Shining the light on unsung heroes

PETALING JAYA: This year’s Star Golden Hearts Award (SGHA) continues to pay tribute to Malaysians for their social contribution and good deeds but the competition has stiffened for judges to handpick the best among the 731 nominations.

Nine judges for the award said they have scored the nominees based on various areas including sustainability, originality and impact of their initiatives.

Chief judge Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said SGHA gives an opportunity for Malaysians to nominate unsung heroes with unique strengths who would otherwise go unnoticed.

“All the nominees were equally good. It was definitely hard for us to choose the final 10 winners who contributed immensely to society for this year’s awards,” said Lee, who has been helming the panel of judges for nine consecutive years.

Lee, who is also Alliance for a Safe Community chairman, said the nominees’ selfless work for the people and planet touched his heart.

“Some individuals and groups directed their efforts towards the preservation of various wildlife species, among others. The way they go about safeguarding and protecting these animals is truly touching,” he said.

Lee added that it was equally impressive for these nominees to offer help without government aid and raised their own funds.

“I saw many Malaysians from all walks of life and different backgrounds who can bring about positive and meaningful change to the country and society,” he said.

Lee also said he felt proud to be able to learn about the unsung heroes and applauded The Star and Yayasan Gamuda for the successful campaign.

“These unsung heroes should be highlighted to let the public know what they have done.

“This is important as a motivating factor to inspire and motivate them to do more,” he said.

Star Media Group chief content officer Esther Ng said the nominees’ quality of work had improved over the years and that the task to shortlist the 10 winners was not easy.

“This is my fifth year of judging (for the SGHA) and as the years go by, the nominees are getting better. It is more difficult to choose the best among them,” she said.

Among the various judging criteria, she was particularly struck by the originality and the remarkable impact of their work.

“Most of the nominees have this, so it is very difficult for us to decide,” she said, adding that the nominees this year had proven to be very capable.

Ng also said she was impressed with the nominees’ willingness to offer their services and to put the wellbeing of others first.

“This is something The Star is proud to be a part of as we’ve always been very big on people stories, and this is also something that is very close to our hearts,” she said.

She added that the SGHA is a platform that must be continued as it recognises unsung heroes and encourages others to take small steps towards big impacts, as well as creates a brighter future together.

Yayasan Gamuda head Ts Lim Hui Yan said she was pleased with this year’s nominees as many of them had engaged in various social initiatives and focused on environmental conservation efforts.

“As we’ve received more than 700 nominations, it is a testament that a lot of people are on the ground doing great work for the community and the environment.

“All these stories truly inspire me. They show us that kindness knows no bounds and can touch lives in many different ways.

“These stories remind us that both individual and organisation have the power to make a difference that goes beyond money,” she said.

Lim added that among the various judging criteria, the primary criterion she considers when selecting the winners is the sustainability of their efforts.

“It’s crucial to ensure that their good work endures in the long run, creating lasting and far-reaching impact,” she said.

Yayasan Gamuda has been a partner of SGHA for eight out of the nine years since its inception by The Star.

Lim echoed Ng’s sentiment, underscoring the importance of sustaining this initiative in fostering a beneficial influence on people’s lives.

“SGHA truly reflects Yayasan Gamuda’s commitment to inspire and recognise organisations and individuals who are dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment, community and society as a whole,” she said.

Gamuda Bhd group chief sustainability officer Ong Jee Lian said by judging the award, she saw that many unsung heroes have shown an enduring spirit of perseverance, community and togetherness through helping one another.

She said the end beneficiaries and the impact of the initiatives were important in determining the winners.

“What matters is the tangible impact on an individual’s life. Does it result in employment, access to education, or better healthcare that all in all improves one’s liveability?” she said.

She added that organisations or individuals with a good blueprint or roadmap could ensure the sustainability of their efforts.

For SGHA judge and social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi, he believed the nominees have continued to inspire him on how they contribute to other people’s lives.

“I see that over the years the nominees are getting more prepared and that their vision is clearer.

“Their (initiatives) are not just mere words. I’m looking forward to seeing not just originality but to also learn something from them,” he said.

Syed Azmi said he hoped their initiatives could be enhanced and spread across the country.

“SGHA would help bring out the best from people and future generations.

“The bigger vision is to identify how the people can emulate this. We do hope that one of them can also help shape a policy change,” he said.

Social Welfare Department former assistant director Vijayakumari Pillai said the impact and sustainability of the nominees’ efforts were pertinent for the judges to select this year’s SGHA winners, among other judging criteria.

“I’m very impressed with the nominations we received and by publicising it, even more Malaysians may be inspired to do similar impactful work that cuts across race and religion to help one another,” she said.

She said what touched her the most were nominees who focused on improving the lives of the underprivileged, involving children and women, especially in the socially challenging areas.

Perak State Parks Corporation director and first-time SGHA judge Shah Redza Hussein said he had a wonderful time scoring the nominees as many had substantial contributions.

“I hope this encourages Malaysians to come out from the woodwork and showcase their work. More spotlight should be given to these unsung heroes and their valuable work,” he said.

Another new panel member Irshad Mobarak, a naturalist, conservationist and educator, said it was difficult to shortlist the nominees as they had impressive and original ideas.

“Malaysians are a caring lot, and if they hear about these people, they will come out and help,” he said.

Institut Keusahawanan Negara (Insken) social entrepreneurship unit manager Muhammad Hafizul Khair Mohd Yusuf said it was an eye-opening experience judging the nominees and that he saw some similarities with the work he does at Insken.

“At Insken, we work closely with organisations that provide impactful initiatives and programmes to the community, some of which include social enterprises under the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry,” he said.

Hafizul Khair said SGHA stands out from other awards as it genuinely aims to appreciate and recognise the altruistic dedication by unsung heroes.

“It is inspiring to witness the selfless dedication and sacrifices people make to assist those in need,” he said.

SGHA is an annual award, which has started since 2015 by The Star and Yayasan Gamuda that celebrates everyday Malaysians who make a positive impact on society, while promoting unity among the people.

This year, the nominations were received from all over Malaysia with a good mix of individuals and organisations championing various causes such as community empowerment, education, environment and wildlife and social welfare.

The accolades will be presented to 10 winners, each to be awarded with RM15,000 cash, as well as exclusive media publicity across Star Media Group’s various platforms to amplify their selfless efforts.

Winners are also eligible to be in the running for the coveted Gamuda Inspiration Award with a minimum RM50,000 grant.

The winners will be announced in November. For more details, visit

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SGHA 2023 , SGHA , Star Golden Hearts Award


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