Volunteerism as a way of life

  • Metro News
  • Saturday, 02 Nov 2019

Zaleha (centre) teaching children in Nepal the proper way to wash clothes by hand.

AGE is just a number and Zaleha Ahmad, 67, is living proof that retirees can continue to contribute to society through volunteer activities.

Zaleha, a retired nurse, has served in the private sector all her life.

She has no pension or much savings, but is determined to share her skills and knowledge for the betterment of mankind.

The active senior joined Mercy Malaysia in 2011 and has gone to war-torn countries and those hit by natural disaster for humanitarian aid missions.

“I was in Aleppo, Syria in 2013. It was the most scary mission I have participated in. At night you hear snipers and fear that you too may get injured or killed.

“I have served and helped in the trauma and emergency hospital when I was there for 11 days.

“Each time after a loud explosion, a group of soldiers will be rushed in for treatment. They are treated within 10 minutes and they leave.

“My experience in Syria made me value my life better as I witnessed how people struggle to stay safe,” said the grandmother of seven.

She has also raised her own funds of up to RM80,000 to help refugees who escape by boat to Lesvos island in Greece.

“I brought along a lot of baby carriers and distributed to the refugee mothers who came from countries such as Syria. When they travel by boat they get wet and are feeling cold upon arrival. I made them hot drinks,” said Zaleha who also enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking.

Zaleha said she was always inspired by the good deeds she has seen through her volunteer expeditions.

“I have witnessed Westerners in their 70s and 80s from the Christian faith offering aid to the Muslim refugees in Greece. They volunteer regardless of their faith. Some of these senior volunteers raise funds with help from their family members and peers just so they can help the refugees,” she said.

Zaleha said in contrast to Westerners, Malaysian seniors often refrain from volunteer work.

“I am always asked why I would want to help others outside Malaysia at my age. Some told me to stay at home and recite prayers for them.

“Have people seen the sufferings faced by others outside our blessed country? They have not seen what it is like to live with nothing at flood stricken and war-torn areas, and to be a refugee.

“I don’t have money to donate but I have expertise, thanks to my years of service as a nurse. I just want to help others with my nursing skills,” she said.

Zaleha helped flood victims when residing in a church in the Philippines after Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) in 2012.

“They were surprised to see me, a Muslim, helping in a predominately Christian community. I also lived in a church for two months. I just told them that I help everyone,” she said.

Zaleha, who was a single mother from age 40, has stayed positive and raised three children.

She hoped more youths, adults and senior citizens would take the opportunity to carry out volunteer work within their community.

“We like to give excuses, cite many reasons to not volunteer or to give back to the society.

“If we have the will, we would always stay positive and reach out to as many people as possible.

“I hope parents would also nurture this voluntarism practice to their children at an early age,” she said.

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volunteer , aid missions


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