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Involvement in Community Projects Led to Multiple Awards for an IMU Staff

28 Jul 2020

IMU staff members were acknowledged for their achievements and dedication with the presentation of the Staff Achievement Awards and Long-Service Awards at its first ever virtual University Day celebrations on  24 July 2020. University Day is an annual event held to commemorate the university conferring its university status in 1999. The Staff Achievement Awards included outstanding contributions in research and publications, individual development, teaching excellence and community service among others.

Recipient of Staff Achievement Award for Community Service
Dr Elaine Chan Wan Ling 2 categories:
Leadership in Community Services
Partnership Excellence in Community

We managed to catch up with Dr Elaine after the awards ceremony for this interview.

How do you feel right now after receiving the Staff Community Award?

I felt appreciated for the recognition given. It shows that the University is serious about community service and takes the extra mile to award their staff in this category. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the IMU Cares office for their support and opportunity to serve the community, as well as to Prof Khoo Suan Phaik, Associate Dean for University Community Engagement, for her guidance and constant encouragement.

There are many community projects conducted by staff in IMU. Did you expect/thought about that your contributions all these years would earn you an award amongst the IMU staff? 

When I first started these community service projects, I was not expecting to win any awards as the smiles I bring to the community I serve is the best reward. It came to my surprise when IMU Cares asked me to consider applying for the awards and an even bigger surprise that I was chosen as the recipient of both awards.

What does it mean to you winning this award?

It is an encouragement for me to persevere with the community work that had been started and to continue serving the community.

Dr Elaine  (second from right) with  Prof Toh Chooi Gait, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Engagement and Industrial Partnership, IMU Cares team and Aflame Students Award winners after the awards ceremony held at the auditorium of the IMU Bukit Jalil Campus on 24 July 2020.

What made you embark on these community projects at the first place?
The journey started with the curiosity on how Alzheimer’s disease caregivers were able to cope with their day to day activities. This led me to be in contact with Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation Malaysia (ADFM) and assisted them in accessing the needs of the caregiver in the centre. My interactions with Jenny, the person-in-charge at ADFM, was one of the most memorable moments as her stories about her passion for the community and the challenges she faced really motivated me to give my best in these projects.

Tell us about your experience while working on community projects and what these projects means to you?

Most of the time, a project starts with us having an idea of wanting to implement changes or give something to help the community. However, over the years of projects I have been involved in under IMU Cares, I learned that what matters the most is to understand and address the needs of the community through direct engagement with the people in the community itself. All the projects have given me the privilege to better understand the challenges faced by different communities and individuals from different walks of life. It broadened my view and knowledge on the social needs out there. Being part of projects to meet these needs sometimes bring much more joy than just completing a task at work.

Do you mind sharing with us some memorable moments and challenges while working on these projects?
The most memorable moments are always the precious moments the community share their own individual life stories that enables me to understand their needs and do whatever small things I can to help them. For example, a teenager once told me about his dream to become a musician. However, he did not know how to pursue his dream and felt lost, to the point where he had sleepless nights. This encouraged me to develop a year-long project titled “small step, big dreams” to help the teenagers at Rumah Victory Youth and Children Home, discover their interest and guide them to fulfil their dream. After the project, it put a smile on my face to see the teenager now have the hope to continue and go after his dream despite his challenging background. In the PPR Desa Petaling’s Komuniti Sihat Pembina Negara (KOSPEN) project, I remember our team going from house to house to introduce ourselves and let them know about the healthcare community fair that we are organising. We went in not knowing what to expect but ended up enjoying the process as the community was welcoming and willing to share their challenges in life with us. We spent almost 4 hours talking to different individuals. The biggest challenge faced in all community projects is to gain the initial trust from the community and show them that we are there genuinely there to help them.

Where do you see your projects going from here after getting the recognition from winning this award?

The award will not change the objective of these projects which is to serve and sincerely care for the community. However, it is great to have this award as an encouragement to persevere with what had been started.

What advice would you like to give staff/students in IMU regarding community work?
I would advise them to focus on the joy and benefit of giving to the community they are serving and be genuine in our interactions with the community to fully appreciate the experience rather than feeling burdened by it as an extra workload. From past experiences, I noticed that staff/students are more enthusiastic when the community projects require skills that a staff or student is already good at. Therefore, to improve staff/student participation, it will be advisable that they choose a project that they are passionate about, where they are able to use their skills to contribute to the project and not doing it merely to complete the task. I would also advise them to just start out with the communities or issues they are passionate about. They can also discuss with IMU Cares to see how to design and implement their projects as they go along.

What are your thoughts on the staff/students’ involvement in community activities? What attributes do you feel are best shaped through staff/students’ involvement in community projects in our university? How has your personal journey and development been shaped by your involvement in the community work in IMU?

A common feedback that staff/students gave after their involvement in a community service was that they felt thankful to be able to be part of the project. Most times, many will say that it reminds them that they are blessed, inspire them or that they have learned valuable lessons from the community. they have learned something new, inspired or reminded them to be thankful that they are blessed. Sometimes, bringing a smile to someone in need could make a difference in our lives too. As the saying goes, it is more blessed to give than to receive.

What’s next for you, Dr Elaine? What can we look forward to?

I will continue to strive to put a smile in more individuals in different communities.

Congratulations to Dr Elaine!

We would like to thank Dr Elaine for taking time out of her busy schedule for this interview.

Related article: IMU Community Project Raises Awareness on Health and Wellness of Desa Petaling Community

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