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IMU’s Virologist Wins Award for Involvement in the Community

29 Mar 2021

The IMU Staff Achievement Award is a recognition of the outstanding contributions by the IMU Staff in various categories which demonstrates the core values of the university. A category in this award is the Leadership in Community Service. This year’s recipient of this category of the award is Dr Kenny Voon Gah Leong, a virologist in the School of Medicine, IMU. Dr Kenny received the award at this year’s University Day celebrations on 26 March 2021 at the university’s campus in Bukit Jalil. Dr Kenny Voon has led community projects under the partnership of IMU Cares and the Peace Education Centre (PEC) (formerly Shalom Education Centre) since 2017.

He is involved in advising staff and leading various MPU4 projects to achieve the following objectives:
Improve general health status of all residents of PEC through health monitoring and education
Empower the residents of PEC to be self-reliant in maintaining their personal hygiene, sanitation, and cleanliness of the centre
Complement their education and understanding through additional facilitation by students.

As a member of the Lions Club KL City, he has also established continuous collaborations between IMU Cares and Lions Club KL City in providing donations to IMU Cares communities. Dr Kenny Voon is the Organising Chairman of the Hunger Project at the Lion Club KL City, raising funds together with IMU Cares to purchase biscuits and food items for 18 community partners. All donations were delivered to the respective homes by IMU Community Engagement and Lions Club KL City in December 2020.

Dr Kenny is also team leader of the COVID-19 testing unit at IMU’s Institute for Research, Development and Innovation (IRDI) which had developed a cost-effective method for large-scale diagnostic COVID-19 testing without compromising accuracy. Through securing external donations from Lions Club KL City and KLH Chemicals, he managed to source sufficient RNA extraction kits and PPE for COVID-19 testing at IMU.

Through all this, Dr Kenny has demonstrated exemplary leadership in the communities he serves and is also an example for us to follow. We managed to catch up with Dr Kenny to understand his story better.

What are your personal experiences and motivations that drive you to actively be involved in community work?
Most of my community work started when I joined IMU. Through IMU Cares, I chose to help marginalised children because I hope to give them some happiness and joy. Together with IMU staff, faculty, and students, we provided assistance to orphans and abused children in Precious Home,  Petaling Jaya. We also helped refugee children and teenagers in PEC. My motivation comes from the appreciation and sincere smiles of the children, which made me unwilling to let them down when I feel like giving up.

Could you tell us about some of the memorable moments/challenges in your service to the community?

Being appreciated by the children and guardians is one of the memorable moments I have while serving the community. Another one would be receiving greetings and wishes from PEC, reminding me that I am someone who has made an influence in their lives. This drives me to push myself so that I can perform more and serve them better. Although IMU is a great place to start your journey in community work, the finite resources IMU can provide remains as one of the challenges to conduct more sustainable projects for the community.

How has your personal journey been like, and how was it shaped by your involvement in community work in IMU?

Just like others, there are many ups and downs in my journey. But what keeps driving me to perform better is knowing that all I worked for, efforts big and small, will help someone out there who needs it. Reflecting on my volunteerism, I realise that I am still lacking in many ways, and Malaysia has many charitable groups and service clubs that help the needy. That is why I joined the Lions Club KL City, to gain more access to external resources and support to provide better service to the community. One of the collaborations Lion Clubs KL City has together with IMU Cares is the Hunger Project, which provides biscuits to 18 marginalised communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What words of advice do you have for IMU staff/students who are looking to be active in community work?
In my opinion, managing expectations of all stakeholders involved in a community project is a very important step in your planning. Begin with a visualised outcome of the project and then start listing out the expectations from each stakeholder/party involved. Some stakeholders may be fine with just providing monetary support while others may provide manpower only and so on. The challenge comes in deciding how to meet the required expectations for a successful community project. Having an open mind is also important when managing these expectations to ensure good cooperation and synergy.

Dr Kenny is still actively serving the children in PEC as the project leader, leading various projects in collaboration with IMU Cares and various schools. We wish Dr Kenny all the best and hopes that he continues to carry the torch for community work.

Congratulations and Keep Up the Good Work!

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