Celebrating heroes among us
22 Oct 2021 | The Star

PETALING JAYA: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This age old saying rings true especially during recent times, as seen through the selfless contributions of the Star Golden Hearts Award winners. Selected from over 450 nominations received from all over the country, this year’s 10 winners were unveiled via a virtual winners’ announcement yesterday.

A screenshot of Star Golden Hearts Award 2021 winners and judges at the virtual winners’ announcement

The annual award programme by The Star and Yayasan Gamuda recognises and celebrates everyday Malaysians who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to social work while also promoting national unity.

Winners of this year’s award represent a diverse range of social causes, including livelihood and economic empowerment for vulnerable communities, environmental health and food security, quality education for schoolchildren, and social development of people with disabilities, among others.

This is the award’s seventh year, and in looking back Star Media Group chief content officer Esther Ng talked about how the Star Golden Hearts Award has come a long way since The Star first embarked on the search for Malaysia’s unsung heroes in 2015.

“While the award began with the aim of recognising heroes who had performed an act of bravery or goodwill, we have progressed towards recognising social-focused individuals, groups and organisations that contribute sustainably towards a better society.

“Through the years, Malaysians responded with their nominations, and in the past year with the Covid-19 pandemic upon us, the response has been even more abundant.

“This shows that, by and large, there are many caring Malaysians who are always ready to help one another through good and bad times,” she said.

The recent unprecedented challenges, she added, brought out the best in Malaysians.

“We have seen individuals stepping up to help others in their immediate communities. We’ve also seen charities and social enterprises mobilising their resources to provide sustainable and long-term solutions to meet social challenges.

“As a media organisation, we are in a position to showcase these exemplary Malaysians to help them garner more support and serve as an inspiration to others,” she said.

This year, the coveted Gamuda Inspiration Award (GIA) by Yayasan Gamuda was awarded to two winners: Suriana Welfare Society and Crisis Relief Services and Training (CREST).

Ng also expressed her appreciation to Yayasan Gamuda for being a supportive and committed partner through the years.

“The longstanding partnership between The Star and Yayasan Gamuda is testament to how private sector collaborations can contribute to very tangible ways of responding to the needs of society.

“From Yayasan Gamuda’s special GIA to The Star’s publicity exposure for winners, these have served as great motivation and boosters for the winners’ work. We certainly hope to make a greater difference together in the future,” she said.

Yayasan Gamuda head Ts Sharifah Alauyah Wan Othman said that creating shared values through community investments has always been a core of the foundation’s focus area.

“We strive to empower communities through sustainable resilience-building, particularly in the areas of educational aid and community improvement.

“Mobilising our group’s environmental, social and governance strengths, our yearly partnership with Star Media Group has positively supported and continues to enhance the nominees and winners’ efforts in addressing various rapid-mounting issues,” she said.

Sharifah Alauyah also said a caring and inclusive society enables an empowering environment for communities to thrive.

“When communities thrive, they act as a strong foundation for a progressive nation.

“It is truly inspirational to see how our past GIA winners have positively impacted various communities through their inclusive and diversified causes,” she said.

The commendable works of the winners have ranged from economic empowerment, educational and upskilling opportunities, and food provision to enabling the differently- abled to gain equal privileges and access to quality of life, and Sharifah Alauyah said they have witnessed how such works have inspired many others to do the same in transforming community-driven projects into innovative solutions.

“Through our past and current GIA winners’ continued resilience, we look forward to working collaboratively and further strengthening their community impacts for the betterment of the people and planet,” she said.

Chief judge Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye reminisced about his judging experience and the privilege of learning about the inspiring unsung heroes that have kept him returning as a judge over seven years.

“The nominees have never failed to enlighten me on new and creative ways that social efforts can be carried out.

“These everyday heroes are the stewards of national unity, they are the ethnic bridge builders that Malaysia greatly needs and a reaffirmation of our enduring spirit.

“They have shown how, when people step up and actively choose to support one another, we can collectively ensure that no one is left behind,” he said.

In the course of determining the winners, Lee led a panel of judges comprising experts and advocates with vast knowledge of their respective areas of expertise.

Judges this year include Ng, Sharifah Alauyah, former Yayasan Kebajikan Negara chief executive officer and environmental advocate Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim, Professor of Medicine at Universiti Malaya and International AIDS Society president Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre people vice-president Farah Othman, prominent social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi, as well as child protection consultant and former Social Welfare Department assistant director Vijayakumari Pillai.

Held online for the first time, the Star Golden Hearts Award virtual winners announcement was attended by the panel of judges and winners, and streamed online to the general public.

The Star Golden Hearts Award is supported by Star Foundation, the charitable arm of Star Media Group, aimed at delivering meaningful initiatives with lasting outcomes to a diverse group of beneficiaries.