Thursday, December 31, 2009

Around Chinatown

Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur is a vibrant, bustling part of the city. It is roughly bordered by Jalan Petaling, Jalan Tun H S Lee and Jalan Sultan Here the old and the modern blend so well to give us the heady sights and flavours of a place that doesn't seem to sleep. When evening comes and dusk falls, Chinatown beckons visitors with a restless air of gaiety.

I started my walkabout in the mid morning so as to avoid any evening showers . At the oldest temple in Kuala Lumpur , the Sri Maha Mariamman temple along Jalan Tun H S Lee , I found the exterior and interior of the temple were covered with thatch as renovations are ongoing. The thatch covered the tiered gopuram ( gateway) which depicts the universal pantheon of Hindu deities. Just round the corner along a lane, the flower sellers had their stalls gaily decorated with colourful garlands , balls of jasmine and small clay pots of ghee - all for worshippers to offer to the deities.

This sign outside Klinik Mun Seng along Jalan Tun H S Lee , made me smile. Gosh, these teeth are huge ! Another advertisement doubled my toothy smile - ' A Shaggy Toothbrush is a real Dog '! Beside it were some dire proof of bad teeth, caries and all!

The palette says it all - just step right in and get your art materials. This is Nanyang Art Supplies Sdn Bhd, a well known name for art supplies. Along the same road, Jalan Petaling, there's another old name in this business, Venus Art and Stationary which has been in business for 4o years . It specialises in Chinese ink painting and calligraphy materials.

This painter was engrossed in sculpting a dragon on one of the pillars outside the 121 year old Taoist Kuan Ti temple. Kuan Ti is a highly respected people's defender deity. The painter paused when I asked him how long he had been doing this job. ' Over 20 years,' he proudly said and pointed to the God he had sculpted which took him 4 -5 months to complete. This artisan also sculpted the figurines on the 2 pillars in the temple proper.

Ducks galore ready for customers along Petaling Street. While I was there, the vendor of Sze Ngan Chye ( literal translation : 4 eyed boy) was taking orders on her mobile phone for ducks. They are sold at RM40.00 for a whole duck and RM 20.00 for half a duck.

I had walked about one and half hours and the duck looked tempting fare for a grumbling stomach as noon neared.

These small, colourful cheong sam outfits would just dress the little ones so prettily on any occasion, especially on Chinese New Year day. It brought back memories of my 2 girls who loved dressing up too.

The Sin Sze Si Ya temple was founded in 1864 by Kapitan China Yap Ah Loy who dedicated it to the deities for helping in the civil war (1870 - 73) and later donated the land.

Under the big, shady umbrella this man and many other vendors work hard to sell the lush, tropical fruits from the carts. Here you see papayas, longans, dragon fruits, Chinese pear , mangoes and langsat.

You will certainly catch the whiff of seafood as you pass along shops like these that sell dried seafood stuff. Piles of choice looking dried prawns, oysters, ikan bilis are stored in gunny sacks for your picking on the five foot way. Look out for other tasty foods - dried red dates, longan, Chinese mushrooms, fish maws, sharks' fins and an exotic array of preserved eggs.

Colourful calendars hang ready to greet the year 2010. Red is always welcome as it brings good luck and prosperity.

As Christmas is just round the corner, many shops were seen already in the mood for the festive season. Huge Santas were seen waving and smiling to patrons, one and all!

It's easy to overlook the old buildings standing just right there in Chinatown. Don't forget to look up from your gadgets to gaze at the buildings. One has to cast one's eyes upward . The design and architecture hark back to the 1900s. Maybe next time, I'll just get hold of a heritage trust friend and that will solve my guessing and I can fill my heart's content with the rich info that will definitely unfold.

There's much, much more bustling activities that only Chinatown can offer to the curious. Do visit and discover and be surprised! Be prepared to haggle vigorously when in Chinatown and you will find the prices affordable.

My discovery of fascinating Chinatown ended with a nice bowl of wanton mee in one of the old coffee shops.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Awareness is KEY

In the course of our voluntary work helping the disabled, my lovely Sunshine ladies and I have always reckoned that to break down barriers of ignorance or lack of knowledge, there is one powerful tool that we can promote: AWARENESS.

With that uppermost in my mind, I set out to achieve a humble desire - with the support from my friends, family, residents and Council members of Selangor Cheshire Home. I published two children's picture books: My Best Friend and My Shop and My Best Friend. The Sunshine ladies and I committed ourselves primarily to reach out with our outreach programme,' Sunshine for the Disabled' - to speak, and create AWARENESS among primary school children.

For 9 months or so, I worked on my 2 books. My aim was to bring the stories to as many school children as possible. The residents of the Home were also to play a key role in lifting the stories out of the pages. And us, the Sunshine ladies linking everyone to achieve our AWARENESS message.

In my own way, I wanted to present 2 stories gleaned from all my years working beside my disabled friends. My Best Friend tells the daily sunshine that people bring with them to connect the disabled with the 'outside world'. We are all social creatures and the link, especially with the disadvantaged group fills a void in their lives.

In My Shop and My Best Friend, we the community have a huge part to play as we welcome the disabled who too can earn a meaningful existence, given the opportunities, like anyone of us. That inclusion in the mainstream of life is vital for the well-being of persons, more so for the disabled.

My thanks to the 2 illustrators, Zaharudin Sarbini and Nur Azmi Mokhtar who have done a wonderful job of helping me to reach out to our young readers. I wanted 2 different styles and found these talents after some search.

Life can be just another passage through time but not when a friend comes a-calling. A friend brings laughter, hope, companionship, caring and understanding. Please take time to share this book with a child or a group of children. Time spent with a disabled person helps us to see the person and not just the disability. (illustrator: Zaharudin Sarbini)

Becoming a part of society is one of the challenges of a disabled person. This story shows that with support from friends/community, a disabled person can live life just like everybody else: doing everyday tasks like anybody, for example looking after a shop. (illustrator: Nur Azmi Mokhtar)

'It was tough at first. For the first few days, it was a blur. I felt shy and scared. ' What happened to your legs?' people asked as they saw me in my wheelchair. All I wanted to do was to hide away from their stares. But then slowly, surely, I felt stronger and braver every time in the shop.'

With the residents of the Home as ambassadors for the disabled themselves, we visited 11 schools with the two books to spread the AWARENESS message and to raise funds for the Home. The residents did an excellent job of breaking down barriers by talking about themselves, their hobbies or their jobs and simply by answering questions posed to them.

As mothers ourselves, we believe in planting the seeds of caring, empathy and understanding for the less fortunate among the young ones. Learning these values will inculcate a sense of citizenship which is an integral part of community living.

Join us as I highlight some visits we did on our 'Sunshine for the Disabled' outreach programme.

1. The British Council - The two books were launched at the British Council to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It was made all the more special as one of the students who uses a wheelchair made a special apperance with her mother to be part of the launch. Bless the children - they were attentive and together with us, the 'big gang of mothers', they were receptive. A big thank you to the parents who bought the books to support the cause.

Launch of the 2 books at the British Council

Storytelling with the kids

2. Kindi Eduland, Sri Petaling and Tadika Diyana, Taman Tun Dr Ismail - The kids were excited to receive visitors and were eager to find out what was in store for them. I told the story 'My Best Friend'. We sang 'It's A Small World, I Love You and The More We Get Together.' The residents introduced themselves and talked about their hobbies - stamp collecting, doll-making and work as a telephone operator etc.

The soft, relaxed approach with the young ones worked and everyone had fun, not least the residents who enjoyed the charm of the kids.

Charming kids at Sri Petaling kindergarten

We wanted to optimize our contact time with the kids and we thought the idea of a drawing competition titled, 'My Best Friend' would help us drive home the message of helping friends and being a friend. We received many entries. Later in the week, my colleague, Helen and I returned to present prizes to the winners.

3. Sekolah Sri Cempaka, Cheras campus - the Chairman of the school, Datin Freida Pilus had a mammoth audience for us. The entire morning school assembly were gathered in the hall. I gave a brief talk about the Home and highlighted the activities and role of the volunteers. The residents recounted their own stories. Sportingly, the students of Sri Cempaka entertained us with guitar and piano playing. All of us sang a lovely song, 'Our Hearts Can Soar'.

4. Sekolah Sri KDU - following the story, the students interviewed the residents in an engaging and fun session. The residents were in the 'spotlight' as the eager beaver students asked questions to get a story of their own out about the residents. A week later the Sunshine ladies judged the students' essays, 'A Day in the Life of A Resident'. My colleague, Helen and I attended the school morning assembly and it was a wonderful experience to give away prizes for the students' efforts. I appreciate the gesture by the principal to highlight the prize-giving among the hundreds of school children. It also brought a different touch to caring, all round. Here's a snapshot of two of the essays:

'... that was the end of my interview with Nagamal. We shook hands and bid farewell. Nagamal pushed her own wheelchair to reunite with the other residents. I admire her spirit, her courage and her talent. I hope Nagamal will fulfill her dreams of becoming the best telephone operator in Malaysia and be able to travel to Hong Kong.'

'She has curly jet black hair. She is Indian and is adept in Tamil, Cantonese, English and Bahasa Malaysia. Her favourite colour is red . She has two brothers and seven sisters who were all born in Kuala Selangor.'

Thousands of children passed through our hands and it definitely was not an opportunity to miss to stamp the AWARENESS message well. Everywhere we went, it was like starting a spark to ignite minds and we believe with young minds, it's about the guiding and showing and experiencing.

Interactors of Kolej Tuanku Jaafar as big brothers and sisters to the school children of SRK Sambanthan, Pajam (a stone's throw away from each other), distributing the books they funded. The Interactors lived up to their motto as they made new friends that morning.

Can promoting AWARENESS for the disabled win the day? YES! Knocking down barriers is getting rid of ignorance. The warmth and positive response we received from all the heads of schools and the teachers was a resounding way of saying 'yes, we can work together!'

The two books, My Best Friend and My Shop and My Best Friend (all 4,400 copies were sold and all proceeds went to the Home) were tools in our hands to utilize in the best possible way. They helped tremendously. Thank you, everyone for joining our AWARENESS bandwagon. Still, the work is not yet over. There's more to do...

School children singing their hearts out - from 11 schools on a Saturday afternoon

Friday, December 25, 2009

Loke Yew Mansion

Smack in the bustling part of Jalan Medan Tuanku, stands one of the grandest residential buildings in its heyday, the Loke Yew Mansion. In fact, the late nineteenth century mansion is the oldest standing residential brick and plaster building in Kuala Lumpur.

It was a quiet Sunday when we visited and the guard let us into the grounds. Many years ago, it was in a sorry dilapidated state but not anymore as the mansion has been partially restored in late 2007 by the law firm Cheang & Ariff who leased the property from its owners.

Loke Mansion belonged to
Towkay Loke Yew, a multi millionaire who was one of the pioneers of Kuala Lumpur. It was originally set in 11 acres of landscaped gardens which included ornamental lake and rubber and coconut palm groves.

Loke Yew's descendants lived in the mansion until the 1930s. Today, the mansion and the grounds are all that is left of the sprawling Loke Yew estate.

The architecture represents a blend of Oriental and European styles ranging from the Renaissance arcades and other classical details to a Chinese style entry gate and round moon gate.

Original entrance of the mansion - the Painted Gate

The Malay Mail in 1904 gave news of great expectancy of the Loke mansion:

'One of the most palatial residences in the town. Nothing but Cengal timber has been used for the floors, doors, posts etc whilst both the upper and lower verandahs are paved with specially imported Chinese tiles.'

During World War 2 the mansion served as the head quarters of the Japanese Occupation forces. During the Emergency of 1948, it was the training school for the Police, CID and Special Branch. Later it housed an art gallery and music conservatory and fell vacant again in 2000.

Towkay Loke Yew:

Loke Yew was born In Guangdong Province in 1845. Though wealthy, he was not ostentatious in his habits. He was a thrifty man who found his fortunes in tin -mining when he came to Malaya.

Loke Yew bought the house from a tin miner, Cheow Ah Yook and he took 12 years to renovate the mansion.

Loke Yew was also a philantropist, industrialist, planter and leader of the Chinese community. As a philantropist, he was remembered for giving rice to the poor during World War 1. He co-founded Victoria Institution, one of Malaysia's premier educational institutions. In tribute to his vast contributions to society, a street name, Jalan LokeYew in Kuala Lumpur is named after him.

Loke Yew died on 24 February,1917 in Kuala Lumpur from malaria.

Loke Yew Mansion stands testimony to the industriousness of the early pioneers of KL. As such, it is a tangible landmark in the history and development of the city.

What remains is a fine example of attempts to preserve and restore grand old buildings to be a part of the local heritage around KL. This is important as it is a visible link to our past. The fact that it is being used, it preserves evidence of the cultural and social history of its past glory.

Didn't our hearts cry when the walls of the Bok House tumbled down due to demolition? When a grand old dame of a nation passes away, we mourn. We accorded the same to the Bok House.

Thus I say we can take charge and give our gift to posterity if we can save our heritage. Take a few moments and stand back to view the mansion. There once lived a great pioner, a true son of KL whose legacy needs to live.

Loke Yew Mansion
273A, Jalan Medan Tuanku
50300 Kuala Lumpur

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Together We Care - 45th Anniversary Book Launch

HRH Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah meeting the medical committee at the RACS clinic . Seen here is the committee chairman, Dr Leela Ratos (third from left), two nurses, Alan and Kana and resident, Masirah (above pictures with kind consent by the Council Members of Cheshire Home)

On 7 November, 2009, the Selangor Cheshire Home, a home for the disabled celebrated its 45th Anniversary at the Grand Ballroom, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. It was a joyous day capped by the launch of the coffee table book, 'Together We Care' tracing the beginnings of the Home. DYTM Raja Muda of Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah ibni Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah AlHaj's presence made the occasion even more special.

The book launch cum high tea event was a tribute to people for their selflessness and generosity - from royal patrons, Leonard Cheshire Disability, donors, government agencies, care-givers, volunteers, well-wishers, staff and committee members.

'Together We Care' shows the power of ONE - of people together under one banner promoting an enabling environment for the disabled.

It records Lord Cheshire's selfless act of benevolence. In 1943, at his home, Le Court, Lord Cheshire,VC, personally nursed a friend, Dyke when the situation for beds was dire after World War Two. Lord Cheshire's spirit was so encompassing that today the Leonard Cheshire Foundation is found worldwide, establishing and supporting services for the disabled . In 1963 , the Selangor Cheshire Home was founded.

Toh Puan Datuk Seri Utama Sadiah Sardon helmed the Home as its first president. The pioneers laid the foundations to give the disabled opportunities to be part of the mainstream of society. The work carries on. It is now under the stewardship of the ever - relentless President, Pn Khatijah Sulieman and her committee members.

DYTM Raja Muda Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah ibni Sultan Sarafuddin Idris Shah greeting the residents of Cheshire Home

Support from one and all

An old African philosophy of Ubuntu states:
Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. Translation: person depends on persons to be a person.

How apt the feeling expressed in this statement. As it stands, the disabled find it difficult to get help for their disability. The theme 'Together We Care' resounds. Only with such a voice can we move with increasing speed into the 21st century.

According to World Health Organisation, the population of persons with disabilities around the world is estimated at 650 million.

In Malaysia, as of June 2009, the number stands at 261,154.

It is high time that we get serious about the plight of the disabled and promote their interests and well-being. Politicians should legislate more to help empower the disabled to include them in the mainstream of society . Individuals, organisations and companies can be more proactive to involve the disabled such as providing jobs, and making amenities user-friendly to them.

At Selangor Cheshire Home, in line with the international goals in the United Nations Charter and several other Human Rights bodies, the Home actively steers towards promoting Independent Living for persons with disabilities.

Daily the Economic Empowerment Programme students go about learning skills - baking , handicraft, sewing, hospitality and ICT. The students are also seen tending their nursery plots and the dragon fruit farm. Pivotal to this, the disabled people should feel good about themselves and be sure of their own value as human beings.

We can be proud of Doris, who makes soft toys that promote the ethnic groups of Malaysia and has won medals, Wendy a skilled boccia player. There's A. Thangaroo who did us proud representing the country with his triumphs at the paralympics.

Grit and determination to win;
A. Thangarajoo (extreme right, in his triumphant moment) - photo credit 'Together We Care'

The Home also supports the Community Rehabilitation Centre (CBR) of Selayang whereby parents are active in their children's rehabilitation programme.

It was heartening to see the EEP (Economic Empowerment Programme) students as a band entertaining the austere audience. After President, Pn Khatijah Sulieman's speech , there was a lovely video presentation of the development of Cheshire Home. It was a walk down memory lane with so much to cherish in the 7 minute video. DYTM, Raja Muda, launched the book, Together We Care' accompanied by 2 songs sung by the Sunshine Choir - 'Our Hearts Can Soar' and 'The Music's always there with you' by John Rutter. The UiTM mini orchestra played and the talented children from Wu Shu Federation of Malaysia gave a highly polished performance to seal an auspicious occasion.

The commemorative event was successful and enjoyable . Though it was a celebration by the Selangor Cheshire Home, in my opinion, all disabled, even those in those own private homes, can take heart that their voices are being heard. We just have to help them have a louder voice and make dreams become a reality. Nothing is impossible. Like they say, just do it! - care and share along the way.

As KL moves towards our vision of 2020 for all its citizens, let's join hands and make it happen. Each of us can make a difference. Multiply by the whole big world . The sum of it is TOGETHERNESS. We all care !

Superbly executed performance by the children from Wu Shu Federation of Malaysia

Let the sun shine in!

Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
50088 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6 03 2333 2888

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Final Round of Blog For FT Competition - Your vote counts!

Dear friends,

Hope you are keeping well.

Just to update the latest news. The 2nd round of the Blog for FT competition results have been announced. The 5 winners for the public category have been declared But this time round, I'm not one of them.

Well done and congrates to all the winners for 5 Nov - 5 Dec entries.

I thank you all very much for coming in regularly to vote for me and to support my posts in my pursuit of the grand prize - A CAR. I hope you will continue to vote till the contest ends on 5 January. I have plenty to share with you and your friends. So, spread the news! The race is still on!!

I'm still focused on the competition with your help. Your vote counts!

Thanks ever so much:))


Monday, December 21, 2009

Two offerings - of friendship and hope

Two offerings from me to you - of friendship and hope.

My first offering to you - FRIENDSHIP.

In my 'light bulb ' moments, I penned the words to the 'Sunshine Song'. I remember clearly Allan Burnham Airey and his wife Jane Shuttleworth came visiting one late evening. Sheepishly, I told him I had written something and showed him my piece of paper and if he could weave music with them. Being a composer, he went straight to the piano and plonked the ivory keys.

Hearing the music, made my heart miss a beat. It wasn't just words anymore! So, we had a song! One that we, the Sunshine ladies could sing and let the sun shine in every person's heart. That was August, 1997.

When I started this voluntary support group for the disabled, I felt the need to have an identity, a name first and foremost. Why? I believe if you have a name you own yourselves. Shawne Kaeser, my dear friend who's back in the States, gave us our name - The Sunshine Group. She reckoned, if you bring sunshine to others, you cannot keep it from yourselves. So, us group of ladies adopted it very happily.

Next came the logo. My brother-in law, Mustaffa designed it the way I liked it - simple and direct - the sun's rays radiating .

Last came the song. I enjoy singing even in the bathroom. Gosh, how my imagination takes flight and my bathroom becomes the concert hall with me the lone singer! But I digress.

I really felt a song embracing friendship in the warmth of the sunshine to brighten lives would just complete our identity as The Sunshine Group.

I would like to share this song with you. Join us in embracing the warmth and glow of friendship to brighten lives. Whatever organisation you join whoever you come across, whichever effort you support, there's the sunshine we all look for to shine in the lives of those we touch.

Sunshine Song

Touch a hand

Touch a heart

Feel the glow of warmth inside

Like a burst of sunshine

Colour my world

Like a song that soothes

Let's send it forth to one and all


Sunshine you warm my heart

Sunshine you make me happy

Sunshine you colour my day.

My second offering to you - HOPE.

The paper on which this song was written has yellowed. In fact, I've even forgotten I wrote it and sang it, only once with my friends and the school children of Sri Cempaka school, Damansara Campus. It's been a long time - 23 October, 1997.

Again, I penned some lines and a song appeared with Allan Burnham Airey bringing it to life again.

The words extol the flower, periwinkle which MAKNA has adopted as its logo. Somehow, I got into the act and wrote it to contribute to celebrate the planting of the periwinkle at Sekolah Sri Cempaka, Bukit Damansara campus in 1997. The president and founder of MAKNA, YBg. Datuk Farid Ariffin launched the ceremony.

Madagascar or 'Rosy' periwinkle is used pharmaceutically to treat childhood leukemia, Hodgkin's Disease, testicular cancer, and cancerous tumours. The periwinkle alkaloids are anti-mitotic and anti-microtubule agents. Vinca Major and Vinca Minor appear to have similar medicinal qualities.

We made stencils of periwinkle and everyone including the students, residents of Selangor Cheshire Home and the Sunshine ladies stamped on reams of paper donated by a printer to sell as part of our small fund -raising for the Home.

In the school, at the Home, in my house, we stamped sheet after sheet of paper as gift wrap. We had a swell time . We had fun and we believed in ourselves. Every stamp we made , it stamped HOPE . Yes, ' hope springs eternal in the human breast...' (quote by Alexander Pope). With cancer, which does not discriminate and that which strikes anytime, we wished all cancer victims the hope of a good recovery and the strength to endure testing times.

Periwinkle Hope

Periwinkle hope is in the air

Moving mountains, crossing the sea

To reach you and me

Periwinkle hope can set us free

from pain and anguish

Comforting hope, comforting hope.

Mother nature sends us this flower

Hope lies in its beauty

Hope lies in its serenity

Periwinkle bright

You are our hope and joy

Rejoice, rejoice!

Inspiration among greenery

It seems a revival of sorts to share these two songs but better late than never! After all, the themes of friendship and hope are universal and evergreen. We hear stories of every day heroes all over the world who give us reasons to cheer them on. In turn, we are inspired by them.

Perhaps you will pen a few words of your own. Mine are words that just came to mind to inspire me to do more.

BG 03A & 05 Ground Floor
Megan Embassy
225, Jalan Ampang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
tel: + 603 2162 9178
Hotline : 1-800-88-62562