PETALING JAYA: Despite having five out of seven children born with muscular dystrophy, housewife Tey Hong Eng never gave up on them.
People told Tey to marry someone else and start a new life but she refused to abandon her disabled children.
It was Tey’s resilient spirit and compassion that inspired her daughter – Sia Siew Chin – to dedicate her life to helping people with disability to live independently.
In 1995, Sia established the Beautiful Gate centre to provide food, accommodation, training and various services to the disabled, regardless of religion, race and status.
“Five of us have the same disease inherited from our father. Many people asked my mum to leave us behind and to stop caring for us.
“But she told them that although her children have disabilities, they are still her own and she has the responsibility to take care of us. I want to thank her for never forsaking us,” said Sia, 52.
She was judged one of 10 winners of Star Golden Hearts Award 2018.
The idea to set up the centre came after Sia visited a disabled friend and learnt that she used a wheelchair to move outdoors but was forced to crawl at home.
“Her sister-in-law disallowed the use of wheelchair as it would dirty the floor. I asked why does the disabled have to live without dignity at home? It pained my heart.
“I then thought that I should start a centre for the disabled. They can learn how to be independent and after they gain enough confidence, they can be part of society,” said Sia.
While the first Beautiful Gate centre was only set up in Petaling Jaya in 1995, its services had started two years earlier.
Today, there are a total of eight centres in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Seremban and Melaka.
Tey, 78, who became wheelchair bound 20 years ago after an operation to remove a tumour from her spine, now helps her daughter by cooking for the residents and looking after them.
A success story that comes to Sia’s mind is of a 22-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, who now has her own trade after attending the centre for a few years.
“She was 19 when she came to us. She was very quiet, shy and dared not speak to anyone.
“We could not get her a normal job with companies as her movements were very slow.
“So we gave her the courage to start a small business of selling parking coupons at the market,” Sia recalled. She said everyday, the woman used her motorised wheelchair to cross the road and get to work.
“She is now a very happy young woman,” said Sia beaming. She added that her motivation comes from seeing disabled persons living successful and happy lives.
For Sia, the award was a form of recognition of her deeds for the past 25 years.
“Although I am disabled, I can still contribute to society,” she said, expressing hope of seeing Malaysia as a barrier-free country for the disabled in the future.
Sia’s next plan is to set up personal assistant services in Malaysia for disabled persons by end of next year.