Accept those who are different, and offer a second chance to those who may have stumbled along the way.
TIMES are hard, and I guess none feels it more painfully than the many charities that depend on the kindness of corporations and the public to continue serving the marginalised.
Which is why my heart was gladdened last Thursday as contributions of RM30,000 each were handed over to two deserving causes – United Voice and Kenosis Home.
The donations were raised from the sale of the book Sunday Starters – Reflections on Life, which is a compilation of selected articles from this column.
Credit should go to all my readers who so generously bought up copies, and I’m especially happy that together we are able to make a difference in many lives.
For United Voice, the country’s first self-advocacy group for people with learning disabilities, the gift will enable them to run activities that will help their members overcome prejudices and gain acceptance and perhaps even employment – in short, have a stronger, united voice.
Kenosis Home meanwhile, offers an invaluable service of helping ex-drug addicts to get back on their feet and make a smooth transition to become productive members of society.
The home counsels clients and helps them secure gainful employment.
In cooperation with the Samaritans Ministries, it also organises a soup kitchen every Saturday afternoon in Brickfields.
To Kenosis Home too, the gift has come at just the right time, as contributions slow down noticeably owing to the poor economy.
There are of course countless other NGOs who are doing a marvellous job of lending a hand to the disadvantaged.
But these two are close to my heart as I have always felt strongly that social justice requires us to be inclusive in our approach, as well as to offer a second chance to those who may have stumbled along the way.
Being inclusive means rising above prejudices rooted in what are perceived as “differences” – whether it is gender, race, or disabilities.
It requires us to embrace such persons as equal members of society, and ensuring they have access to facilities and rights due to them.
For persons with disabilities, it has been a long and challenging journey to have their voices heard.
Many advocates have worked tirelessly to get them to where they are today, and still more needs to be done.
I have a soft spot for United Voice which was set up in July 2005 after branching out from Dignity and Services, an advocacy movement speaking and acting on behalf of and alongside persons with learning disabilities.
I was on the board of D&S at one time and it was such a joy to see how these young people could handle matters on their own, from writing their own cheques to representing themselves at important meetings and dialogues.
Apart from their own income-generating activities, UV members are encouraged to find jobs in the normal workplace and there are companies willing to hire them, which augurs well for making our society fully inclusive.
Similarly, ex-addicts have been so stigmatised that they find themselves running into walls at every turn.
Kenosis Home co-founder Pastor Richard Lee works hard to dismantle these barriers and to persuade supporters that everyone is deserving of a second chance.
Pastor Richard’s personal testimony speaks volumes of how his transformed life is making a difference in the lives of so many.
The cheques they received that day are just a small portion of what they need to keep running each year, but the little drops add up.
As for me, I feel that I have merely been a channel for generous readers to chip in and support the disadvantaged – just “a pencil in God’s hand”, as Mother Teresa put it.
A pencil is but a simple tool and I feel very privileged indeed that this humble writing instrument can be used by the Almighty to serve those who need it most.
The needs are enormous, but I believe that if each of us does our part, we’ll get there.
Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin thanks the Star Media Group for its strong corporate social responsibility policy which encourages staff to undertake initiatives to reach out and touch lives.