PETALING JAYA: Voluntary worker Dr Aizan Sofia Amin is a firm believer in the saying “that which does not kill us makes us stronger”.Aizan Sofia, who lost her right leg to bone cancer at 16, refuses to let her physical disability stop her from dedicating her time, resources and energy to volunteer for humanitarian activities.
The senior lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in psychology counselling, disability and social work is a recipient of the Tokoh Pekerja Negara 2019 award for the disabled category.
Ever since she graduated from International Islamic University Malaysia with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in her early 20s, her days have been packed with volunteer work.
After clinching the Best Student of Psychology 2007 award on her graduation, Aizan Sofia became a volunteer at the National Cancer Council Malaysia (Makna) while waiting to further her master’s degree at UKM the following year.
“In university, I was isolated by my peers and bullied. I had low self-esteem. People discriminated against me and I felt alone.
“But when I became a volunteer, I felt alive. I felt like I could contribute something and that made me feel valued,” she said in an interview.
Aizan Sofia, 36, was trained in public speaking by Makna founder Datuk Mohd Farid Ariffin and soon started giving inspirational talks aside from doing administrative work in the office as a volunteer.
“I used not to be able to look at people in the eye when talking to them. I was not confident about my English, but my experience as a volunteer at Makna helped me develop communication skills. It changed my life,” she said.
Not long after that, she also volunteered for the Islamic Relief Malaysia (IRM) doing fundraising and charity sales.
In 2010, she pursued a Doctorate of Philosophy focusing on disabilities at Glasgow University, Scotland, where she was also involved in fundraising for activities for Muslims there.
After completing her studies and returning to Malaysia, Aizan Sofia continued to volunteer with the IRM.
She was recently named the IRM Humanitarian Icon 2018-2020 alongside celebrities such as Irma Hasmie, Diana Amir and Ashraf Muslim.
At the national level, Aizan Sofia is a member of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and a Transformasi Nasional 2050 ambassador.
She also provides training on basic counselling skills to other volunteers.
“When we volunteer, it looks like we are contributing to other people, but we are actually contributing to our own self-development. We don’t lose anything by giving.
“My message to the youth is for them to be active and proactive, and to do something outside of their comfort zone.
“They can start by volunteering – not only with non-governmental organisations but also local community or residential groups,” said Aizan Sofia, who is currently helping UKM to come up with disabled-friendly policies.