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Ex-gambler ‘wakes up’ to help others


Touching hearts: Leong with a 13-year-old bone cancer patient who passed away from the illness last year.

Touching hearts: Leong with a 13-year-old bone cancer patient who passed away from the illness last year.

JOHOR BARU: Six years ago, Desmond Leong was ready to kill himself after landing in debt due to his gambling addiction.

“Gambling ruined me, and in 2011, I made up my mind to take my own life.

“As I was trying to jump off a cliff, I remember feeling a strong gust of wind pushing me backwards to the ground.

“That was when I felt as if I had woken up from a dream and realised that maybe my life had a greater purpose, which was to help others and not just to focus on myself,” said the 52-year-old here yesterday.

From being someone who used to spend up to three days and nights gambling, Leong began visiting paediatric wards in Hospital Sultanah Aminah and Hospital Sultan Ismail, where the sight of terminally ill children struck him with the realisation that life was fragile.

Four years ago, Leong began his social work – from visiting orphanages and old folks homes to helping the terminally ill and hardcore poor families.

When he closed down his logistics business six months ago to focus entirely on social work, it was not a hard decision for Leong, who said he had finally found his true calling.

“I will never forget the call from the mother of a sick four-year-old boy whom I had looked after when I first went into social work. She called to thank me and tell me that her son had passed away.

“She told me that before her son’s death, the boy had been very happy to receive a toy from Uncle Joy,” said Leong, who was also known as Uncle Joy by the children he visited.

While his wife and son were initially shocked by his decision to fully go into social work, Leong said they later accepted that he had found solace in religion and changed for the better.

Although he was lucky to have the support of his friends and those willing to donate to good causes, he hoped more people would personally lend a hand to the less fortunate.

“I found that those dealing with terminal illnesses and living in poverty don’t necessarily need money.

“Sometimes, what they need is a listening ear and for someone to be present to make them feel loved,” he said, adding that actions – no matter how small – were able to touch people’s hearts in different ways.

   

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