Age Is Just A Number For These 3 Inspirational Young Changemakers In Malaysia
A 14-year-old humanitarian, 12-year-old environmentalist and a 6-year-old activist.
This is Firdaus Ahmad Farouk
Age 14, every Thursday night, he heads over to the Feeding the Needy soup kitchen in Chow Kit to help out the city's homeless. "It’s a must in my life to help people. I want to make them feel better, to make their lives easier," he says.
Young Firdaus has been doing this since he was 12 with his mum Zarina Zainuddin.
Earlier on Monday night, 11 January, Firdaus, clad in a blue plaid shirt and jeans, was out again with his single mother to feed the homeless and the urban poor off Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
He looks energetic considering he had just played football with his friends before coming. He appears at ease as if he’s been doing this all his life. There’s no awkwardness as he dishes out the meals to the unfortunate children and interacts with them to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
The children’s faces beam with joy as they devour the meal set in front of them.
This experience, shares Firdaus, has certainly brought the best out of him and he’s proud of the award that he won. He credits his mother for this. Says Firdaus, eyes lighting up with pride: "My mum is my superhero. She has the most influence on me. She has been everything, from provider to taking care of me when I am sick. I don’t think I can ever do enough to repay what she has done for me. The only thing I can do for now is to help her out whenever possible."
Firdaus has always had a passion for helping, a value instilled in him by his parents. From doing chores around the house when he was younger, the diligent teen has graduated to helping those outside his family. He draws inspiration from his mother, who first started volunteering at Feeding the Needy two years ago.
Keen to follow her example, the Asia Pacific Smart School student decided to join her early this year. A relatively sheltered child who grew up in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, Firdaus was exposed to a world he hadn’t seen before. There were throngs of homeless people on the street, and he was dismayed to see kids younger than him queueing for food.
“Sometimes it makes me feel uncomfortable,” he says, “but I have to think positive, because I’m there to help.”
His leadership and commitment to the cause have awed the adults around him. Back in November 2015, Firdaus won the Young Changemakers Award for his efforts in being a young changemaker.
The inaugural Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Awards were given to three changemakers on Nov 16 in conjunction with Universal Children’s Day. They were awarded for projects that have made a social impact in their communities.
On top of his work at the soup kitchen, Firdaus impressed with the clarity of his vision as a humanitarian. Twelve-year-old budding environmentalist Loh Shi Ya was recognised for raising awareness about recycling in her school, while six-year-old Leah Choy Sze Qin won for raising funds for Rohingya refugees.
Firdaus heaps praise on his fellow finalists: “I think what they do is good. Leah raises money by baking, and she’s a better baker than her parents. And Shi Ya recycles. In her school, she collected a lot of waste to recycle.”
The Young Changemakers Awards are the first of their kind, organised by Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kendiri Wanita dan Gadis (Women: Girls), under the patronage of Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainun, and supported by the Ministry of Education, Digi Telecommun-ications Sdn Bhd and Unicef.
The three young changemakers were presented with RM2,000 each, along with certificates. There were 10 finalists in total, all of whom received Lenovo Android 4.4 tablets and a free one-year Internet package from Digi.
Firdaus, who wants to be a philanthropist when he grows up, plans to give his RM2,000 prize money to Feeding the Needy. He says he always wanted to receive the award so the money could go towards buying more food and supplies for the charitable organisation.
He has a remarkable awareness about the world and his place in it, saying that it’s “saddening” to witness the misfortune people suffer.
“I see babies and infants out there. It makes me realise that we have more than enough, and that we have to help them.”
Firdaus has persuaded several to volunteer with him at Feeding the Needy. At school, he is a model student willing to lend a helping hand anytime one is needed. The Form Three student has already mapped out an important part of his future: to build a centre for the homeless and for orphans.
The young changemaker is on a selfless mission to give and help as much as he can.
If opportunity allows, he may even spread his wings and volunteer in impoverished countries. He isn’t ruling anything out just yet. But he knows one thing for sure: “Everyone is the same. You can’t discriminate against the homeless, or set them aside. Nobody is better than anyone else.”
12-year-old Loh Shi Ya is a budding environmentalist
She is the head of her school club that has a mission to raise awareness on recycling and implementing the 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) concept at her school and the local community. Loh collected around 2,000kg of solid waste to be recycled.
Apart from being one of the three recipients of the Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Awards, she was also the national champion at the Recycling Competition for Primary School in Rural Areas
6-year-old Leah Choy Sze Qin raised funds for Rohingya refugees. She was only 4 ½ when she started baking by watching YouTube.
The little chef from Alor Gajah Malacca started baking to raise funds for her baby sister Adele who has brain injury. Leah, who is now six years old, taught herself how to bake cupcakes by watching YouTube; and raised USD6,000 for her sister’s treatment.
The plucky little Leah, who melts hearts with her adorable personality, is currently working with the Food Aid Foundation to help contribute money and cupcakes in aid of the less fortunate