The Foundation’s top priority is education. Its Albukhary Tuition Programme reached out to poor rural students weak in Mathematics, Science and English, which are compulsory pass subjects in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia. A network of 200 tuition centres were set up from Perlis to Sabah, with qualified teachers engaged to conduct remedial classes.
Between 2001 and 2009, the Albukhary Tuition Program provided free tuition for 80,000 students from 500 schools nationwide. Many of the students achieved examination scores
well above the national average. Most gratifying was the performance of a remote high school in Sarawak, where for the first time in its history, students qualified for Form 6, the prerequisite for tertiary education in public universities.
For top performing students without the financial resources to pursue their education in university, there is the Albukhary Scholarship Programme, launched in 2005.
Albukhary University stands out for its cultural diversity. It has a student population comprising 80% international students. Students from 40 countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East live in residential dorms on campus, where they socialise with each other.
Undergraduates here are either Albukhary scholars or paying students, attending courses at the school of business and school of education. On the drawing board is the school of computing, of applied modules.
And he isn’t the only one to have given back. There are many corporation corporate citizens, including the Berjaya Group, EcoWorld, SP Setia and Mah Sing, to name a few, which have graciously extended millions to Malaysians of all races to better their lives.
Ecoworld is helping 3,000 primary and secondary students from Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Johor and Sabah, with an annual budget of RM4mil.
The SP Setia Foundation, likewise, has handed out eye-watering amounts of money to help students since its inception in 2000, going a step further to advocate good grace by supporting causes such as promoting kindness in schools nationwide.
The Setia Foundation is SP Setia’s community contribution arm aiming to lend a hand to underprivileged individuals, charitable bodies and children.
The Setia Caring School Programme is one of the longer-running projects under the foundation and is in line with its support of fields including education, disaster relief, health and helping Malaysians in need.
Last year, RM500,000 was pumped into the Setia Caring School Programme. The budget was shared between six schools, where various programmes were conducted for students with disabilities.
School children were also invited to be part of various programmes, including the Unity Leadership Camp, Caring Roadshow, Festive Celebration and Shelter Home Visits, among others. All this to nurture and harness the students’ caring natures.
Tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan has offered a huge amount of money through his personal foundation, Better Malaysia Foundation, and Berjaya Cares Foundation.
Like Syed Mokhtar, Tan and SP Setia’s Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin are from humble families. Both their fathers were lorry drivers and they started at the bottom, but Malaysia gave them opportunities.
Both worked in banks before setting out on their own; Tan never went to university, and had to work his way up from the bottom.
His brother, Tan Sri Danny Tan, a tycoon in his own right, came to KL from Batu Pahat to sell encyclopaedias, and even once got chased by stray dogs while on the job. He also sold insurance, riding on a small kapcai as he began his work life. He also had to share a rented room in the big city with his elder brother.
He is also publicity shy, and as a result, his inspiring story of perseverance, motivation and hard work is neither recorded nor shared.
Obviously, money didn’t land in their laps, because they all slogged on their own to become legendary businessmen.
Not many are aware that Vincent, a strong believer in English education, has a programme to teach English to children of Malay fishermen in villages, and even help them find jobs after completing school.
The Tan brothers, who are true entrepreneurs, come from the University of Hard Knocks and are enormously proud of it.
Then, there is Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, the founder and current chairman of the Sunway Group, who has contributed millions to aiding the needy – especially students from poor families – for tertiary education.
The tycoon, born in the small village Pusing in Perak, has transformed the lives of many, including making it possible for students to study in Oxford.
If comparisons had to be made, Syed Mokhtar leads in the pecking order, with his financial might crossing Malaysian borders to reach 14 countries at last count.
He is the only businessman with a museum, the Islamic Arts Museum in KL, which recently proudly celebrated its 20th anniversary. I’m sure it would come as a surprise to many Malaysians that its exhibits are globally recognised.
These acts of kindness and generosity are not confined to the rich and famous, though, because there are many unsung heroes among us who would help in a heartbeat, with no question about race or faith.
One doesn’t have to be rich or powerful to help, even if they can create greater impact with their deeds.
All this isn’t meant to praise these tycoons but to put on record that Malaysian businessmen, who are sometimes the subject of envy, regardless of their race, play impactful roles in helping people.
Ordinary Malaysians, too, show their love and care every day – without using money – and these are the uplifting stories we should be talking about and sharing during this Merdeka celebration.
Our paper unearthed many through The Star Golden Hearts Awards (in partnership with Gamuda), with winners including Kadazan Sabahan Marie Christie Robert, who provided the life-saving gesture of donating part of her liver to her former teacher, Cikgu Cheong, and Rishiwant Singh Randhawa, who delivered food products to Orang Asli in remote areas affected by floods and answered the call for help of Syrian refugees.
(The Star Golden Hearts Award is an annual award by The Star and Yayasan Gamuda. It is one of the key initiatives by Star Foundation, which is a charitable arm of the Star Media Group.)
Then there’s Dr Rusaslina Idrus who provided clothes and toiletries to the homeless and urban poor in the capital through Kedai Jalanan. Her aid is independent of race and religion, and, crucially, helps people in a dignified way.
The younger generation is Kong Lan Lee’s calling, which is why he helps special needs children through Persatuan Kanak-Kanak Istimewa Kajang.
Another story that tugs at the heartstrings is the one of boilerman Mohd Yusuf Rohani caring for his childhood Indian friend
for 15 years, whether that constituted sending him to hospital or simply giving him a hand when needed, even while he himself was barely on solid financial ground.
Heroism encapsulates fishermen Saari Mohd Nor and Low Kock Seong’s story of rescuing eight Royal Malaysian Air Force men from a plane crash.
These were just the ones that didn’t escape our grasp because judging from the nominations we went through, there are so many wonderful Malaysians from every ethnic group and religious persuasion out there.
So let our hearts speak and let’s move forward with love, not hate.
To all Malaysians, Happy Merdeka!