M'sian City Life #10: Why I Quit My Job As A Journalist At The Peak Of My Career

"I had bills to pay and financial obligations to meet, but every fibre in my being told me it was the right thing to do."

Cover image via Sarah Voon/SAYS

Sarah Voon seemed to have it all as a 24-year-old. She was an award winning journalist with a stable job and good pay.

Yet, all of that failed to give her a sense of meaning. In October 2015, Sarah quit her job to become a full-time volunteer for a charity initiative.

Image via Sarah Voon

"It would have been really easy for me to draw a salary from a high-paying job month after month, just scrape by doing the bare minimum, and absolutely get away with it."

"It would have also been really easy to brush aside the fact that I didn't have much passion or drive for that job and continue living a life most would consider above average."

"It would have been easy to take that path and forget about ever feeling truly fulfilled. After all, doesn't the (revised) saying go, 'money may not be able to buy happiness but I would rather be miserable in a Mercedes'?"

"A lot of people questioned my decision to quit my job with no backup, plans or direction. I had bills to pay and financial obligations to meet, but every fibre in my being told me it was the right thing to do."

Sarah with a girl that she visited at the Budriah Outreach home as a volunteer with the Children at Risk programme back in 2007.

Image via Sarah Voon

Now at 25 years old, Sarah is a full time volunteer at Kedai BLESS, a collective of secondhand charity shops, operating in various locations around the Greater Klang area.

Prior to joining this charity organisation full-time in November 2015, Sarah had been helping out at Kedai BLESS on and off for the past 10 years.

Sarah (in red t-shirt, standing fifth from left) at the Sin Chew Donation Drive this year.

Image via Sarah Voon

"BLESS had a stall in a bazaar in Petaling Jaya on Thursday nights, and I would go with my mum to help set up the stall every week after school. We used to sell each piece of second-hand clothing for RM1," Sarah recalled.

"But the management asked us to leave because there were a lot of foreign workers who were patronising our stall and it "dragged the image of the bazaar down."

Sarah was eager, ambitious and had great plans for Kedai BLESS. But just when she had it all figured out, she found out that she was only needed in one area of BLESS. It was that one thing that she didn't think of at all: the retail outlet.

"I started off with big ideas, wanting to use my contacts from my time as a journalist to get more donors and partners for the organisation."

"I had ideas to implement a marketing strategy (despite not having a business or marketing background). I wanted to make them huge on social media. I wanted to drive up traffic and sales to the outlets."

"I had really big ideas. But those ideas would have to wait. In the meantime, they needed help in with retail."

Working for Kedai BLESS wasn't part of Sarah's plan, but she did anyway, knowing that it is all for a good cause. She toughened up, humbled herself, and did things that no one would usually want to do on a long-term basis.

Kedai BLESS at One Utama.

Image via BLESS Shop

"I found it very challenging. I wasn't used to retail hours, I had done few chores in my life but there I was sweeping, dusting, mopping, cleaning, serving customers. It taught me the true meaning of servitude."

"Then they needed help in the warehouse to sort out donations. It is everything a warehouse is meant to be - hot, dusty, cramped. But there I was, sorting through Kuala Lumpur and Selangor's discarded clothes, shoes, toys, books, and more."

"It was a job no one wanted. Volunteers have come and gone over the years."

"It was a job no one wanted, yet I had never felt more fulfilled."

BLESS welcomes Orang Asli communities to come and take whatever clothes or necessities they need.

Image via Sarah Voon

"Everyday I get up, looking forward to the various tasks I would need to do. Being part of a charity, one has to be a jack of all trades. But it was only through getting out of my comfort zone that I realised that this is where I am really meant to be for this chapter of my life."

"It is one thing to work for a boss in a company, but it is another when your work impacts the community at large."

"One task, which might seem menial to some, causes a ripple effect that, in the case of the charity I work for, could feed 1000 children a day. It could be to help a drug addict recover from their addiction and become a productive member of society again; or provide support in education for the Orang Asli communities in Malaysia; or even just changing a heart of selfishness that us Gen-Ys seem to have been mislabelled, into a heart for the people."

"I told them (BLESS) I didn't need to get paid but they insisted on paying a token sum. The token sum helps me pay what little bills I need to pay every month. I don't have much left every month, but, I look forward to waking up and going to work everyday."

Living in the city ain’t a piece of cake but it could also be exciting and adventurous. How are you coping? How are you making the best out of things? Do you have a story or experience to share?

SUBMIT YOUR STORY NOW, or work on it and send it soon. Share a personal experience, your story as an urban city-dweller in Malaysia, whether it’s yours or from someone you know, email [email protected] or FB message us.

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Stay tuned for the next episode!

Previously on Malaysian City Life #9, SAYS featured Bala. Despite his limited physical abilities due to neurology disorders, Bala earns a living by selling toys all around Klang Valley for the past 16 years:

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