10 Amazing Malaysians Who Will Inspire You To Make A Difference In 2021


Cheng Sim •  Jan 01, 2021

[Updated 31 March 2021]

Giving back to our community teaches us the value of compassion, responsibility and helping others. Besides creating a sense of purpose, it also provides an opportunity for us to utilise our skills and talents to make a change in our society! If you're planning to give more than receiving this year, we hope these amazing Malaysians will inspire you to make a difference - in your own way.

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1. Ustaz Ebit Lew

Ustaz Ebit Lew is known for his many initiatives in giving back to the community and lending a helping hand. We love reading stories of this inspiring Muslim preacher helping flood victims, delivering water to neighborhoods with water shortage, and setting up a food bank at his sundry mart chain called Elews Mart. Always seen with a kind smile, Malaysians also witness a light-hearted side of him when he dressed up in a Mickey Mouse costume to bring joy to children with special needs. Recently, he travels abroad to serve more humanitarian efforts such as building a home for a family in South Africa.

2. Samuel Isaiah

Samuel Isaiah is more than just a teacher with a big heart for education. He is admired for his determination in improving English proficiency among Orang Asli children through creative teaching methods. When he served as a teacher at SK Runchang in Muadzam Shah, he travelled 200KM to the school every day and also established sekolah pokok (translated to 'tree school'), so the kids at the Runchang Orang Asli settlement would not miss their English lessons. Currently pursuing his Master's degree in New York, he was one of the finalists for the Global Teacher Award 2020, which many described as the 'Nobel Prize for Teaching'.

3. Mayor Jocelyn Yow

As the youngest mayor of Eastvale in California, mayor Jocelyn Yow, who is of Malaysian-Vietnamese parentage, has left many Malaysians beaming in pride. From being a staffer for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receiving the Rising Star Award from the California Democratic Party, she's now one of many young leaders who inspires more women to make a change in the community through politics. Besides juggling her responsibility as a mother, she's also the policymaker for IGNITE National, a movement to train young women to be the next generation of political leaders.

4. Heidy Quah

When Heidy Quah founded Refuge For The Refugees, she aims to shed some light on the plights of refugees in Malaysia and provide refugee children with access to education. This non-governmental organisation connects volunteers and sponsors with the refugee community to assist them with resources and provide opportunities for children to attend school. In 2017, Heidy was presented with a Queen's Young Leaders Awards as recognition for the NGO's contribution in helping the refugee community in Malaysia.

5. Lex Low

With 15 years experience in the hairdressing industry, Lex Low founded Othrs., a barbershop that not only caters to men's haircuts but also provide the opportunity to give back to the community. Besides educating aspiring barbers with the necessary skills to hone their crafts, the students from Othrs. would visit the orphanage and old folks' home to provide free haircuts. In 2016, Othrs. provided a sponsorship course for ex-convicts, ex-addicts, orang asli and the urban poor to learn and build their career path in the hairdressing industry.

6. Dr Madhusudhan Shanmugam

Fondly known as the 'Teddy Bear' doctor, Dr Madhusudhan Shanmugam and his team are the driving force behind Teddy Mobile Clinic. With a mission to provide free medical care for the homeless, urban poor and anyone in need, they set up a mobile clinic on Jalan Hang Lekiu (in front of SEGi College Kuala Lumpur) where they will assist the underprivileged community with medical care. Dr Madhu also has a food bank where everyone is welcomed to donate food and other essentials, which will be distributed to families in need.

7. Mukmin Nantang

When Mukmin Nantang founded Borneo Komrad, he's determined to provide the stateless children in Sabah with access to basic education. In Kampung Bangau-Bangau, he set up Sekolah Alternatif (translated to 'alternative school') where a team of teachers would teach basic subjects like writing and mathematics as well as life skills such as sewing and cooking. The school also educates and raise awareness on real-life issues that are often faced by the stateless community in Sabah including labour exploitation and child marriages. In the long run, Mukmin and his team hope to build more Sekolah Alternatif in Malaysia and provide stateless children with the education they deserve.

8. Lee Swee Lin, Kim Lim, and Suzanne Ling

When founders Lee Swee Lin, Kim Lim and Suzanne Ling were teaching in a refugee learning centre in 2013, they realised that many of their students weren't able to continue their studies due to financial difficulties. In 2016, they launched PichaEats, a food business that partners with chefs from Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan. Named after their first chef, who is Picha's mother, the food business has catered over 135,000 delicious meals to various events and given back a total of RM2 million to the chefs, so their kids will continue to have the funds to pursue their studies.

9. Sabariah Hussein

Warmly known as the Mother Teresa of Montreal, Sabaria Hussein made headlines when she cooked for more than 200 people a day during the month of Ramadan. Her inspiration started about 18 years ago when she felt concerned after seeing women begging for food in the streets. Then, she decided to run a women's shelter from home, and that was how everything started for Sister Sabaria Foundation. She welcomes anyone regardless of their religion as she always believes in giving back to the community. You can check out our interview with Sister Sabria, the Muslim Mother Teresa of Canada!

10. Syed Azmi Alhabshi

Malaysians recognise Syed Azmi Alhabshi as an inspiring social activist that spearheads many community initiatives such as FreeMarket where the public can give or take donated food and kitchen items for free; Tamak Pahala Collective Fund where you can pay it forward with sponsorships or food donations; and more. Recently, he takes on a new role as the advisor for children's court at Mahkamah Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

The wise Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others" and we hope these amazing Malaysians will inspire you to step out and make a change in your community in 2021!