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SpecialJobs.com.my is the only recruitment portal in Malaysia where 100% of posted jobs are from employers specifically seeking to hire people with disabilities so that they can fully participate in all aspects of community. This portal will also link with various organisations including the Challenges Foundation to offer Employer Sensitization Programmes designed to guide employers with recruiting and retaining people with special needs.

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Sharon Lee had always been passionate about being involved in charity and community programmes.  It was nurtured in her from young as she was actively involved in the Leo Club during her schooling days back in the 80s. Subsequently, this passion of hers came in very useful when she was gifted with a special needs daughter. Sharon managed to get her daughter educated but soon realised that once the special needs courses were completed, there were hardly any avenues for these capable individuals to be included in the mainstream workforce. Inevitably this bleak future of not having any opportunity to use their skills after attending the courses made them feel left out and useless. This resulted in Sharon putting on her thinking cap to brainstorm ways to deal with this unfortunate reality; her goal was to create a platform providing employment opportunities to special needs individuals, especially those interested in the culinary arts. Back in mid-2016, the idea of Tender Hearts, a catering business run by special needs adults was created. It started informally and soon Sharon managed to get the social enterprise sorted and registered it in December 2016. Since then, Tender Hearts has grown from strength to strength and moved from just opening pop up stands and small catering jobs to making thousands of their signature chocolate chip cookies for large corporate bodies. Early this year, Sharon decided to take Tender Hearts to the next level and create a permanent venue for the team to ‘anchor’ and hire members of the special needs community on a regular basis. Thus was born the Tender Hearts café in April 2018. The cafe is run by Sharon, a group of parents of special needs children and special needs youth with autism and Down Syndrome. This not only provided some stability to the organisation but also continuous employment for the special needs adults. ‘The café acts as a training centre and future employment place for this pioneer group of special needs adults and will slowly bring in more special needs adults,’ elaborates Sharon. Sharon encourages everyone to be more inclusive towards the special needs community and more importantly to include them into the workforce as they too deserve equal rights and opportunities. She is also grateful to the backing of the Make It Right Movement powered by Brickfields Asia College, which has been very supportive towards helping with the opening of the café and in the design of the menu and brochure. Besides that, the Make It Right Movement has also been sourcing for catering gigs for the café to great success. Tender Hearts café is located at Lot 2.17, Level 2 of Summit USJ in Petaling Jaya. The café has a regular menu and a daily special menu. All the food has a home-cooked vibe with a simple but delicious range of dessert offerings too. Within three months of its opening, the café is breaking even, thanks to its catering gigs. It is hoped that with the support of the community, the catering and café can be two separate profitable entities. Feel free to contact them at  tenderheartssent@gmail.com  as they welcome any form of support towards inclusion, acceptance and equality for special needs.
By goodnews.com.my Reporters Imagine cycling for 72 hours, covering 1,000kms in all! After just ten kilometres, your muscles will be aching, palms will be numb and bursting with blisters, and your bum will feel like you are sitting on hot coal. But that’s exactly what 43-year-old Lee Yee Seng did – and all for a good cause. Lee is the president of Malaysia Lysosomal Diseases Association (MLDA), and he undertook the cycling campaign to inform and educate the public, media and especially the government, about the rare disease. A father of two daughters, both suffering from Pompe disease, an autosomal recessive metabolic disorder which damages muscle and nerve cells throughout the body, Lee began his cycling marathon at 8.30pm on Sept 14 in Semenyih. Over the course of the next 72 hours, he cycled 1,000km through Mentakab, Kuantan, Mersing, Kota Tinggi, Skudai, Pontian, Batu Pahat, Muar, Melaka and Seremban, before completing the grueling marathon at Semenyih again at 8.36pm on Sept 16, almost exactly 48 hours later. He had originally planned to complete his journey in 75 hours but managed to do it three hours earlier, thanks to his grit and determination to succeed for his cause. Accompanied by a number of cyclists along the route, Lee’s effort has been recognised as the longest bicycle ride in the Malaysian Book of Records. Asked why he did what he did, Lee says he felt responsible to fight for the rights of all Lysosomal Storage Disease (LSD) children in Malaysia. He also wants to do his best for all LSD children, believing that “no one should be left behind”. Even though he had minor injuries on his hands, Lee says he was pushed by his belief to create awareness about rare diseases in Malaysia. He says continuous funding and support for such ailments is crucial to avoid death resulting from delayed treatment or treatment ceased due to lack of funds. As part of this campaign, seven videos of the Lysosomal Storage Diseases (LSD) families have been shared in MLDA’s Facebook page to show the efficacy of Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT) for some patients who have already started the treatment as well as stress on the importance of early medical access to prevent death. “In 2018, the Health Ministry allocated a special budget of RM10 million for 10 LSD patients who started the medication in HKL and are progressing well with the ERT. However, ERT is a life-long treatment, with the patients needing continuous support in 2019 and the years thereafter. “We hope the government will bring hope to this group of patients by creating a sustainable medical system, which is the National Social Insurance Reimbursement Scheme. “Only this scheme will be able to protect all patients suffering from rare diseases and ensure no one is left behind,” Lee says hopefully. Along with his loyal bicycle, Lee was also accompanied by ‘Hope’, the sloth mascot of Pompe disease, throughout his 1,000km journey. For more details, visit MLDA Facebook here To follow Hope, visit Hope Travels – Pompe Awareness here
SpecialNeeds.com.my is delighted to invite equal opportunity employers to join us as we leverage technology for social good. Our mission is to transform the lives of people with special needs and those experiencing complex barriers to work. Using our employment portal, employers can browse resumes from our database, post job openings and register for recruitment drives. Symposiums and Workshops The need to attract, retain and develop an inclusive workforce has never been so important. Recognising the barriers that exist for disabled people in the workplace, and the simple adjustments that can be made can make a huge difference. That’s why we host symposiums and workshops designed to guide you with recruiting and retaining people with special needs. Recruitment Fairs We regularly invite employers to our recruitment drives to meet with eligible talent. These drives provide the kind of on-site context and face-to-face interaction that help make recruitment more productive and successful. Interested in gaining access to some of the top talent available in Malaysia? Contact us now.
  Author and Community Advocate Rachel Siew launches her first book in collaboration with the Make It Right Movement (MIRM) and Microsoft Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, 19 September 2017 – Little Book BIG Secrets writer Rachel Siew Suet Li did not let adversity constrain her in her quest to become an author. This unique young lady born with a rare degenerative genetic condition, unveiled her first literary offering today entitled “Little Book, Big Secrets – How to blend in when you were born to stand out”. With the publication fully funded by the MIRM as well as the book launch being hosted by Microsoft Malaysia, Rachel Siew unveiled her new LinkedIn account featuring her book in the publication section. Through her account, LinkedIn users will be able to communicate with Rachel directly, sharing experiences in bringing out the best plus empowering oneself with endless possibilities. Little Book BIG Secrets is a light-hearted yet touching book that illustrates Rachel’s wit, determination and resilience. It is about the everyday challenges faced by Rachel, whose journey was determined even before she first saw the light of day. Her inspirational quotes in the face of her many challenges will help readers approach life with a positive energy and fresh perspective. “In this book, there are three significant points which reinforces my principles, which is to Inspire, to Motivate and to Empower. It is my hope to motivate and encourage other families who are in somewhat of a similar situation as mine. This may seem like a very difficult and winding journey ahead, but we can still make a difference in our lives,” said Rachel. Speaking at the launch, Managing Director of the Make It Right Movement, Mr. Raja Singham said he was very proud of Rachel’s efforts. “This book is part of the continued effort to educate ourselves of how one person like Rachel can empower the lives of millions of Malaysians. Being her former lecturer, I have seen Rachel grow from a timid girl to a fully confident, independent yet humble young woman,” said Raja Singham. He added, “The contents of this book is a fair representation of Rachel as a smart, unyielding young woman who has remained positive through her ordeals. So, don’t miss out on this opportunity, grab yourself a copy and tell your friends and family of this exciting book. We would also like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Microsoft Malaysia for partnering with us on this program to raise awareness about Rachel’s rare degenerative genetic condition”. Microsoft Malaysia’s Managing Director, Mr. K Raman also congratulated Rachel on the launch of her book. “I had the privilege of meeting Rachel recently where she shared with us her journey through determination, positivity and passion to achieve more despite her challenges. Her resilience in leading a life just like any other able-bodied person is commendable. At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It is part of our agenda to continuously provide, equip and empower people of all abilities with digital skills and opportunities so that they can achieve more and build a better future with technology. Inspired by Rachel story and strength, we are proud to be in partnership with the Make It Right Movement and will continue to support Rachel on her quest to raise awareness about her rare degenerative genetic condition,” he added.   Rachel suffers from Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS IVA) also known as Morquio Syndrome, a rare degenerative condition that affects her physically but not intellectually. In 2015, a drug called VIMIZIM, an intravenous enzyme replacement therapy was made available in Malaysia. This drug would have given Rachel the independence she had long yearned for. However, the answer to her prayers was costly. Treatment for this condition is in access of RM1.6 million per annum which she would have to undergo for the rest of her life. Despite her struggles, Rachel has found a way to help herself as well as to inspire others in need. “Little Book, BIG Secrets – How to blend in when you were born to stand out” is now available for purchase via LinkedIn and through community effort via Facebook for the amount of RM39.90 only. Alternatively, you may contact Rachel Siew directly at rstf2016@gmail.com to purchase the book or for further details. Full proceeds from the sales of the book will go to the Rachel Siew Trust Fund managed by appointed Trustees and is legitimately established with Alliance Bank Malaysia Berhad.   About Rachel Siew Suet Li Trust Fund (RSTF ) RSTF is created and established for the purpose of assisting Rachel Siew Suet Li’s medical needs and it shall be solely and exclusively used for the following objectives; to support and financially sustain life long Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT) treatment for Rachel Siew Suet Li and to increase public and professional awareness on Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS IVA) also known as Morquio Syndrome. Visit Rachel Siew Suet Li Trust Fund on Facebook for more info. About Make It Right Movement Founded in 2015, the Make It Right Movement (MIRM) is a CSR Initiative by BAC offering Malaysians the opportunity to be involved in social good. Leveraging on the collective resources of the BAC Education Group, MIRM collaborates with over 80 social good entities, and is involved in more than 200 charity and CSR-related projects and events annually. MIRM seeks to engender a profound positive change in society, and create a robust self-perpetuating community focused on amplifying meaningful social good efforts. Its’ projects and programmes also serve to develop students’ minds, provide them with holistic education and empower them to make a difference. For more information about MIRM, visit www.makeitrightmovement.com or follow us on Facebook (/MakeItRightMovement), Twitter (@MakeItRightMy) and Instagram (@MakeItRightMovement). About Microsoft Malaysia Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. For media enquiries, please contact: Thanabalasingam Balakrishnan Senior Manager – Communications, Engagements & Strategic Partnerships BAC Education Group Mobile: +60111 2324948 Email: thana@bac.edu.my | thana@makeitrightmovement.com Dashika Gnaneswaran Senior Communications Manager Microsoft Malaysia Mobile: 012- 9713571 Email: a-dagnan@microsoft.com
By Our Reporter What drives renowned motivator, life coach and book author Zhariff Affandi to inspire people to live a truly happy life “without limits”? When you speak to Zhariff, you can instantly tell that this is a person who truly embraces the concept of self-belief. Despite being born without arms, he rose above such limitations to realise his true potential and continues to inspire others to do the same. Never really understanding or apply the term disabled, Zhariff lives his life not just like a normal person, but most time a bit crazier than others. “At quite an early age, I remember my childhood being filled with all sorts of imagination,” quipped Zhariff. “As I imagine, I do and as kids, that’s how we learned to live life and be free of limiting beliefs,” he added. Zhariff has an academic background in developmental psychology and an extensive work in personal and team development, as well as many years of experience in both corporate and developmental agencies. As a seasoned public speaker and motivator for the last 10 years, Zhariff has definitely touched many lives through the many CSR work, local and international humanitarian relief as well as entrepreneurship development programmes. It is not surprising that he went on to set up The Zhariff Initiative, a social enterprise which aims to share and encourage others to lead more meaningful and fulfilling lives through various social and humanitarian programmes and activities. He was then snapped up by the Malaysian Economy Action Council and the Chamber of Commerce to head up Gemilang and Loka Malaysia, aimed at developing and elevating the local youth entrepreneurs scene. For his true grit and determination in being actively involved in many CSR initiatives, Zhariff has received many accolades in the local arena – namely, the Perdana Youth Award – Youth of the Year (Outstanding Achievement Award) 2011, the National Youth Icon 2012, and the UNICEF #THISABILITY AMBASSADOR, just to name a few. He was also appointed as a board member of the National Productivity Council and the International Federation of Professional Trainers (Malaysia). According to Zhariff, there comes a time in everyone’s life when they would face setbacks which he wittily terms “Sort out Stuff (SOS)”. In such a scenario, all one needs to do is to cultivate the power of positive thinking and then proceed to devise a plan of action to be able to get back on track. He strongly advocates the power of positive thinking, i.e. if we focus on the positive things in life, inevitably life starts reflecting back the same. And through a lifetime of learning, growing and overcoming challenges, Zhariff has acquired and developed strategies, tools and routines that have changed his life and that of many others around him. From doing humanitarian work in Acheh, surfing the waves of Bryron Bay, to running national development programmes and consulting on national policies, Zhariff has probably had more adventures than most “able bodied” individuals. If anything, he feels really blessed that he got to learn what he did because he didn’t have hands. “I learned the value of not giving up even if things were difficult or finding a way to do things, even if it seems impossible,” said Zhariff. This October will mark the birth of Zhariff’s first book entitled “SOS – a book of growth and guidance through these turbulently tough times.” The book is a reflection of his own quest in seeking his authentic self – inspiring others with real-life experiences and his lifelong journey of learning.
A few minutes into conversation with Thavasothy S. Mailvaganam Pillai is enough to establish what an eloquent and erudite person this former teacher and current BAC lecturer is. Visually impaired since birth, this youngest of four children readily admits he was fortunate to have been born into a well to do family, with parents who, upon realising there was something wrong with their baby, immediately sought treatment not just in his country of birth Sri Lanka, but also in neighbouring India and as far away as Singapore and even Australia. ‘Well, I’ve never known what my surrounding atmosphere looks like so there’s nothing to miss but through feel, touch and sound there’s so much that one can glean,’ he says, explaining how he began to deal with his handicap in the early days. The future, however, had other plans for Thava and his family. His engineer father was offered a posting in the Malayan railways, which meant little Thava, who was two at the time, left his birthland to move to their railway quarters in Bangsar. Unaware of schools for special needs children in Malaysia, his parents kept their son at home until the age of nine, but not without home tuition or Indian classical music training at the Sangeetha Sabha in Vivekananda Ashram. Thava has vivid memory of having sung for the superstar Indian actress and renowned dancer, Padmini, and her sister, also an actress and accomplished dancer. Fate, it seemed, was not about to leave Thava to his own devices for too long. The family soon found out about the Princess Elizabeth residential school for children with special needs in Johor and Thava was duly packed off to boarding school. “It was a good experience but still very challenging to be away from my family under the care of new people. Thankfully that was only for a year as my father found out that there was a school in KL called St Gabriel’s in Kampung Pandan that wanted to experiment with a new integration programme, whereby special needs pupils could attend school in a normal environment.” Having completed primary education in St Gabriel’s he moved on to St John’s Boys School in Jalan Ampang, where he continued his education right up to form six. The ambitious young man then completed his Bachelor of Arts in University Malaysia majoring in TESL and minoring in History. Although he studied in the English medium all through, the country was moving towards Malay as the medium of instruction, and to challenge himself, the determined Thava sat for his exams in Malay. He excelled in that too. There’s a special, rather coy smile on his face and spark in his bright intelligent eyes as Thava recalls his years of academic pursuit, from boyhood through his adolescence. If there’s one quality that one can take from this gritty man it is his audacity. “I’ve faced numerous challenges all along; beyond my lack of sight, there’s been this issue of discrimination, but I won’t complain because people take time to understand how I can function or operate efficiently. Doubts and scepticism are only natural. Like I always say what’s life without obstacles. Boring, won’t it be?” laughs Thava. As a young teacher, it was with some degree of nervousness that Thava walked into his first class in SMK Taman Petaling in Petaling Jaya, full of teenage girls about to be taught History by a blind teacher. “I hid my nervousness as best as I could, not just because it was my first formal class but also because it was an all girls school and I wasn’t sure about how to act or react. The girls too I imagine must’ve been curious and perhaps anxious.” So how did the girls react? “Oh, they bombarded me with plenty of questions, as if to test me,” again the happy, carefree laugh, before continuing, “…but we got along very well. Once they realised I could deliver the goods it was alright. The principal at the time too was very supportive, as were the teachers. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement and to cut a long story short, I remained in the school until retirement.” It wasn’t as unadventurous as all that as Thava actually went on to achieve many milestones during the time, including setting a record in 1985 when all 49 girls of his form three class scored a distinction for History in the then SRP exams (now PT3). He was also involved in various co-curricular activities, including as house master and as advisor to the Tamil, English and Foreign Language societies, in which capacity he managed to arrange for Japanese and French classes in the school, probably a first for a government school in Malaysia. “The girls even did Japanese or French cooking and dancing during the school’s annual prize-giving day,” he quips. Another remarkable milestone came in the form of successfully landing a scholarship from the Ministry of Education to do his postgraduate studies in Australia. “I was very fortunate really but even in that joy I was being challenged because there was a new headmistress in the school by then, who… mmmm… wasn’t too convinced about my teaching skills and even wanted to demote me to relieve teaching duties, until her first assistant provided evidence of my past achievements.” Even at this point, the smile on Thava’s face does not disappear. He goes on to explain how his new headmistress made life difficult for him since she did not think he could land the scholarship, hence did not see the point in giving him time off to attend the various selection processes that included interviews and aptitude, language and computer tests among others. Thava did come out tops but by that time, the headmistress was transferred to another school. After two years in Australia, he returned to the same school; and there was poetic justice after all. It’s best told by the man himself. “The ministry had a convocation for all of us selected for the postgraduate programme and they had invited certain heads of schools for the event. And there was the very lady who thought I couldn’t do it, watching me receive my scroll.” This time it’s a no holds barred laughter from Thava. Following that, in 2001, he was the first disabled person to be offered to do a headmasters course by the Ministry of Education, which he successfully completed. Having won a couple of teaching excellence awards through the years, he was also awarded the Tokoh Guru award by the Selangor government in 2007, the year before his retirement. Thava is also a council member for the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) and continues to contribute in various capacities including as chairman of its library, in Braille production (conversion of normal texts into Braille) and as head of the Braille repair unit. He knows only too well about the lack of material in Braille. “It’s mostly felt when you’re pursuing higher education. You end up needing readers to help you understand better so that you can complete your assignments. It was a bigger challenge with the workload of postgraduate studies but I was fortunate that in both the Australian universities they arranged for volunteer readers to help me. We have such services in MAB too, besides a host of other programmes that we do, including rehabilitation programmes for people who lose their sight in a sudden or after a period of time. These cases are increasing and such people, especially the young ones, need a lot of support.” On a personal front, Thava married a lovely lady from Sri Lanka and they went on to have a healthy son and daughter, both of whom are doctors now. He credits his parents and his wife for much of his success but unfortunately, all three of his pillars of strength have passed away. “They all served me in various capacities to get me to where I am today. There was just so much support and love for me all along. My father, for instance, had planned on returning to his ancestral village in Sri Lanka upon his retirement but he decided to stay on to help me. He was an engineer and in demand even after retirement but he didn’t accept any of the offers because he chose instead to be my reader, driver and researcher of Braille material…so that I could excel in life.” Even at this point, the jovial man does not lose his composure. Let’s not lament petty troubles that come our way. Instead, let’s strive to face them with gusto and etch our names with style. Like Mister Thavasothy S. Mailvaganam Pillai.
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