Story 23

I became honorary secretary and never looked back

I was invited to volunteer at the Selangor Cheshire Home in Malaysia in the 1970s.

Datin Paduka

At the time, the home was managed by the expatriate community, resulting in a culture gap between the home and the local community and authorities. Being a Malaysian married to a Scotsman, I straddled both worlds, and helped bridged this divide. I became honorary secretary in the 1980s, and have never looked back. At present I am the president of Selangor Cheshire Home and chairman of the East Asia Pacific Region of Cheshire homes.

I love that the Cheshire homes are real homes, not institutions. I was lucky to have met Group Captain Leonard Cheshire several times, first in 1990 when he visited the Selangor Cheshire Home. I was moved by his compassion and humility, and I have always been proud to take forward the mission of Cheshire. I was honoured to be asked to speak during the Cheshire Golden Jubilee World Week in 1998 in London. I gave a talk on ‘From Residential Care to Community Support’. We are proud that Selangor Cheshire Home has acted as a catalyst in the evolution of a more caring society, in particular through the motivation, mobilisation and training of volunteers within our local community.

The Global Alliance of Cheshire organisations has since continued Leonard Cheshire’s legacy of supporting people with disabilities to live their lives to their full potential by advocating for equality and empowerment. In fact, it was a challenge and seed funding from Leonard Cheshire Disability in the UK that kick-started the Selangor Cheshire Home’s Economic Empowerment Programme, supporting people with disabilities into employment. Now we have our own learning and training centre and we will shortly be certified by the Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia. Most importantly, young people with disabilities and their families have hope for a better future.

For our own future, we hope for a strong and united Global Alliance of Cheshire organisations, with a clear sense of shared purpose and goals to guide our activities. The future is not without challenges. Many Cheshire Homes around the world lack funding, which can hinder their ability to create empowerment initiatives. In Malaysia, we hope to continue to be a resource for other Cheshire Homes in the East Asia Pacific Region, as well as promoting the importance of the rights of persons with disabilities.

I was moved by [Leonard Cheshire’s] compassion and humility, and I have always been proud to take forward the mission.