KOTA KINABALU: Selfless social worker Datuk Mohd Safari Manan (pic) was a man well known for his big heart and love for disabled and underprivileged children.
Mohd Safari, who passed away on Wednesday after a brief illness and was buried in the Muslim cemetery in Kampung Likas near here, had been helping children with special needs since the early 1980s.
He avoided the limelight and is remembered for always putting the needs of children before his.
Mohd Safari was with the team instrumental in setting up the Seri Mengasih Centre for the disabled.
The centre’s principal Jenny Tham met Mohd Safari in 1981 when she was interviewed for a job working with special needs children. She said he was kind, friendly and very humble.
“Throughout the years working with him, I saw how he spent every day of his life trying to make the children’s lives better and happier”, she said, her eyes brimming with tears.
Seri Mengasih started with 10 children who were initially referred to the Bukit Padang Hospital for the mentally ill.
Tham said in those days, the term “special needs” didn’t exist and not many understood the difference between having a mental illness and a disability.
So these 10 children were thought to be mentally ill instead of being mentally disabled, she said.
One of the 10, a woman in her 40s now, even got married and has three children of her own.
Another teacher and former principal of Seri Mengasih, Cecilia Thane, described Mohd Safari as a selfless man.
He would help anyone in need, she said. “He did it for free and worked tirelessly, giving his time and service without hesitation.”