Meet 4 Everyday Malaysians Who Are Contributing To The Nation In Their Own Inspiring Ways

“I would never want for other children to experience the lack of exposure or know-how in reaching their full potential."

Cover image via Sunway (Provided to SAYS)

For many, education is a luxury they can’t afford

Believing that everyone should have access to education, Sunway’s visionary founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah AO is striving to bridge that gap. 

That’s why he founded the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation (JCF), to help make quality education affordable and accessible to all. The scholarships awarded by JCF have especially been a huge help to many students who otherwise would not have been able to further their studies.

But getting a scholarship is only the first step. It’s what the students do next that can truly make a difference in not only their lives, but in Malaysia as a whole.

Meet these four everyday Malaysians! They started off as scholarship recipients who studied at Sunway University, and have gone on to contribute to the nation in their own inspiring ways.

1. Shenn Kuan, The Taiping Trailblazer

Hailing from a small town and being part of the B40 group, literacy on scholarships and universities was extremely limited for her. Yet, after finding out about the Sunway Special Scholarship through a representative from StudyExcel Taiping, she went on to become one of Sunway University’s most prized gems.

If her distinguished success in academics wasn't enough, she was also highly involved in extra-curricular activities in various leadership roles.

No momentum was lost for Shenn after graduating though, as she proceeded to delve into industries ranging from HR consultancy, higher education, management consultancy, agriculture, and non-government organisations. 

As of now, she is serving as a Perdana Fellow to YB Senator Dato Sri Tengku Zafrul bin Tengku Abdul Aziz in the Ministry of Finance!

“Currently serving the Ministry of Finance Malaysia as a Perdana Fellow, I would like to broaden my knowledge alongside a passion to serve the rakyat,” described Shenn.

Shenn's overall ambition is to contribute to the betterment of society in Malaysia.

“I would never want for other children to experience the lack of exposure or know-how in reaching their full potential. Ergo, I have pledged to support other underprivileged, underserved and underrepresented students out there,” said Shenn.

True to her words, Shenn donates monthly to the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation (JCF), an educational fund for JCF Community Scholars.

Thanks to Shenn, three students managed to secure scholarships under Closing The Gap Malaysia, as part of her mission to mentor low-income students in obtaining scholarships.

She also serves as a panel interviewer for the Kennedy-Lugar Scholarship (US) and Kakehashi Scholarship (Japan) to select Malaysian students for exchange programme opportunities under the American Field Services (AFS). Here's the heartwarming part; she has changed the lives of refugee children by making sure they are enrolled in schools.

“Besides upholding Sunway’s core values – integrity, humility and excellence; another lesson imparted to me is “giving back to society”. My ways of giving back are to the environment through a plethora of NGOs that I work with, to the rakyat through my work at the Ministry of Finance, whilst as an alumna of the prestigious educational institution, to give back to my juniors by propagating what I have learnt; be it speaking at talks, panels or workshops,” concluded Shenn.

2. Ishaq, The Analyst by Day, Artist by Night

Right off the bat, Ishaq’s journey to becoming a Maybank scholar started off on the wrong foot. He even made a bad impression by arriving late for the final assessment, citing “traffic” as his excuse.

He managed to make up for it during the final assessment, which was a group discussion to determine the best decision for an imaginary company. While all the candidates tried to dominate and argue, Ishaq did what all the other candidates failed to do; facilitate the discussions between his teammates. He didn't present a single argument on his end, yet he was the only one awarded the Maybank scholarship. He credits his humility for this achievement!

With a Maybank scholarship in the bag, he proceeded to do his bachelor's degree in Business Management after doing his Foundation in Arts at Sunway.

“Business Management draws an open ended theory/question which enables me to express 'what’s in my head' without stringent requirements or rules to adhere to. I feel that there is more thinking room in this course as compared to others. I like to study subjects that makes me question how we think about something rather than what something really is,” described Ishaq. 

He’s come a long way since then, and while he is still a passionate designer/musician, he is also a regional project analyst at Maybank.

“Serving a bank makes me realise how harsh life is nowadays, especially those who live day-to-day at an uncomfortable level of financial stability. I found that being involved in initiatives to help the unfortunate as an aspiration to be happy with myself, as well as for others to be happy with themselves too,” 

“Living in a society means compensating together (economically, psychologically, etc.). I believe that if everyone is happy, we would be able to reduce those 'costs' and together make this country a better place.” said Ishaq.

3. Raenuga, The Sustainable Woman

Having a difficult childhood, which included going to therapy since standard five to help her cope with the pain of her parents’ separation, is what sparked her interest in psychology. Though her SPM results disqualified her for many scholarships, she ended up becoming a proud recipient of a JCF scholarship.

During her interview for the JCF scholarship, she recalls a meaningful conversation she had with Prof. Hew Gill, then Head of Psychology and currently the Associate Provost of Sunway University.

“He really challenged me to think about some of the areas of society that I would like to contribute post-degree and how I can use this to change the landscape of mental health in Malaysia,” said Raenu.

Aside from being a speaker for TedX Sunway University, Raenu had the opportunity to join and spearhead many distinguished clubs and societies in Sunway, though one particular project really stood out to her, which was the Social Leadership Programme. 

"(It was) an initiative to foster an orphanage for long-term, equipping them with skills such as financial literacy, first-aid, learning how to make candles and so on to help them discover their personal interests. This project has now evolved into a Literacy Intervention Programme to get these kids a placement in university,” said Raenu.

Today, she is a marketing executive for Yayasan Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR). Since Raenu has spent her life searching for fairer higher-education access, she finds that through Yayasan TAR, she can help empower youths to fulfil their own capacities.

“Yayasan TAR’s vision is 'memupuk pemimpin untuk negaraku', which means 'nurturing leaders for my country'. I am happy and honoured to be part of an organisation that is heavily focused on nation building through developing individuals regardless of race, colour and creed, who can make Malaysia progressive in their own ways; and uphold the legacy of our first prime minister – Tunku Abdul Rahman,” said Raenu.

4. William, The Special Officer

William’s journey started when he became a Ministry of Education scholarship recipient back in 2012.

After excelling in his A-Levels programme at Sunway College, he continued his degree in Economics at the University College London. While he was there, he became highly-involved in extra-curricular activities as he was the Content Director of the Malaysian Public Policy Competition (MPPC) 2015, organised by the International Council of Malaysian Scholars & Associates (ICMS).

“I truly learnt about leadership and how to manage people during this event as everyone was working remotely from the UK and Malaysia. Initially, the team was unresponsive, thus making it difficult to congregate team members. Despite all the miscommunication, no-sleep for three days prior to the event, and attempting to influence my team members to coordinate with each other; the event was a success,” described William.

Fast forward to today, William is currently a Special Officer at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) in Malaysia. His duties include running special projects, managing meetings, producing notes, crafting out speaking points, as well as liaising and coordinating with all stakeholders for his superior.

He finds his experience in MOF eye-opening, more so since he was previously in the private sector.

“For me to work in the Finance Minister’s office is a privilege as I get to work alongside some of the most diligent and dependable colleagues. While there are certainly challenges, it takes someone to be in the system to fully grasp the issues that the Ministry faces. Hence, the experience here deepens my appreciation for the civil service in general,” said William.

William hopes he is able to contribute to the nation through his efforts, no matter how big or small.

“Being in the Ministry of Finance, we have a strong influence on how certain projects are run and how allocation can be utilised. I hope I will be able to be part of the team that lays the foundation for a better Government and a better Malaysia, through these projects,” concluded William.

Such amazing achievements at such young ages! Thank you Shenn Kuan, Ishaq, Raenuga, and William, you make Malaysia proud.

All four of these graduates come from different walks of life, and have gone on and and made our nation a better place in their own ways.

Sunway's JCF is awarded to students of such calibre, in line with their efforts to lending a helping hand and providing a platform for students to contribute to the betterment of Malaysia.

Malaysia boleh! Learn more about the Sunway JCF scholarship here.