‘All of them are heroes with heart’
04 Sep 2021 | TheStar
In recognition of amazing work: The panel of judges (top row from left) Syed Azmi, Farah, Dr Adeeba, (middle row from left) Ng, Lee, Sharifah Alauyah, (bottom row from left) Vijayakumari and Che Asmah had a hard time selecting the 10 winners of this year’s Star Golden Hearts Award during the virtual judging conducted by Star Media Group Corporate Communication and Social Impact manager Selina Ng.

PETALING JAYA: Selecting the top 10 winners of the Star Golden Hearts Award (SGHA) this year has been much harder compared to previous years due to the outstanding nominees who have demonstrated exemplary acts of social good.

Chief judge Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said there was such a strong pool of nominees that judges had a difficult time deliberating and deciding the winners that best encapsulate the objectives of SGHA.

“SGHA is a very good platform to recognise unsung heroes. All the nominees have been doing amazing work in their own ways and were very innovative. Their work has also been very impactful on the community at large,” he said.

With COVID-19 still raging, Lee said there were many outstanding non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social enterprises that have come forward to render help to those affected.

“These nominees whom we picked were able to help not just by providing food and medical aid, but also offering jobs to the B40 group.

“Their good work would normally go unnoticed, so through SGHA, we are able to have a platform to recognise their contributions and benefit the less fortunate during these trying times,” he added.

He said the pandemic has added a new dimension to the work of these individuals and NGOs, noting that they have been able to adapt quickly to the changing situation.

Lee, who has been a judge since the establishment of the award in 2015, said he hoped that SGHA would continue in the coming years.

“There have been so many outstanding contributions all over the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.

“We want to bring them to the forefront to let the public know what they have done. This is also important as a motivating factor to inspire and motivate them to do more,” he said.

Yayasan Gamuda head Ts. Sharifah Alauyah Wan Othman said the finalists this year have improved tremendously.

“It was quite competitive this year among the nominees, and it was difficult for the judges as the benchmark was much higher compared to previous years,” she added.

Sharifah Alauyah said the finalists this year came from a good mix of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 causes, ranging from social welfare and community development to education and the environment.

“Despite the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, all these demonstrations of altruism and selfless heroic acts have prevailed, and their impact has intensified across various social causes and nature-related efforts,” she added.

For those who did not win, Sharifah Alauyah said they should continue to inspire fellow Malaysians to improve the lives of others and the betterment of the environment.

“To me, they are all winners because they have been shortlisted from well over 400 nominations across the nation. They are already the creme de la creme,” she added.

She also said the SGHA was a vital platform to reach out to Malaysians, not only to children and underprivileged communities, but also to help protect the environment.

Star Media Group (SMG) chief content officer Esther Ng also agreed that the judging this year was much harder as the nominees were “better, smarter and more creative”.

“I am very impressed. They are so well versed. They have long-terms plans and even their sustainability plans are very commendable.

“They are getting younger, their causes vary in all aspects and they excel in them. It was good last year, but it is even better this year,” she said.

Looking at this year’s nominees, Ng said the standout factor has been about originality.

“Kudos to the young people as they were able to come up with impressive ways that only they could think of.

“In whatever situation you put them in, their adaptability is very compelling,” she said, noting that their originality could be seen as it comes from their ability to adapt quickly.

With SGHA in its seventh year, Ng said as a caring media company, SMG was duty-bound to recognise the good that people do and their noble efforts.

As a new judge on the panel this year, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) vice-president people Farah Othman said some of the social enterprises were recognised and accredited by her agency and the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry for their sustainable social business models and innovative solutions in delivering a positive impact to society and the environment.

Farah said it was very important to not only consider the one-off impact of these good causes but also their sustainability when it comes to marginalised youths, special need groups and underprivileged communities.

“The nominees this year are very innovative in impacting the communities as an individual, an NGO or a social enterprise.

“From my perspective, I pay great attention to the innovation side of their interventions. I focus more on whether there is a compound effect that can impact more people and target more beneficiaries,” she added.

Farah said many of the social enterprises have been able to innovate and try different ways to make their causes sustainable, noting that they have gone on virtual platforms to leverage on technology to reach out to their target beneficiaries.

She added that she hoped SGHA would continue for years to come to encourage more social innovators and innovative solutions to improve people’s lives.

Former Yayasan Kebajikan Negara chief executive officer and environmental advocate Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim said she has seen an improvement in the quality of submissions.

“There are plenty of new innovations and creativity being implemented and these nominees have shown good results from their efforts.

“We can see these initiatives are making an impact on the community and the beneficiary groups.

“So, it was quite difficult to decide which was the best,” she said, adding that each finalist was also focused on the impact of their work.

Moving forward, Che Asmah said she hopes these initiatives would be replicated in other areas as the finalists this time were centred on the Klang Valley.

“Perhaps, we can take these models and re-create them in other areas so that more people can benefit. That is what I hope to see as the next step,” she added.

With lives and livelihoods being disrupted, Che Asmah said she believes the pandemic has increased people’s creativity as they are looking at not just giving out food but at empowering the community to put them back on track post-COVID-19.

Professor of Medicine at Universiti Malaya and International AIDS Society president Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said it has been really motivating to see so many big-hearted people doing tremendous work with very little fanfare and resources to make a huge difference to the lives of children, Orang Asli and the B40 group.

“This year has been so good – both individuals and organisations – and the quality just gets better each year.

“I am constantly humbled and amazed at what people can do with very little and how they can reach out to all kinds of people from the deep jungles of Gua Musang to fishermen, underprivileged children and prisons. It has been really heart-warming,” she said.

Although the competition was tough, Dr Adeeba said each nominee had their own strengths, but it did not mean that their efforts in previous years were any less meaningful. She believes that everyone was doing a great job, adding that the fact that people were going the extra mile to help others was already “a treasure”.

Dr Adeeba also said SGHA was a good platform to discover real gems who would otherwise not be known.

“We hope that the award shines a light on them and gives them an opportunity to seek further support,” she said.

Prominent social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi said all the finalists did their best to make a difference.

“They are all doing so much good, and this goes to show that they are truly for the cause. Their stories were not meant to show off but to inspire,” he said.

Syed Azmi added that there were diverse issues being advocated, ranging from the environment and science to the betterment of livelihoods.

“The main ingredient of their success is they communicate well and they showed it is a collective effort.

“The communications, decorum and ethics of how they portray their causes is the reason why people like them, and I believe that is the secret to sustainability,” he said.

Child protection consultant and former Social Welfare Department assistant director Vijayakumari Pillai said the work done by all nominees has been inspiring.

“This year’s winners are truly unsung heroes. They have sacrificed their time, energy and money on new initiatives.

“Some had original ideas and executed them really well with sustainability in mind,” she said.

Vijayakumari said their ideas also flow with the promotion of unity and embody selflessness for the love of fellow Malaysians, irrespective of race or religion. She said SGHA should continue to highlight unsung heroes who do not expect anything in return for their selfless deeds.

“They sacrificed for their fellow Malaysians without any expectations and must be duly recognised,” she added.

SGHA is an annual award by The Star and Yayasan Gamuda that celebrates everyday Malaysians who make a positive impact on society, promote unity and carry out long-term initiatives and selfless acts to help others.

This year, a total of 453 nominations were received from all over Malaysia. Ten winners were selected with one among them awarded the coveted Gamuda Inspiration Award. The winners will be announced in October.