM was born.

Last month, at the Da­mansara Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre (DPAC) in Da­mansara Per­dana, Se­lan­gor, she im­pressed the full-house crowd with her pas­sion on the vi­o­lin, ac­com­pa­nied by Wong Yat Sheng’s deft tin­kling on the piano.

“She may be an en­gi­neer by pro­fes­sion, but she is very ex­pe­ri­enced, and you can def­i­nitely feel her pas­sion for mu­sic,” said Wong, a pro­fes­sional violinist and pi­anist, who added that while he has had his share of recital per­for­mances in the past, this was his first time per­form­ing in front of such a large crowd.

The Pu­chong-based piano teacher also noted it was his first time per­form­ing with Lat­i­fah, al­though he has worked with many other soloists be­fore.

So, why did EWBM choose to raise funds through a mu­sic recital any­way?

“A vi­o­lin and piano recital al­lowed me to use my pas­sion for mu­sic to raise funds for our fledg­ling ini­tia­tive.

“I have done recitals be­fore, too, so this seemed like a some­what man­age­able first step,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to Lat­i­fah, the recital also seemed like a neat way to in­tro­duce EWBM to a wider au­di­ence, as com­pared to the strictly en­gi­neer­ing one it would typ­i­cally ap­peal to.

The recital was a re­sound­ing suc­cess, too, as they ended up rais­ing RM10,638.50, ex­ceed­ing their ini­tial tar­get of RM10,000.

Lat­i­fah, who grad­u­ated with a de­gree in Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing with mi­nors in Mu­sic and En­ergy Stud­ies at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy two years ago, pointed out that it hadn’t been smooth sail­ing in the months leading up to the recital.

“It was def­i­nitely tricky, jug­gling work and prac­tis­ing for the recital,” con­fessed Lat­i­fah, adding that she pretty much had no so­cial or sport­ing life leading up to the recital.

“I even had to take my vi­o­lin on all my busi­ness trips be­cause I couldn’t af­ford to go a few days with­out prac­tis­ing!” said Lat­i­fah. “But the big­gest chal­lenge is def­i­nitely look­ing for projects, be­cause we’re try­ing to look for en­gi­neer­ing prob­lems in the com­mu­nity that we can help solve. Find­ing the right kind of project is not easy.

“We don’t want to be just a fund-rais­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion or one that sim­ply does ser­vice, but we don’t have the re­sources to do long-term en­gi­neer­ing re­search projects as of now.”

Nonethe­less, Lat­i­fah said EWBM has been able to start work­ing on some cool projects, which is a good start­ing point con­sid­er­ing it is newly in­sti­tuted and vol­un­teer-based.

EWBM is the sec­ond En­gi­neers With­out Borders or­gan­i­sa­tion to be es­tab­lished in South East Asia, with the first be­ing in Cam­bo­dia. Al­though af­fil­i­ated with En­gi­neers With­out Borders In­ter­na­tional, funds are an is­sue when it comes to fa­cil­i­tat­ing projects.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is cur­rently un­der­tak­ing two main projects – build­ing a hy­drother­apy pool for dis­abled chil­dren at the Per­sat­uan Ke­ba­jikan Orang Ca­cat Man­jung, Si­ti­awan and a se­ries of one-day classes and field vis­its for un­der­priv­i­leged sec­ondary school stu­dents on en­gi­neer­ing topics. Other projects in con­sid­er­a­tion in­clude a wa­ter sys­tem for an orang asli com­mu­nity, a school for chil­dren with spe­cial needs and an an­i­mal shel­ter.

Lat­i­fah said the or­gan­i­sa­tion is cur­rently look­ing into a range of op­tions, from fund-rais­ing din- ners and jumble sales to ap­ply­ing for grants, in or­der to ob­tain more funds for their ini­tia­tives.

“We’ll start with baby steps for now and see how things go. Hope­fully we’ll get to raise funds with more con­certs!” she jested.

Pas­sion project: en­gi­neers With­out borders Malaysia (eWbM) pres­i­dent Lat­i­fah Hani Hamzah per­form­ing to raise funds for fu­ture eWbM


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