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Finalist of IMU’s Staff Achievement Award Shares His Passion in Community Work

09 Apr 2021

There are many among the IMU staff who have been actively engaging with the community. One of them is Dr Tan Boon Keat from School of Medicine, who was a finalist for the Staff Achievement Award under the category of Leadership in Community Service.

Through IMU Cares, he is currently the Project Leader of two projects that serves some of our community partners:
Swimming for Less Privileged Children, and
Basic Life Support Training for IMU Community Partners

Both projects were launched in late 2018 and has been well received by the children and the communities. This positive response had led Dr Tan to make plans for further expansion on these projects. Dr Tan has also been Project Advisor in several MPU4 projects involving welfare homes, schools, and the elderly.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country in 2020 when physical activities with these community partners were halted, did not stop him from giving back to the community. He was among those who had swiftly responded to the nation’s call to fight the virus by setting up the COVID-19 diagnostic team in IMU to help flatten the curve.

When faced with a shortage of PPE supplies, he managed to secure sponsors to supply sufficient PPE supplies for COVID-19 testing in IMU. We managed to have a short chat with Dr Tan to find out the motivation behind his active participation in the community. Dr Tan, you are a busy man to catch up with! Thank you for sparing some time for this short interview.

Firstly, what are your personal experiences or motivations that drive you to be so actively involved in the community work that you are doing now?
In 2004 when I was on a Mount Chamah hiking expedition, my team and I had been travelling in the jungle for 4 days and finally reached a small village for a day’s rest. During a chat with head of the village, to our surprise, the young children from the village had to walk in a thick jungle for 3 days to nearest town for their primary and secondary studies. For those who are sick and in need of medical attention, they had to travel the same distance to receive medical help. The expedition has triggered me to think deeply about how things that are commonly and easily available to us could be difficult and impossible for others to obtain. Although they are living in the same piece of land (Malaysia) and breathing in the same air as us, they struggle in life due to the lack of opportunities and resources. If we can provide them some help, they would definitely be better than before. To give marginalised communities an equal chance at life is the reason for my involvement in community work.

As the Project Leader for 2 on-going projects and several other past projects, surely you must have encountered a lot of challenges and sweet moments as well. Could you share with us your most memorable moment during your work with the community?

I recalled the first time when I brought the underprivileged children to a swimming pool for their first swimming lesson. The children were very excited when they saw the pool and start to run around with joy. I will never forget the smiles on their faces; their smiles made it worthwhile to go through the challenges and difficulties faced along the way.

How has your personal journey and development been shaped by your involvement in community work at IMU?

I gained a lot of experience from my involvement in community work. But overall, from the good and the bad, the community involvement has shaped me to be a better person.

Finally, any words of wisdom for IMU staff/students who are looking to be active in community work?
For those who wish to be involved actively in community work at IMU, you are not alone. The IMU Community Engagement Office and many of us are here to support each other. Community work is beyond hitting KPIs, this service has a bigger vision and you will receive more accomplishment in it. I quote what Prof Ong (former Director of External Affairs of IMU) told me when we encountered multiple obstacles during the initiating of our swimming project: “We will solve all the challenges, one after another, and at one point, you will find a moment that is worth all these hard work”. Let’s do it together!

To quote Bill Clinton, “Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.” The act of kindness and compassion to the people around us need not be motivated by a big idea, it could be motivated by the simple desire to see a smile on the faces of those who receive it.

We would like to thank Dr Tan for his encouraging words and inspiring story of humanity.

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