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Saturday November 14, 2009

Prince Caring

To celebrate the 45th anniversary of Rumah Amal Cheshire Selangor (Cheshire Home), a coffeetable book called Together We Care was launched by its new royal patron, the Raja Muda Selangor Tengku Amir Shah ibni Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

Tengku Amir Shah ibni Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah lives the life of a teenager and has just taken a gap year from Wellington College, England, before he returns to university in October 2010.

However, the 18-year-old is extremely aware of his present role as Crown Prince of Selangor and future Ruler and King. Despite his youth, he is well-versed in world politics and, in particular, the affairs of his state.

Already he is royal patron of Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor.

Tengku Puteri Puan Seri Nor Zehan (far left) and Tengku Amir Shah ibni Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah meeting Cheshire Home residents.

“I am also involved in the Raja Muda Regatta. But being patron of Rumah Amal Cheshire is my first non-hereditary post,” he says.

“My father, the Sultan of Selangor, gave his consent for me to be Rumah Amal Cheshire royal patron.”

Tengku Amir Shah is particularly proud to be royal patron as Selangor’s royal family has been associated with Rumah Amal Cheshire since its inception in 1964.

“My late grandmother Tengku Ampuan Rahimah of Selangor, was the first royal patron, followed by my late grandfather who was an active supporter and attended many of the charity’s functions,” recalls Tengku Amir Shah.

“My aunt, Tengku Puteri Puan Seri Nor Zehan, was the patron of the recent 45th anniversary celebration.”

Says Tengku Zehan, “Together We Care is an interesting and informative book celebrating 45 years of caring for the disabled. The book aims to raise awareness for this charity while thanking all the volunteers, staff and philanthropists who have contributed towards Rumah Amal Cheshire.

“This book pays tribute to all the donors who have generously given their time and resources through the decades. They are our unsung heroes and heroines!

The prince holding up Together We Care

“This is also our way of showing our appreciation to people like the late Toh Puan Saadiah Sardon, a founding member and first president, past presidents like Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Datin Badariah Abdullah, Tan Sri Zainal Abidin Sulong and current president Khadijah Sulieman, a tireless worker who’s been with the Cheshire home from the beginning.

“The book traces the development of the home from its early days when a small group of British expatriates and their wives decided to establish Cheshire Home after independence in 1957,” says Tengku Zehan.

Many assume the name “Cheshire” refers to the shire in England but it is named in honour of Captain Leonard Cheshire, a decorated war hero.

Says Tengku Amir Shah, “I am inspired by the late Lord Cheshire of Woodhall who founded Leonard Cheshire Disability Organisation in 1948.

“Discovering one of the ex-servicemen was dying of cancer and had nowhere to go, he offered to care for him in his own home in Hampshire. Others in similar situations began seeking his help and so started what is now the world’s biggest voluntary provider of assistance to disabled people. Lord Cheshire really proved that charity begins at home!”

Tengku Amir Shah is especially happy with the Economic Empowerment Programmes which were launched three years ago.

“This is very timely and important as some of the disabled can work to the best of their ability and contribute towards their upkeep.

“We believe strongly when a disabled person is empowered with skills, his self-esteem and dignity increase as he becomes more independent. Not all the physically disabled are mentally impaired. Since 2007, three batches of students have graduated from the home and found jobs.”

Even his London-based elder sister, Tengku Zerafina, has chipped in to help with her successful Zadris range of high-end spa products.

Says Tengku Zerafina, “We are happy to support this charity with our Zadris Spa cosmetics bags. Each bag is handmade by Rumah Amal Cheshire residents, giving them gainful employment while enhancing their motor skills. On top of it all, each bag is unique!”

Currently, there are 48 residents at the home. Six are veteran residents while two, Kong Nam and Maniam, have been with the Home since it opened 45 years ago.

“We are now raising funds to build a new home with more facilities like classrooms, lounge, hall, living quarters and facilities for physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy,” says Tengku Amir Shah enthusiastically.

“These will improve their daily life and help in their rehabilitation so they can live a normal life as much as possible. There is also a resident doctor so they don’t have to queue up at a government hospital.’’

He is adamant the able-bodied and mentally sound should help those who cannot enjoy what we take for granted.

“We must be grateful to God for being able do the simplest things like walking, standing, running or even talking coherently.’’

Tengku Amir Shah has certainly made his father and aunt proud.

Says Tengku Zehan, “Everyone was impressed by his natural kindness, sincerity and charm. You can tell Tengku Amir was being himself. In fact, the way he carried himself reminded me of my father.”

Make a wish

Tengku Amir Shah reveals he would like to be royal patron of another charity.

“The Make-A-Wish Foundation is an American-based organisation that tries its best to grant the wish of terminally ill or dying children. This could be anything from going to Disneyland, going on a cruise or meeting a famous footballer, actor, singer or even a cartoon character like Snow White.

“One of the most touching wishes was when a child said he wished to be a grown-up!

“Make-A-Wish dressed him up in a businessman’s suit and hat and did all the grown-up things with him all day long.”

Tengku Amir Shah’s empathy runs deep.

“By giving these children hope and bringing joy into their lives, you can generate positive vibes. Who knows, a few may actually recover or see their condition improve. I believe in self-healing and miracles,” he says.

Make-A-Wish here is now waiting for approval to make it a licensed charity. Since 1980, Make-A-Wish Foundation in the US has given hope, strength and happiness to children with life-threatening conditions. It started with a boy suffering from leukemia who dreamt of becoming a policeman.

Says Tengku Amir Shah, “Seven-year-old Christopher Greicius’s wish was granted on April 29, 1980. He was taken by helicopter to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) headquarters, sworn in as the first honorary DPS patrolman in state history and given a uniform, hat and helmet. He died five days later but not before seeing his dream come true.”

Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor focuses on educational and vocational training projects for young people.

Says its royal patron, “This foundation caters more to teaching new skills than intellectual development. We help youngsters who may not have the right marks in exams, but may possess hidden talents. We help them financially so they can maximise their potential.”

Actions speak louder than words, and Tengku Amir Shah puts his money where his mouth is. His monthly state allowance of RM10,000 goes straight into Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor.

“That was the first thing Tuanku asked me to agree to when I was appointed Raja Muda, and I was pleased to do so.”

Tengku Amir Shah looks and behaves like the archetypal Prince Charming but proves he is also Prince Caring.

Together We Care costs RM200. For enquiries, call Major Habibah at (03) 6138 7118.

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