Special needs charity founder dies of heart ailment

Role model: Raja­manikam had been inspired by a meeting with Mother Teresa to build a home to care for children with special needs.

JOHOR BARU: The head of a charity organisation for children with special needs, who dedicated himself to his calling after being inspired by Mother Teresa, died after suffering from a heart ailment.

Johor Baru Handicapped and Mentally Disabled Children Association founder and president V. Rajamanikam, 74, passed away at his house in Kulai at about 6.30am yesterday.

According to the association’s vice-president, S. Murugaiyah, Rajamanikam had been afflicted with heart problems and was hospitalised five times in the past three years.

“In the past few weeks, Rajamanikam had had breathing difficulties but still remained strong and hopeful. This morning (yesterday), he was resting on a chair at home after a shower when he passed out and eventually stopped breathing, ” he said.

Rajamanikam is survived by his 70-year-old wife and their 49-year-old daughter and son-in-law, 51, as well as five grandchildren aged between 18 and 23.

In April last year, Rajamanikam received 10 wheelchairs from Star Media Group’s charitable arm Star Foundation.

At the event, Rajamanikam told The Star that his meeting 24 years ago with Mother Teresa – the Catholic nun noted for her work with the poor in Kolkata, India – inspired him to turn his newly bought land from a commercial venture to a non-profit outfit.

Rajamanikam had wanted to build an integrated business building on the 1.92ha land located in Jalan Indah Permai 9, Taman Saleng Indah in Kulai but later turned it into a home and an administration office for the association.

In addition to the office, the home has four dormitories for male and female residents, a conference room, a kitchen, a sensory room and a library.

He opened the first home in 1990 in Taman Melodies, near here, after he was retrenched from his job as a driver.

The home, which had only seven children under its care 30 years ago, now has more than 230 special needs children under its care.

The organisation also runs seven similar homes, providing shelter to more than 600 residents in Kluang (Johor), Melaka, Pahang, Selangor and Terengganu.

Rajamanikam will be laid to rest at the Kulai Nirvana Memorial Park at about 2.30pm today.

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