Her heartfelt story of how she stepped up to raise funds to help her sister Adele, who was diagnosed with brain injury when she was barely two months old, has moved the hearts of many.
Adele suffered from brain abnormality, microcephaly and cerebral palsy, and doctors said she had only a year to live.
Eight years later, Adele is still here and coping well, all thanks to her loving parents and sister Leah who wakes up every morning with a newfound passion to help Adele.
“What keeps me going is my sister. Age does not matter and never let it stop you from doing what you want to do.
“Giving up is never an option for me because my sister needs me and she is the reason I wake up every morning and do what I do for her,” she said.
Leah was only four-and-a-half years old when she realised that she wanted to raise funds to help her sister seek medical treatment overseas at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia, United States.
“I wanted to do my part to help her, so I started learning how to bake from YouTube and sold the goods on my Facebook page ‘Chef Leah With a Big Heart’.
“It was not easy at first and there were many failed attempts, but I never gave up,” she said, adding that she had raised more than RM110,000 over the past six years.
Leah recalled her first few baking moments where she would forget to include certain ingredients into her batter, including sugar.
“It was funny because the older people who ate it commented how it was good because it was not sweet, and then I realised that I forgot to put sugar,” she said.
Leah, who is also the youngest winner of the Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Award in 2015, launched her first cookbook, titled Chef Leah With a Big Heart.
Her book features five cupcake recipes with 34 themed designs which were mostly inspired by her sister Adele.
She has also been invited to speak in various countries on her journey, and to inspire other children to make a change in their lives.
For her next chapter, Leah has plans to open her own cafe which will be located at her home in Alor Gajah, Melaka, selling her baked goods and also a few dishes with ingredients sourced from her family farm.
The farm is tended by her father who grows fruits and vegetables.
“I also plan to write a second cookbook, but this time it will be on Nyonya cooking and the recipes are passed down from my grandmother,” said Leah, adding that she preferred cooking to baking as this allowed her to experiment with more cooking methods and ingredients.
With baking, she has to be very careful with measurements and the methods.
RHB Banking Group has created a video and set up a platform for Leah as part of its Chinese New Year campaign.
The video titled RHB Chinese New Year 2020: Heart Baker, is aimed at celebrating people who overcome life’s many trials and those who rise above challenges.
“I’m so thankful to the community and private sector that has always been supportive of us and what we do.
“For example, RHB this year. Apart from the video, they have also created a social media platform for her, where more people can reach her and show support,” said mother Tay Mei Yean.
She added that Leah has been lucky in getting endless support ever since she started her journey, where friends and neighbours would buy her cupcakes and encourage her to go on even if the cupcakes turned out bad.
“The national library has also bought 507 copies of her cookbook and it is now available in all public libraries nationwide,” she said.
Meanwhile, RHB group chief marketing officer Abdul Sani Abdul Murad said the bank felt strongly about highlighting Leah’s story because as a group, it wanted to provide a platform to tell her story to help inspire others to never give up on whatever they set their mind to.
“At RHB, we believe that success comes from resilience and commitment in the face of challenges.
“Leah’s story tells of her journey and demonstrates her commitment in contributing towards her sister’s treatment, despite her own limitations.
“Her experience shows that limitations are just part and parcel of success stories, and that these can be overcome with commitment and resilience, encapsulating our brand belief in embracing the ‘challenger spirit’ in pursuit of progress,” he said.
He said RHB hoped that the campaign could also shed more light on those facing similar circumstances, so that they would continue to fight the good fight.
As part of the campaign, RHB is also supporting Leah by driving traffic to her baked goods and cookbook via its official website and social media pages.
Those who wish to buy her cupcakes or cookbook can visit her Facebook page “Chef Leah With a Big Heart” or to RHB’s website to support her cause.
To-date, RHB’s video has garnered over 3.4 milliom views since it went live on New Year’s Eve.
To watch the video, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C3O3IEGXv8.
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