Malaysians living abroad give back to their new communities


  • People
  • Sunday, 14 Dec 2014

Dr Inderbir Sandhu (R) with her family: her father-in-law Gurmukh, husband Harkiran, daughter Kareenjot and son Rikhljot. – Courtesy of Dr Inderbir Sandhu.

Giving back to society is important, no matter where you are. Meet two Malaysians who are contributing their special skills to their new communities.

Consultant, trainer and educational psychologist Dr Inderbir Sandhu left the country in 2002 when she married a Singaporean. The former Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) lecturer and her husband are now based in Gurgaon, near New Delhi, India where she specialises in gifted education – teacher training, IQ testing, counselling parents and gifted individuals, and consulting. 

She also trains teachers, parents and corporate staff in critical thinking, creativity and positive psychology. As a life member of the National Association for Gifted Children Malaysia, she has always tried to support and help create awareness in gifted education.

“It is important to raise awareness because with awareness comes recognition, and with recognition, identified gifted individuals would get an education that matches their ability. Otherwise, these gifts may not be discovered or nurtured and we will lose a population of brilliant individuals.

“It is very close to my heart, as I believe that I am gifted and I had a very difficult school life. I have been misunderstood and ridiculed (she had to switch to three different schools due to frequent complaints from teachers). I had to try to fit in with the rest. All that was needed was some understanding, especially by teachers. It would have helped a lot. 

“However, I had the most supportive parents and that helped me, although I would say I was a late bloomer. When I discovered the world of gifted population during my first degree days, I started reading a lot and started understanding myself and a few others I knew better. That was when I decided to go deeper into this field and make a difference where I could,” says Dr Inderbir.

She currently runs a consultancy and has been creating more awareness in gifted education in India. She also trains teachers there to recognise gifted students. Dr Inderbir also provides free expert advice to parents internationally on giftedness through the brainychild.com site.

Dr Inderbir Sandhu (R) with her family: her father-in-law Gurmukh, husband Harkiran, daughter Kareenjot and son Rikhljot. – Courtesy of Dr Inderbir Sandhu.

Teaching others

Former national athlete Sarah Chung is another fine example. Although she stopped representing the nation 18 years ago, Chung is still making the country proud. She is best remembered for being the first Asian Games taekwondo gold medallist and four-time SEA Games gold winner consecutively from 1989 to 1995.

She went to Canada in 1993 to further her studies after completing her Bachelor of Physical and Health Education at UPM. She completed her Masters in Human Kinetics/Health Services – Sport Psychology at the University of Ottawa, then returned to KL in 1995 to work for the National Sports Institute.

A year later, she went back to Canada to do her MBA and PhD, focusing on education psychology and evaluation. She had to take a break from her PhD because her supervisor was on disability leave. However, she didn't return to Malaysia then as she had married a Canadian in 2000.

She's now finally completing her PhD while gaining experience working as a teaching assistant and research assistant at the University of Ottawa. She's also a certified group instructor/coach under the Canadian Fitness Professional Institution, teaching part-time for the municipality government in the area of health and fitness classes for youth, women and the elderly. 

Chung currently serves in different roles ranging from teaching to volunteering.

“Basically I like to volunteer and do humanitarian work. At the moment, I volunteer at the old folks homes or long term care facilities with my two boys (aged 10 and 13), where I talk to the seniors, listen to them, and sing and play music for them, especially for those who feel lonely.

“As a parent volunteer, I volunteer for my sons’ schools, their scout group, children’s choir and taekwondo training. I also believe when I contribute to my children’s growth and development, I contribute to the community,” says Chung.

The proud Sabahan says she will return to Malaysia when there's an opportunity after completing her PhD thesis because of her ageing mother and also because she would like to contribute to the growth and development of Malaysia. 

“I had wanted to go back to Malaysia earlier. However, my two sons are not eligible for citizenship in Malaysia because their father is not a Malaysian although I am Malaysian,” explains Chung.

Fellow Malaysians continue to make the country proud no matter where they are. They are living proof that boundaries and geography should not stop you when it comes to giving back to the community. “I know many Malaysians who have done the country proud even though they are based in foreign countries, such as fashion icon Datuk Jimmy Choo,” notes Chung.

“I believe I still can contribute to Malaysia even though I am based in Canada. The Internet and computer technology with video conferences are highly effective and efficient nowadays, so if there is a will, there is a way,” says the ever-positive volunteer.

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