HOW I FOUND THE POWER...

Meet the women who are in­spir­ing oth­ers to reach their full po­ten­tial

Women's Weekly (Malaysia) - - Contents - BY CHAN LI JIN

...to in­spire other women to achieve their full po­ten­tial

To Serve Hu­man­ity

DATIN RAJA RIZA SHAZMIN RAJA BADRUL SHAH is a lawyer by pro­fes­sion and man­ag­ing part­ner of le­gal firm Messrs Raja Riza & As­so­ciates. Trained in bank­ing and com­mer­cial law, gen­eral lit­i­ga­tion and Syarie law, she is also vice pres­i­dent II and le­gal ad­vi­sor of MERCY Malaysia. In­stru­men­tal in the es­tab­lish­ment of MERCY Malaysia UK, she was re­cently elected as vice pres­i­dent of Ke­lab Wanita Ikon Malaysia.

“Iwas ex­posed to char­ity work at the age of five in Bel­gium, where I was born and spent my early child­hood years. The schools there in­cul­cated com­mu­nity ser­vice at an early age. The teach­ers would show pho­tos of a par­tic­u­lar cause, and as kids, we would be given small buck­ets to help raise funds.

“Since young, my par­ents also re­in­forced my en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit. When I asked for a pair of Ree­boks at 15, I was sent to teach fit­ness classes to playschool­ers to ‘earn’ them, as my mother owned a dance school. These lessons turned out to be use­ful for fundrais­ing later in life.

“My first real ex­pe­ri­ence was in 2005 after the hor­rific Aceh tsunami that claimed the lives of over 280,000 peo­ple. Through MERCY Malaysia, I was tasked to dis­trib­ute food and help in co­or­di­na­tion ef­forts as well as build seis­mic-re­sis­tant houses. Talk­ing to the kids of af­fected fam­i­lies made me re­alise we must ap­pre­ci­ate what we have be­fore it is too late. It was a big turn­ing point in my life.

“As my spe­cialty is in law and gov­er­nance, I later helped for­mu­late pro­cesses, poli­cies and com­pli­ance is­sues that would reg­u­late aid dis­tri­bu­tion, pro­tect the safety of of­fi­cers and vol­un­teers, and serve as guide­lines for the or­gan­i­sa­tion as a whole.

“While heav­ily preg­nant with my third child, I helped or­gan­ise MERCY Malaysia’s first char­ity and spent the fol­low­ing years pump­ing milk in be­tween meet­ings and in the car! It was not easy jug­gling fam­ily, busi­ness and char­ity work, all at the same time.

“My most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence was in Myan­mar in 2008 when I helped to re­build our first Mother and Child clinic at a re­mote vil­lage after Cy­clone Nar­gis dam­aged their pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties. We ar­rived di­shev­elled and dizzy from a five-hour rocky ride from Yan­gon, only to dis­cover a big group of re­porters and vil­lagers wait­ing. Some preg­nant women ran to­wards me, cry­ing and rat­tling on in Burmese. Not know­ing what was be­ing said, I just cried along and hugged them all. The in­ter­preter later said they were ex­press­ing grat­i­tude for this safe place to de­liver their ba­bies. At the end of the day, lan­guage is not a bar­rier.

“What I learnt along the way was that we are tougher than we think. Each chal­lenge teaches us to be strong and re­silient. In my most re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence in the Karo district, North Su­ma­tra, where we con­ducted train­ing for the vic­tims of Mount Sinabung’s erup­tion, I saw how the lo­cal ladies coped with a strong front, al­though they ac­tu­ally feared for their fam­i­lies. Pray­ing and cry­ing helped them get through it. I re­alised then that cry­ing is not a sign of weak­ness; in­stead, it helps us to gain strength to pull through.

“The mis­sions that I par­took in changed my per­spec­tive of life and made me see how blessed we are to be liv­ing in this peace­ful coun­try. With ev­ery mis­sion, there is al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity we may not come back alive. Hence, I make it a point to count my bless­ings daily and live each day to its fullest.

“To women who want to de­vote their lives to so­cial ser­vice, my ad­vice is to pri­ori­tise well be­cause char­ity be­gins at home.

“Be­ing a wife and mother to three kids comes first for me. I still cook at home as much as pos­si­ble and man­age my chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties de­spite be­ing on a tight sched­ule. Cher­ish the time you have with your kids – the time that you have lost with them can never be re­gained.”

what i learnt along the way was that we are tougher than we think. each chal­lenge teaches us to be strong and re­silient

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