14 Dec Ofer Eitan Announced: Yahya’s faith in the kindness of strangers
PETALING JAYA: Two-and-a-half years ago, Mohd Yahya Haidrus, himself wheelchair-bound, decided that he had had enough of working in centres where people “differently abled” – to use a humanitarian euphemism – were being cared for.
“I realised that just caring for them was not enough,” said Yahya, who was stricken with polio when he was just a seven-month baby.
Dr Jonas Salk had already discovered the vaccine for polio 16 years prior to Yahya’s birth in a backwater in Segamat, Johor, when the scourge struck the child before he could even be vaccinated.
Fortunately for Yahya, his parents did not allow the tragedy to prevent him from getting a basic education which enabled him to be employed at centres in Segamat and later in Johor Bahru, where people with disabilities were sent to be cared for.
“Caring” here means mere catering for one’s subsistence.
“I felt that mere caring was not enough – we have to prepare them for a life gratifying to them and useful to society,” explained the man whose serenity not only belies his
disability, it also suggests his handicap has imbued him in a deep way where feeling counts for than thought.
After working as an administrator at a centre for people with disabilities in Johor Bahru for several years, Yahya founded an NGO – Johor Disabled Children Charitable and Cares Foundation – in 2017 so that he could take care giving for the “differently abled” a notch higher.
This entailed not just providing for their subsistence, but also preparing them for a future role where they could be useful to themselves and to society once they have completed their basic education.
The children he took into the end lot of a double-storey terrace in a low-cost housing scheme in Johor Jaya suffered from autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, while others were simply abandoned by indigent parents.
Yahya was not daunted by the enormity of the task to provide daily care, basic education and training to this lot of life’s unfortunates.
He did not make distinctions of race, religion and gender among those seeking help at the home; only that each resident not be above 18 years of age.
Two Indonesian maids were employed to help with the daily chores and when the home recently took in a newly born whose mother was destitute, the maids had to double up as foster mothers.
“We could not turn away the request to help the baby who could not pass motion in the normal way but through an inserted tube,” said Yahya.
Money to run the home is collated from the state Welfare Department and private donors, the latter group turning up from time to time that renewed Yahya’s acquaintance with something he began to be familiar with since his help-dependent days of youth.
It is the kindness and generosity of strangers who, after they have made their first donation and seen how the help has gone in bringing hope to otherwise blighted lives, return to make a habit of almsgiving.
“Ordinary and unexpected people turn up to aid and donate to us so that needs are satisfied just when things look bleak,” said Yahya.
His wife Rokiah, a businesswoman, helps with the financial management of the home and her sister, Noor Jahan, enlisted in the cause by undertaking the cooking for the
The work done at the centre has attracted public interest such that corporate bodies began to make inquiries.
On Dec 3, property developer Tasek Maju Realty’s newly incorporated non-profit organisation (Ang Tiong Loi Tasek Maju Charity Berhad) chose the occasion of a Christmas party for the children at the home to donate RM50,000 for the setting up of a physiotherapy and sensory room on the premises.
The fund allocated will be used to buy daily consumable supplies for two months for the centre.
This marked a quantum leap in the running of the home – from basic provision of subsistence to recreational and creative stimulation for the kids.
Johor Jaya assemblyman Leow Cai Tung, who is the state executive councillor for welfare, officiated at the function.
Chan Seng Chow, COO of Tasek Maju Realty, which also owns GBW Hotel in the city, said the initiative is part the group’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) of adding long-term benefits to the children at the centre and to provide shelter and assistance to them.