Being wheelchair-bound has not stopped Chong Siew Hua from doing her bit for the community.
Chong, 48, who has been running a kindergarten for over 20 years, has dedicated her life to helping children with special needs.
“I noticed that there were a number of special needs pupils in my kindergarten when I first started.
“I did not want them to be left behind and decided to help them make their lives better, ” she said after receiving the Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes (Imsha) Award.
Chong provides education for special needs children at her kindergarten at minimal cost or for free if they are poor.
“About five years ago, I opened a cafe where those with special needs could work and develop their culinary and social skills while earning a living.
“We have about six employees in the cafe, four with special needs. I hope to employ more of them in the future, ” she said.
Another unsung hero who received the Imsha Award was M. Mageswari, 79, who worked tirelessly to help single mothers rebuild their lives by providing free sewing and cooking classes.
“I started by providing financial aid to single mothers about 20 years ago, and later offered free classes for them to learn new skills.
“I believe the best way to help is to give them an opportunity to be self-reliant, ” she said, adding that she also provided free tuition classes for their children with help from volunteers.
Choong and Mageswari were among 10 individuals who received the award under individual categories while nine other awards were given to non-governmental organisations and one to a company for its corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The Pasir Gudang Fire and Rescue Department received special mention for its hard work and dedication during the air pollution incidents in March and June.
Pasir Gudang Fire and Rescue Department chief Ibrahim Omar said he was humbled by the recognition.
“All 54 firemen from the station worked round-the-clock during the Sungai Kim Kim and Pasir Gudang incidents.
“Firemen from other stations in Johor who were deployed to the scene also played a huge role in ensuring public safety, ” he said.
Also present during the Imsha award ceremony at Pulai Spring Resort was Tunku Temenggong Johor Tunku Idris Iskandar Ibni Sultan Ibrahim. — By VENESA DEVI