A Refuge of Love

A Refuge of Love

May 8, 2022   Return


Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan once said, “There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.” Indeed, there is no greater, no nobler a duty than that of raising and nurturing children – and closer to home, the people at OrphanCARE Malaysia Foundation have chosen to dedicate their time and effort in carrying out this very task the best they can.


Every child needs a family

On the origins of OrphanCARE Malaysia, Noraini Hashim who is the foundation’s trustee says, “OrphanCARE was first established in 2008 under the patronage of HRH Sultanah Pahang, Sultanah Hajah Kalsom. Four years after its establishment, it was granted approval to become a full-fledged foundation. Now, OrphanCARE is managed by a board of 6 trustees chaired by YB Tan Sri Faizah Mohd Tahir.”

So, what does OrphanCARE do exactly? Noraini explains, “We work closely with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to offer a refuge for unwed mothers and babies who may otherwise be abandoned. Also, we place children who are from institutions with suitable families and provide these families with the support they require to parent these children via counseling and ethical adoption services. Our aim is to provide orphans and abandoned babies in Malaysia with the love, care and security of a family.”

Some people may question the need for placing orphaned children with families. They may wonder ‘Won’t orphanages be good enough?’ Noraini begs to differ. “Extensive research has developed a body of evidence showing the harmful impact which institutionalisation has on kids. Kids raised in institutions tend to display significant delays in development and have behavioural problems. In fact, infants who are raised in institutions but moved to families before 6 months of age completely recovered from their development delays whereas those moved to families after 6 months of age recovered only partially.” This is why deinstitutionalisation projects like the one by OrphanCARE are so crucial.

“Via our deinstitutionalisation project, we strive to help change society’s mindset towards orphans so people will recognise that children shouldn’t be left permanently in orphanages. Orphanages should really only be ‘transit points’ before they are placed with families that can bring them up in a proper family structure,” she emphasises.

E_Demonstration on B...

A safe haven for babies

Aside from its efforts to deinstitutionalise orphans into family-based care, OrphanCARE was the first to set up baby hatches in Malaysia. “OrphanCARE aims to discourage baby abandonment by creating safe havens for babies born out of wedlock to young mothers, who have kept their pregnancies a secret from their families. These young women who have nowhere to turn for help can be assured that their babies will be placed with caring parents. These ‘safe havens’ are in the form of 3 baby hatches located in Petaling Jaya, Johor Bahru and Sungai Petani respectively.”

“Additionally, we signed a Memorandum of Collaboration with the KPJ Group of Hospital in 2014 allowing us to arrange for adoption of babies at KPJ’s 8 baby hatches in Peninsular Malaysia,” Noraini says. “Since the launch of these baby hatches, we have successfully matched 136 abandoned babies with adoptive parents. Besides that, via our counseling programs, 82 mothers changed their minds and decided to keep their babies instead of giving them up.”

Meet the OrphanCARE team

Asked how she became involved in OrphanCARE, Noraini says candidly, “I’m one of the founding members. I was roped in by the late founder, Dato Adnan Mohd Tahir who strongly believed that every child deserves to be raised in a loving home.”

“Currently, the OrphanCARE team comprises 17 staff – 14 of whom are based at the 2 offices in Petaling Jaya with the remaining 4 staff in the Johor Bahru and Sungai Petani centres.” What about volunteers? “We are open to any helping hand from the community. Those interested can call our centre to register so we can update you on future events. Also, we welcome monetary contributions. You can do so via bank transfer at 86-0086023-8 or cheques made payable to OrphanCARE Foundation.”

Forging ahead

So, what plans does OrphanCARE have for the future? Noraini divulges, “Raising more awareness about deinstitutionalisation is a big part of our plans. Open and clear communication is vital as very few understand what deinstitutionalisation means; this must be targeted at specific audiences involving a range of stakeholders. To bring our deinstitutionalisation program to greater heights, we will also be partnering with government agencies and other NGOs.”

She concludes, “A key provision in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right, where possible to know and be cared for by his or her parents. With this in mind, we at OrphanCARE strive to ensure that a day will come when no child in Malaysia will be raised in an institution but in the loving care of a family or their community.”

How can I adopt?

On OrphanCARE’s adoption program, Noraini says, “Public response has been very positive. We receive phone calls and emails enquiring about our program on a daily basis. Currently, we have over 2,000 couples registered in our database. Out of these 2,000 couples, 752 are on the waiting list to adopt.” She adds, “There is also a great need for potential adoptive parents for older children as they are not as in demand as younger kids.”

On the eligibility to adopt, she stresses that couples have to be:

Married for at least 5 years

Childless, if they wish to adopt a baby. Also, they have to produce a fertility report


Residing in Peninsular Malaysia

Living in a safe neighbourhood

Healthy – both mentally and physically

With a combined income of at least RM5,000

If a couple fulfils all the above criteria, they can email their application to admin@orphancare.org.my The registration process will be handled by the OrphanCARE adoption team, followed by screenings, interviews and an 8-hour adoption training session. 

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One of A Kind

One of A Kind

May 8, 2022   Return

“Climate change is real; it’s happening right now. It’s the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and quit procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who don’t speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this.”

Anyone who did not catch last month’s Oscars ceremony telecast or did not read about it in the news might be forgiven for assuming that the above speech was made anywhere but an occasion as glamorous and glitzy as the Oscars. At an event more known for the elaborate designer outfits of celebrities, absurdly expensive gift bags (this year’s celebrity attendees reportedly received gift bags worth 200,000 USD each!) and acceptance speeches which are mostly self-congratulatory at best (and narcissistic at worst), it was indeed a refreshing surprise to see the 41-year-old Leonardo – hailed one of the greatest actors of his generation – use his acceptance speech as a platform to highlight a subject as relevant and pressing as climate change.

As if Leonardo had not already wowed millions around the world with his brilliant and varied performances, his passion for environmental issues (as evidenced by his speech) drew praise from his peers and the public alike. As Ally Brooke from the pop group Fifth Harmony tweeted when news of his much awaited Oscar win broke out: ‘Leo is just sensational and one of a kind!’


Making it big

Looking at his phenomenal acting career, it is hard to believe that Leonardo once had difficulty landing an agent. He recalls, “One agent even suggested that I change my name to Lenny Williams for the sake of improving my appeal. They thought my name was too ethnic and would limit my jobs.” However, the then 11-year-old was adamant to keep his name. “It did thwart me from acting for several years,” he admits. “But I tried again when I was 13 and finally got an agent to accept me with my name.” 

After several years of regular television work, Leonardo moved on to the silver screen starring alongside Hollywood heavyweights such as Johnny Depp in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? – a role which snagged him the first of many Oscar nominations to come. Never one to rest on his laurels, he continued to expand his resume with leading parts in notable films like The Basketball Diaries and Romeo & Juliet. But it was his role in the blockbuster epic Titanic which propelled him to superstardom resulting in fan worship among young women – a worldwide phenomena which became known as ‘Leo mania’. Touching on that chapter of his life, he says, “It was a very surreal period. It was so bizarre and intense that I took a break for a couple of years. I had to recharge and refocus.”

The role of a lifetime

Although Leonardo’s career hit a snag after Titanic, he soon bounced back with roles in noteworthy movies under the helm of acclaimed directors like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Since then, he has been in as many as 17 features including The Great Gatsby, Django Unchained and of course, The Revenant which won him his first Best Actor Oscar.

Discussing his experience working on The Revenant, he says candidly, “It was physically grueling. The toughest thing for me was getting in and out of frozen rivers. I had on elk skin and bear fur which weighed about 100 pounds when wet. It was a daily challenge not to get hypothermia.” But he does not stop there. “Making this movie was about man’s relationship with the natural world – a world which we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. In fact, our production team had to move to the Southern tip [of Argentina] just to find snow,” he emphasises.

Crusader with a cause

So, how does an actor become so invested in things like global warming? “When I took time off after Titanic, I re-evaluated my other great passion – the environment. I’ve been into biodiversity and science ever since I was a kid, probably from watching documentaries about the rain forest at the Natural History Museum. That’s how I was exposed to the wonders of nature. So, I decided to explore this interest by getting actively involved in environmental issues.”  

A man of his word, Leonardo has since contributed significantly to the environmental movement. He was the narrator and producer of The 11th Hour, a documentary exploring the precarious condition of the world’s ecosystems. That aside, he is a founder of The Leonardo DiCaprio Fund (a non-profit organisation which strives to support and raise awareness on various environmental causes), has served on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s not all. He even converted his official website into an ecosite! So, the next time you log on to www.leonardodicaprio.com, expect to see updates about his foundation along with news on his latest film ventures.

When asked to describe himself, Leonardo himself seems to sum it up best: “I’m not the kind of person who tries to be cool or trendy. I’m definitely an individual.” And judging by his resume – climate crusader, wildlife champion, acting veteran, film producer – he truly is. Leonardo DiCaprio is an individual, alright – a very remarkable one.



One Green Planet. Available at www.onegreenplanet.org

Rolling Stone. Available at www.rollingstone.com

Time Out Hong Kong. Available at www.timeout.com.hk

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Maria & Meldonium

Maria & Meldonium

May 8, 2022   Return

On March 7, when Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova admitted to taking meldonium that caused her to fail a drug test, the media became abuzz about the drug.

Meldonium, also known as mildronate, is produced in Latvia and marketed in mostly Eastern Europe and Russia as a drug to treat heart problems such as angina, heart attacks, heart failures and even strokes.

A quick search on the US National Library of Medicine reveals that there were also several studies on the possible beneficial effects of meldonium on Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes, but these studies were conducted on animals, so we have yet to have any conclusive answers on its benefits on human beings.

Meldonium has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), even though the manufacturer alleged that this is because getting an FDA approval is a costly process. It has been approved for sale in Russia and Eastern Europe, however, hence its use by people in those regions.

Not OK for athletes?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the organisation that maintains the list of drugs and medications prohibited to athletes. According to WADA’s addendum, which contains recent changes to its list, meldonium was added “because of evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance”.

What does this mean?

Well, to get to the answer, we have to be a bit more technical and look at how the drug works on cells.

Meldonium improves circulation by changing the way these cells break down various substances (protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc) into energy.

Normally, this process, called metabolism, occurs in structures in the cell called mitochondria. Meldonium blocks long-chain fatty acids from entering mitochondria, so these structures metabolise carbohydrates instead.

Carbohydrate metabolism consumes less oxygen than fat metabolism, so in cases where oxygen supply in the blood is reduced – such as when there is poor circulation due to atherosclerosis – cells can still stay alive and function.

For athletes, taking meldonium also means that they need less oxygen to reach optimal performance. Under normal circumstances, an athlete’s performance reaches a limit when his or her cells use up more oxygen than the lungs can deliver. But with meldonium reducing the amount of oxygen needed by the athlete’s cells, he or she can now push farther, perform longer and play harder – giving the athlete an unfair edge over other competitors. Hence, the WADA ban.


ABC Australia. Available at www.abc.net.au

Drugs.com. Available at www.drugs.com

US National Library of Medicine. Available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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That Dragon, Cancer

That Dragon, Cancer

May 8, 2022   Return

Unlike the more famous professional football player sharing his name, the video game creator Ryan Green is just an ordinary man with a lovely family. Everything changed, however, when his son Joel, then just one year old, was diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of brain cancer.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy followed. Joel recalls those sleepless nights when they would live out every parent’s worst nightmare: their child in pain, unable to get better, and them helpless to do anything other than to pray and try to be strong.

He decided to pay tribute to Joel the only way he knew how: through a video game. “I was scared I would forget Joel,” Ryan told Today. The game would be a way for the Greens to channel their grief as well as to celebrate every second that Joel was present and how he filled their lives with so much love and sunshine.

The game was developed by Numerous Studios and a rough demo of the game was exhibited in 2010 at a game convention in the USA. That Dragon, Cancer places the player in the shoes of Joel’s caregiver. The player can interact with Joel in many ways, almost like real life. However, the game can cut the heart deeply: the first scene will see the player scrambling to comfort Joel after a radiation treatment – a scene recreated from Ryan’s personal experience. Eventually, the player will share the journey with the Greens as Joel’s condition deteriorates.

The reception was astounding. Players who tried the game choked up and cried, while journalists and bloggers wrote about how that simple demo broke their hearts and inspired them to never take life for granted. Over the next few years, this simple game became one of the most anticipated titles in the video game industry.

Alas, even as the game demo was well received, doctors found that Joel had developed a new tumour. This time, they were not optimistic. They estimated that Joel had four more months left.

Yet, Joel defied expectations and lived for another three years.

Amy calls this a miracle. For every day that Joel was still with them, the Greens would celebrate the boy’s healthy moments. No grief, no tears – those could come later.

Joel Green passed away peacefully in March 24 last year, only five years old, surrounded by those who loved him deeply. Six weeks later, his sister Zoe came into the world. Her presence helped the Greens to heal, love and laugh again, but Ryan says that they would never forget Joel. And with the recent release of That Dragon, Cancer, neither would we.


Today. Available at www.today.com

Wired. Available at www.wired.com

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Man on a Mission

Man on a Mission

May 8, 2022   Return

While many other 26-year-olds may be too busy juggling work responsibilities and social life to even consider the notion of changing the world, Jeff Lau is bent on doing so starting with the AIDS landscape in Malaysia. And he is doing it, one step at a time – quite literally, if I may add – by participating in the Marathon des Sables 2016.

For the uninitiated, the Marathon des Sables (also known as the Marathon of the Sands) is a 6-day ultra marathon covering a whopping distance of 251 km. Ranked by Discovery Channel as the “toughest footrace on earth”, this annual event gets its name from the fact that it takes place in the Moroccan Sahara Desert! By participating, Jeff aims to raise funds for the Malaysian AIDS foundation (MAF). “My aim is to raise at least RM160,000 which MAF will channel into HIV education, empowerment and health literacy programmes for youths under MAF’s Red Ribbon Youth Club,” Jeff says, who is also a Red Ribbon Youth Icon.

Giving back to society

When asked if he had always been an adrenaline junkie prior to joining the marathon, Jeff shares candidly, “I’ve always been into sports like running, cycling and swimming. I’ve taken part in various triathlons and swimathons – both locally and internationally. But later on, I began liking running more because cycling makes my backside sore from the constant sitting whereas you have to be in seawater for as long as 4 hours during swimathons. Running is great because I get to listen to music at the same time and if I get tired, I can simply change the pace and walk.”

So, it was only natural for him to join one of the world’s most brutal races, right? “Not really. It started with an injury to my knee ligament, for which I had to undergo surgery. Recovery took 9 months; throughout the entire time, I could barely do anything at all. I felt so useless. The physiotherapy sessions only compounded my pain and stress. That was when I promised myself that when I fully recover, I will give back to society.”

He then shared his dream with one of his running buddies, Ralph Dixon. “I told Ralph about my intention and he suggested that I join the Marathon des Sables since he was training for it too. That was how we both ended up running in the Marathon des Sables 2014,” he recalls proudly.

When the going gets tough …

Touching on his preparation for the race, Jeff says, “I’d run twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays with an 8 kg backpack for a distance of 35 km each time. In total, I ran 70 km a week. I prepared myself as best as I could because during the marathon itself, runners have to carry a load of 12-14 kg for 7 days!”

But no amount of training could prepare him for the real thing. “I’m not one to give up easily but the Marathon des Sables really is something else. Besides carrying a heavy load, we had to cook our own meals throughout the entire course of the run. For breakfast and dinner, we consumed a minimum of 2,000 calories daily. In my case, I chose foods which were light in weight but high in calories like Milo, chocolate-coated dates and instant noodles. The environment was tough too. The sand in the Moroccan Sahara Desert was very soft so I had to walk instead, which slowed me down considerably. We also had to run under extreme temperatures. It was 45-50 degrees during the day but it dropped to as low as 8 degrees at night.”

Dehydration was another major factor. “We were given just 13 litres of water daily, so you can imagine how precious water was for us! Many didn’t bother with showering; we resorted to alcohol wipes. Many runners gave up half-way due to dehydration. I almost gave up on Day 4 of the race (the 80 km leg) when I had run for over 18 hours and still had 20 km to go. By then, I had injured my knee and was still carrying a heavy backpack. I was beyond exhausted and sleepy. All I could think about was quitting the race!” he admits.

But as tempting as it was, Jeff remained steadfast. “I badly wanted to quit but I remembered how the people, especially children, living in the desert barely had access to electricity, food and water – things that we normally take for granted. It made me realise I had absolutely no excuse to give up. I was also reminded of the plight of the underprivileged people living with HIV back in Malaysia – the reason why I took up the challenge in the first place – whose constant battle with stigma and discrimination daily as well as struggle with access to life-saving treatment and health services cannot be overstated.”

With renewed determination, Jeff pressed on and successfully completed the race – becoming the youngest Malaysian to ever finish the Marathon des Sables while raising RM80, 000 for MAF funds.

Powerful lessons

Looking back on his experience, Jeff says, “I’ve a newfound appreciation for things we tend to take for granted. I now complain a lot less about trivial things like my food not being tasty or not having enough money or my single bed being too small. The marathon really broadened my horizon and changed my perspective of life.”

Returning for Round 2

Judging by how tough the Marathon des Sables experience is, one normally wouldn’t repeat it – regardless of how rewarding it can be. But Jeff sees it differently – which is why he will run for a second time in this year’s Marathon des Sables. “I consider myself a fortunate person, in that I had the opportunity to further my studies in Australia without ever having to worry about finances. When I look at Malaysia’s HIV situation, there are people living with HIV, in this day and age, who suffer in silence. I suppose this is my way of sharing my ‘fortune’ with others who are less fortunate. I’d like to create a society with equal access to health, which truly is an inalienable human right.”

What does he hope to achieve in the Marathon des Sables 2016 then? “Ralph and I aim to at least double the fundraising target i.e. RM160, 000 so we can help more people,” he shares. “Aside from enhancing my overall performance, I hope in the next few years, as a result of my second attempt, my record as the youngest Malaysian to finish the race will be broken! I want to inspire young Malaysians to not only brave the Sahara but also champion a social cause they believe in strongly and take action for the betterment of society.”

A national treasure

With Jeff’s passion for charity, it was only a matter of time that his efforts were recognised. Late last year, he was made a Red Ribbon Youth Icon by the Ministry of Health. Discussing his new role, he explains, “I hope to break down barriers, bit by bit, that impede important discussions such as those about sexuality and other topics which have an adverse outcome on youths making informed decisions about their sexual health.”


An attainable goal

Jeff concludes, “I long to see a generation of empowered and inspired youths who will shape the course of the HIV response as we strive towards our common goal of ending AIDS by 2030. There’s so much the youth can do. For starters, they can improve their understanding of HIV and AIDS. They can also volunteer in NGOs, drive AIDS awareness campaigns at their colleges or participate in AIDS forums like MAF’s Red Ribbon Youth Club. While the goal of ending AIDS seems ambitious, as demonstrated by our commitment and willingness to think out of the box when the government implemented the ‘controversial’ harm reduction strategy a decade ago, this goal is highly achievable.”

And with this, we wish Jeff all the best for the Marathon des Sables 2016. Malaysia Boleh!

Those wishing to make monetary contributions to MAF can do so by visiting www.simplygiving.com/event/mds2016 or contacting Arif at MAF at 03-4047 4257, 012- 959 4596 or arif@mac.org.my

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Love Lights Up the Shadows

Love Lights Up the Shadows

May 8, 2022   Return

Yong Lee Lee and Remesh Kumar first met when they became classmates in Form 6. What they had was not love at first sight, but rather, a gradual building of affections anchored on a foundation of friendship and respect.  

“Together with our friends, we formed a music machine group,” Lee Lee recalls fondly. Just like Bryan Adams sang in his song Summer of ’69, the group did not go far, but those days were a time to cherish and remember.

Perhaps it was kismet that had their paths crossed again, when they ended up as interns at the same accountancy firm. They often worked together, and as a result, they became very familiar with each other’s quirks, strengths and weaknesses. “We learned to respect each other, and to give and take,” Remesh says. Falling in love with her, therefore, seemed like the most natural thing for him to do.

He adds that it took him about 3 years before he mustered the courage to propose! She said yes, of course. Their marriage produced two beautiful and intelligent daughters, and their careers flourished.

Lee Lee eventually became the Finance Director of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand of a multinational corporation. It was a rewarding position, but it was also a stressful one that consumed much of her time and energy. Eventually, her blood pressure rose. Her wake-up call came in the form of a mild stroke in 2003.

“It was a very difficult decision to make, but the stroke made me realise that I needed a change in my life,” she says. “My health was getting worse and the work stress was burning me out.”


The mammogram that changed everything

In 2005, Lee Lee tendered her resignation. She was still entitled to receive her medical benefits in the meantime, so she decided to go for a medical check-up, which included a mammogram. It was her second time undergoing a mammogram, so it seemed like a cruel kind of irony when they told her that they had found a lump in her breast. The lump was about 2 cm, “mainly cancerous”.

“I was devastated and angry,” Lee Lee says. “I was going to give up my career for a healthier life, but now it seemed that I was too late.”

She remained calm and silent as the doctor told her about the cancer. “But once I was out of the clinic, I broke down and cried uncontrollably at the corridor.”

Remesh remembers that moment vividly. He held Lee Lee as she had her breakdown, assuring her that everything would be alright and they would get through this together. In his heart, he was terrified for Lee Lee, but he had to be strong for the two of them at that point in time.

Lee Lee says that it took her about 2 months before she came to terms with her diagnosis. Initially, she was scheduled to undergo chemotherapy, but she and Remesh decided to seek a second opinion from Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. To their huge relief, they found that only 1 cm of her lump was cancerous, a discovery that was confirmed by the Singapore General Hospital.

Her cancer was restaged to Stage I (early stage) and she did not have to undergo chemotherapy. Instead, she had her lump surgically removed. “I also underwent 25 cycles of radiotherapy,” she adds.

Her experience in Singapore was an eye-opener on the importance of having a second opinion. She reiterates that a second opinion is important before deciding on any treatment.

Lee Lee fondly describes how supportive Remesh was during that trying period. He would help with household chores, take care of the girls and support his wife while keeping an optimistic cheer to lift everyone’s spirits.

For Remesh, being present and supporting his wife every step of her cancer journey comes naturally to him. “I remember those days when I was courting her to be my wife,” he says with a smile. “And I did the same thing all over again.” After all, Lee Lee was still the same woman he fell in love with and married, and cancer did not change that. Whenever she was cranky, upset or burned out, he would make her fall in love with him all over again.

And that he did, as Lee Lee recalls how he was her rock when she needed someone to lean on. He was her silence when she needed peace; her laughter when she needed to pick herself up.

“Support is very important for any cancer patient,” she says. “And I am very fortunate to have Remesh by my side. He makes all the difference.” 

Lee Lee’s daughters were 8 and 12 when she was diagnosed. She and Remesh did not tell them at first, believing that they were too young to understand what she was going through. Her daughters instinctively knew that Lee Lee was not well, however. Lee Lee recalls a letters her younger daughter wrote to her during a personal development course, telling Lee Lee that she was so sorry if she had ever caused her mother any stress. “I was so touched,” she says with a fond sigh. 


A new direction, a new hope

Today, Lee Lee’s cancer has been in remission for 10 years and counting. She has her own business, one that allows her to achieve a better work-life balance.

However, Lee Lee shares how miserable she was in the first 2 years after her treatment. She had too much time to worry about a recurrence of the cancer as well as to dwell on the uncertainties of the future, and as a result, she felt that she was slipping into depression.

It was during one of the meetings with her doctor, Datuk Dr M Devanand, a Consultant Breast Surgeon, when inspiration struck. In 2009, he invited her to participate in a project involving other cancer survivors, and Lee Lee found a new direction to channel her time and energy into. She helped raise $150,000 to sponsor 29 cancer survivors to the Reach to Recovery International breast cancer support conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Taking inspiration from this conference, Lee Lee together with Datuk Dr Devanand and her peers embarked on a journey to share what they learned to create and promote breast cancer awareness. The group raised funds through the “Pink Ribbon Charity Ball” in 2009 and 2010 to sponsor another 74 cancer survivors to the Reach to Recovery International conference in Taiwan in 2011.

It would be impractical to keep financing breast cancer survivors to attend the international support conference, and doing so also limits the number of breast cancer survivors who would benefit from the experience. So, why not create local opportunities for breast cancer survivors to participate in similarly empowering experiences?

Thus, in February 2012, the Pink Ribbon Wellness (L) Foundation was co-founded in by Datuk Dr Devanand and Lee Lee, with Puan Sri Maniseh Adam as its Patron. With the support of cancer survivors and volunteers, the Foundation organizes public lectures and survivors’ workshops in urban and rural areas as part of its awareness and support programme.

Lee Lee proudly recalls how the Foundation took its education programmes to the next level by organising a national conference entitled “Life Beyond Breast Cancer Symposium” in 2012 and 2015, which reached out to 600 cancer survivors. “We also organised the first ever Pink Wigathon Charity Run/Walk at Bukit Jalil and the Lost World of Tambun. 2000 participants walked with cancer survivors, all in pink wigs – that was a sight to remember!” she goes on to say.

Founding and managing the Foundation keeps Lee Lee busy, but more importantly, doing so allows her to reach out to the sisterhood of breast cancer survivors in Malaysia.

Remesh supports Lee Lee’s work with the Foundation, naturally, by participating in the Foundation’s many efforts and events in an unofficial capacity. Even her daughters are enthusiastic supporters, helping out with fundraising whenever they can.

Lee Lee is grateful that, during her cancer treatment journey, she had the love and support of her family, Datuk Dr Devanand and peers to keep her strong and positive. And now, even the shadow of cancer fades into the background, her family continues to rally around her as she pays it forward, reaching out to breast cancer survivors who may be less fortunate than her.

As Maya Angelou said: “I sustain myself with the love of family.”


For more information on the Pink Ribbon Wellness (L) Foundation, visit www.pinkribbonwellnessfoundation.org.my. Enquiries and donations are welcomed.  

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Love, Life & Lucy

Love, Life & Lucy

May 8, 2022   Return

Lucy Liu couldn’t be in a better place right now. For starters, the actress has a new man in her life. No, she isn’t dating a Hollywood hunk or being wooed by some real estate mogul. I’m referring to her adorable baby boy! Last August, Lucy took to Instagram to announce the arrival of her son born via gestational surrogate with the caption: “Introducing the new man in my life, my son Rockwell Liu. In love!” And no wonder, she’s in love. The photo which she uploaded shows baby Rockwell clad in an onesie while smiling oh-so-sweetly at the camera.

Besides that, the crime drama Elementary in which she stars as Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, Dr Watson is already in its successful fourth season. Despite being met with doubts initially, the series has won over critics and the public alike – amassing a large fan base over the years.

With the onset of motherhood and her successful movie-to-TV transition, it’s safe to say that Lucy’s in a good place in her life right now. But things were not always easy breezy for this petite lady.

‘I had to be a pioneer’

When discussing her career, it is impossible for Lucy to not mention the elephant in the room: stereotypes – after all, she was a regular victim of stereotype casting during her early days as a budding actress trying to make it big in Tinsel town.

“It’s alright if I’m cast as a woman who happens to be Chinese-American or in roles where my race can be acknowledged and wrapped into the plot without turning me into a total stereotype but many of the roles I’ve been given were stereotyped.,” she says. “I wish people wouldn’t see me merely as the Asian girl who beats people up, or the Asian girl with no emotion. People can see actresses like Julia Roberts in a romantic comedy, but not me.”

Despite the odds, Lucy wouldn’t settle for anything less. She fought hard to get herself involved in projects which didn’t pressure her into the ‘stereotype corner’ – Elementary being one of them. When news got out that she had been cast as Dr Watson, many people were enraged with the idea of a woman (and an Asian one at that) portraying such a famous – and traditionally male – role. Thankfully, Lucy wasn’t fazed choosing instead to channel her energy into proving critics wrong.

“If I didn’t try something, I’d still be doing TV ads. It’s not always about pleasing people; sometimes it’s about pleasing yourself. For me, the more individual you make something, the more universal it can be. You need to be a pioneer and that means doing stuff that’s different,” she explains. And we are glad she did – or else, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the great on-screen chemistry that she has with her co-star Johnny Lee Miller who plays Sherlock Holmes opposite her Watson.

Lucy the artist

Besides boasting an acting resume dating back to the late 80s, Lucy is also a talented artist. However, her artistic skills were only made known to the public several years ago. “I’ve always had an interested in visual arts. I first started exhibiting my paintings and photographs at art galleries under the pseudonym ‘Yu Ling’ because I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself than there already was,” she confesses.

It was only at her publisher’s encouragement that Lucy began considering the possibility of putting her own name to her work. “My publisher insisted that I use my name; that it was an opportunity to show the world my work and be proud of it. So, I did. It was nerve-wracking initially but I realised that if people were going to criticise me, they were going to do so whether I used my name or not. So, I decided to just go for it.” However, her fears have proved unfounded as her work has received much praise and has been exhibited at prestigious galleries in New York, Munich and Miami.

Better than ever

While many actresses worry about ageing in beauty-obsessed Hollywood, Lucy is more confident than ever these days. For one thing, she’s in fantastic shape – thanks to well-balanced meals and regular exercise. “Pilates and running introduced me to muscles I never knew I had. I now feel longer and leaner,” she gushes. “I also eat healthy. I feel good about my body after exercising, so I don’t want to ruin it with unhealthy food.” “I’m stronger and more accepting of myself than I’ve ever been.”

On a roll

Lucy may be reaching the big 50 in a couple of years but she’s not slowing down in the slightest judging by the recent triumphs in her personal and professional life. In fact, she’s just getting started. “I do things be it acting or drawing because I want to discover who I am. Self-discovery is a life-long journey,” Lucy says. “I want to keep going forward.”



1. Fitness. Available at www.fitnessmagazine.com

2. Hunger TV. Available at www.hungertv.com

3. Interview Magazine. Available at www.interviewmagazine.com

4. XO Jane. Available at www.xojane.com

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Honouring Tradition with Ethics & Integrity

Honouring Tradition with Ethics & Integrity

May 8, 2022   Return

Merrill J. Fernando loves tea with a passion. But instead of just catering rich, savoury tea to tea lovers worldwide, he is also dedicated to ensuring that ethics and integrity go into the production of his favourite beverage. 

Born in 1930, hailing from a middle-class background in rural Sri Lanka – then, a British colony known as Ceylon – Merrill found his calling in life early on during his youth. After completing his college education in the 1950s, he moved to Colombo in hopes of becoming a tea tester. The profession of tea testing was dominated and closely guarded by the British expatriates, but Merrill was fortunate enough to be selected among the first batch of Ceylonese to be trained at Mincing Lane, London.

What Merrill observed at Mincing Lance – then dubbed the ‘Mecca of Tea’ – was an industry in which the tea producers in his country were exploited by multinational corporations. Sri Lanka relied heavily on the tea industry to support its economy, but the leaves, painstakingly grown according to traditional Ceylonese process and hand-picked for the finest in taste and quality, were treated as low-value commodity in Europe. Ceylonese producers received only a small fraction of the profits, the lion’s share going to the middlemen, which were the large corporations. This realization shaped Merrill’s perspective, fuelling his determination to address this inequity in the Ceylonese tea trade.  

In 1988, Merrill founded his own tea company, Dilmah. The name was derived by combining the names of his two sons, Dilhan and Malik. He pioneered the concept of single-origin tea, going against the grain in a market of multi-origin blends. Dilmah became the first producer-owned tea brand, where leaves were picked, packed and shipped by the growers themselves. This practice allowed him to pay his workers fairer wages, as well as ensuring that his clients would savour high quality garden-fresh tea.

His vision of fair and ethical trade was not without obstacles, though. Over the last decade, Merrill’s comparatively tiny family business was pitted against big traders that had been monopolising the industry. Furthermore, in a market filled with multi-origin tea blends, his peers and government regulators had a hard time sharing his belief that tea could be produced directly from crops to consumer.      

Nevertheless, Merrill stood by his passionate commitment to authentic, exquisite quality and above all, ethically produced tea. Over the decades, Dilmah has grown into one of the world’s leading tea brands, available in over 100 countries. Never forgetting his roots, Merill founded the MJF Charitable Foundation. Revenue from sales of Dilmah tea is used to finance the foundation’s activities.

“In many aspects, the MJF story is the antithesis of globalisation,” wrote Paul Harris in LMD Magazine, Sri Lanka’s leading business magazine. “It is the tale of success for the small family unit working hard to overcome the power of the multinationals. It is a tale of values overcoming the sometimes amoral mechanisations of much bigger and more powerful players.” 

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Man of Many Talents

Man of Many Talents

May 8, 2022   Return


Dato’ Dr Arunan Selvaraj is a man of many talents and distinguished accomplishments. A lawyer, he is the founding and managing partner of Messrs Rusmah Arunan and Associates. He has also established himself as a proponent and advocate for physical and mental wellness. A popular speaker as well as author, he is well known as a “straight A” man among his peers.

The straight ‘A’s

  • A is for ‘attorney’. Dato’ Dr. Arunan Selvaraj is a practising lawyer and he holds a Doctorate in Family Law. He was admitted to the Malaysian Bar in 1992.
  • A is also for ‘author’. His years of practice in family law had motivated him to author and publish his first book “Saving Your Marriage”. All proceeds go to National Cancer Society of Malaysia and The Malaysian Association for the Blind.
  • A is for ‘adventurer’ as well. From climbing mountains to seeing the world, he is always seeking new experiences to savour.
  • A is for ‘advocate’. Dato’ Arunan also actively participates and promotes the campaigns of various non-profit organisations in this country.
  • And finally, A is for ‘attitude’. He has an upbeat, positive way of looking at life and love, which he hopes to share with the world.

Growing up, a life of love

“One of the many principles I tightly hold on to in life is doing good,” the KL native tells us. “I attribute this to my parents, who instilled in me that our actions are the most important testimony of our beliefs and values.”

He recalls how, when he was 7, a hawker stall owner gave him the wrong change. Having received change for RM50 when he only gave the man RM10, he was overjoyed and proudly offered to split the extra money with his father. 

“My father told me in a harsh tone to apologise to the owner and return the money,” he reminisces. “Once his anger had settled, he explained to me why taking that extra bit of money was not right, and that the money rightfully belonged to the owner. To help me understand better, he explained how I was depriving the owner, and possibly his family of their needs. Since then, I have always lived by this lesson.”

Living in harmony

Dato’ Arunan grew up in the Ampang Jaya neighbourhood. “The neighbourhood I grew up in, as well as the schools I attended comprised of a society with a fair mix of Chinese, Indian and Malays,” he tells me. “We never heard about race being mentioned, at all.”

He still remembers his neighbour back in those days, Idris. “Idris’s mother would feed him and his 3 siblings, as well as my sister and me by hand from the same big bowl of rice, while we wait for the school bus to come and take us to school in the afternoon,” he says.

Life with other children of all races and religions taught him the value of diversity in cultures, lifestyles as well as opinions. Dato’ Arunan says that, as Malaysians, it is essential that we look beyond skin colour and religion.

Stand up when life knocks you down

During the economic slowdown, Dato’ Arunan’s legal education fees in the United Kingdom became a burden for his family to shoulder. “I needed to support myself,” he says, “I took on a few hard-labour part-time jobs that paid well.”

Taking on those part-time jobs was a great growing-up experience. “My co-workers, who were big, well-built men were surprised to see a law student in their midst but they took me under their wing. I didn’t know the basics like needing to wear gloves, and had blistered, bleeding hands on the first day until they noticed and advised me. It was a very tough time, but I kept myself going by focusing on the goal – to complete my degree and graduate.”

Dato’ Arunan felt that such experiences molded him, taught him important life lessons that he would hold on to for the rest of his life. “While pursuing a goal, setbacks usually occur. It is important to motivate ourselves by focusing on the goal. Remind ourselves that the outcome of these setbacks will be good, and we will be motivated to keep trying,” he says.


The measure of a man

Dato’ Arunan eventually embarked on his career as a lawyer. In the early days, he witnessed many of his clients facing marital problems. As someone who tends to relate to and connect with people, he found himself into marriage counseling.

Dato’ Arunan once helped a mother gain custody of her 2-year old girl after her divorce. The mother eventually found a man who would marry her, as long as she abandoned the girl. She came to Dato’ Arunan to have the custody order modified to grant custody to her former in-laws (whom her daughter had never met), but he refused to represent her.

“I tried my best to counsel her and convinced her to change her decision. I reminded her that she would have to live with a guilty conscience, and that if the man truly loved her, he would love her unconditionally,” he says.

There was a happy ending to the story. The mother visited Dato’ Arunan a few years later with her daughter to do a sales and purchase agreement. She had taken his advice to heart and kept her daughter with her, a decision that she made as a result of his advice to her.

To his surprise, the daughter, now eight, broke down in tears and kissed his hand, thanking him for his advice to her mother. Until that moment, Dato’ Arunan never realised how words could leave such a deep impact on one’s life.

Another opportunity to make a difference arrived soon after. Dato’ Arunan frequently gave talks on various topics, and on that particular day, he was to give a talk on wealth management and financial intelligence. He recalls, “When I entered the hall and scanned the participants, the majority of the crowd looked worryingly overweight and unhealthy. I decided to make a change on the spot.”

He asked the audience why they were directing so much of their lives to gathering wealth, when they neglected their well-being and faced the risk of not living long enough to enjoy the wealth.

“My talk that day also went into extra time on physical and mental health. I managed to transform the lifestyles of many that day, as it sparked the realization that true wealth is good health, and not just material riches. Many of the attendees of that talk wrote to me later on, thanking me for inspiring them to lead healthier lives, and they continue to be in touch with me.”

His epiphany was crystal clear. Dato’ Arunan was a busy man, but at the same time, he managed to find time to be a devoted family man as well as to indulge in his personal interests, all the while staying fit and maintaining a healthy outlook about life. If he could do this, so could others. Thus, he found another calling: to share his philosophy on both physical and mental wellness, and this motivated him to embark on his second book.

Keep learning and stay positive

Dato’ Arunan enjoys reading autobiographies of strong and successful personalities, as well as self-help books. “I think it’s important to read self-help books with a clear and positive mindset, as it influences how you apply the lessons taught into your daily lives and you can get the most out of it.”

He also makes it a point to surround himself with positive people. “This is an often overlooked, but important step to better mental wellness,” he tells me. “Negative people only demoralise you, and sometimes, they get to you without you realising it. You should detoxify yourself from such people – be with people who understand, support and motivate you, even if they don’t always agree with you all the time!”

Also, he adds that good health is essential. “A vast number of us only think of health in the physical aspect. In doing so, we overlook our mental health. Truth is, it is vital to strike a balance between both.”

Dato’ Arunan’s tips for stress management

  • Avoid directing inordinate chunks of time to your work – draw a line between work and play.
  • Treat challenges as opportunities for personal growth and development.
  • Always be the master of your emotions – manage your anger, control your sadness. Make it a point to de-stress and clear your turbulent mind.
  • Have a positive view of yourself to develop your self-esteem.
  • Establish and maintain healthy relationships. Even with the development of modern technology, do not neglect good communication and real conversations with our friends and family.

His other philosophies

Be generous in sharing positivity with other people.

Dato’ Arunan frequently gives talks on physical and mental wellness, as well as on relationships and families. He can be frequently seen on TV as well.

He also authored Saving Your Marriage (ISBN 978-967-416-021-0, published by TrueWealth), as an inspiration for married people as well as those who are considering marriage or having a relationship. Another book is about to be released.

Volunteer – it keeps us grounded and allows us to give back to the less fortunate.

Dato’ Arunan has worked closely with various non-governmental organisations such as the National Cancer Council (MAKNA), National Cancer Society of Malaysia and All Women’s Action Society (AWAM). One significant project he organised was project ‘Movember: The Ultimate Shave-off’ in 2015, raising over RM200,000. The project also launched a music video entitled “You Gotta Live!”, which featured many of our local artists to raise awareness regarding prostate and testicular cancer.



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Michelle Monaghan & Melanoma

Michelle Monaghan & Melanoma

May 8, 2022   Return

With her svelte figure, vibrant skin and luscious hair, actress Michelle Monaghan resembles a woman at the peak of health – she looks hardly a day over 40!   It would come as a surprise to many that, back in 2011, the star of Source Code, Mission Impossible III and Made of Honour revealed that she was in a secret battle with skin cancer

Like many skin cancer patients, Monaghan was barely aware of the risks and initial signs of the disease. Fortunately for her, her husband, graphic designer Peter White, is Australian. “In Australia, they are very aware of skin cancer!” she quips.

She had White to thank for the early detection, as it was her husband’s keen eye that noticed a mole on the back of her calf. After much insistence on his part, Monaghan visited a dermatologist to have the mole medically examined. Just like what her husband suspected, what appeared to be a minor skin imperfection turned out to be cancerous. 

Skin cancer, also known as melanoma, is the result of the pigment-producing skin cells, known as melanocytes, becoming abnormal and growing out of control. Moles are the result of melanocytes growing in a cluster, with tissue surrounding them. It is therefore advisable for those with large unusual-looking moles to watch out for signs of change in them. This seemingly harmless concentration of cells actually carries the risk of developing into melanoma, especially when there is a noticeable change in the size and appearance of the mole.

When a melanoma is diagnosed, the most effective treatment to prevent cancerous cells from spreading is to surgically remove the affected part of the skin.

In Monaghan’s case, the malignant mole had caused “quite the chunk taken out of my leg.” Nevertheless, she is extremely grateful her husband had noticed it and urged her to get it checked.   

Her brush with skin cancer, though not lethal, has made Monaghan more cancer-aware and taught her a valuable lesson in not taking her health for granted. Following her victory over melanoma, the True Detective actress professed regret over her smoking habit.

“I smoked for almost 10 years. I really regret that,” she admitted to The Daily Mail after successfully quitting her smoking habit. “Thankfully, I came out on the other side. I hope my lungs are repairing themselves now.”


The Daily Mail. Available at www.dailymail.co.uk

Health.com Available at www. health.com

PalmBeachPost.com. Available at www.palmbeachpost.com

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