HOW I FOUND THE POWER...
Meet the women who are inspiring others to reach their full potential
...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