Joyful July

Some of the Malaysian Red Crescent unsung heroes honoured
 as guests-of-honour at the Thistle Johor Baru event

When my article on the Malaysian Red Crescent (MRC) honouring voluntary blood donors – the unsung heroes – in conjunction with World Blood Donors Day was published [Red Crescent honours blood donors, NST Johor Streets, 20 June 2012], I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Aidah Abd Rahman, Thistle Johor Baru Marketing & Communications Manager.

Her email was addressed to both, MRC representative, Lekha Nandey and me:

“I must say Peggy's article in NST triggered this 'rush' - I feel that volunteers such as those from MRC must be appreciated and celebrated in some ways. We always talk about the sponsors and receivers and the VIP but not those behind the scenes. How sad!

Lekha, would you be able to gather say about 30 to 40 volunteers from MRC in July for a Ramadan Buka Puasa at the hotel, as we would like to celebrate the unsung heroes?  Let me know your thoughts and I can come up with a date say by Monday.

Peggy, as always, great writing!  They got me many times :)

Cheers ladies!”

Dr Ghantan [Right] and his brother, Rajan, [Left]
escorting cousin Saumyaasiay in the final
sector of their walk to Dataran Johor Baru
As Ramadan month rolled around, I accepted Thistle Johor Baru’s invitation to their Arabian Iftar themed Buka Puasa meal on 25 July, joining guests who arrived at the banquet hall just in time to break the day’s fast.  When I spotted guests wearing the Malaysian Red Crescent uniform, I recalled the message in Aidah’s email.  I also saw a familiar face – Lehka – and after we exchanged greetings, she said, “This is happening because of you!” 

Eh? I was just doing my job but when I saw the happy faces, I was deeply humbled that my article was the catalyst that inspired Thistle JB to recognize regular blood donors and the hardworking team in MRC as their guests-of-honour.  It was so good to see them enjoying the sumptuous spread, a well-deserved treat for all they are doing to save lives!

From blood donors in June, I went on to meet organ donors in July.  On 7 July, I was privileged to witness Dr Ghantan Palanisamy and his friends complete the final sector of their grueling North-to-South peninsula walk that started from Bukit Kayu Hitam on 10 June.  [Doctor walks 1,000km to collect organ donor pledges, NST Johor Streets, 12 July 2012]  Dr Ghantan, who started on a Solo Walk to promote awareness of organ donation, was joined by volunteers at various sectors of his walk.  In the final sector from The Zon to Dataran Johor Baru, he was joined by family members, friends and Rotary Club members as well as their physically handicapped cousin, Saumyaasiay Vijayan, 13.

The trio of senior citizens at
Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Baru
On the subject of walking, I was delighted that the Johor Baru walking map was officially launched on 14 July with a touch of nostalgia.  Although I was invited to the event, I could not go because I had two other events happening simultaneously on that very morning.  [Bringing about a better quality of life, NST Johor Streets, 30 July and The perfect combination of batik and songket, NST Johor Streets, 1 August].  Later that morning, I met a friend who was at the walking map launch and he passed me a copy of the map.

When I flipped it over to the reverse side, a paragraph reads:  “… walking map offers the visitor the opportunity to explore old Johor Baru on foot and in so doing, perhaps be able to truly appreciate the city’s rich and colourful history.”

Over the years, as I worked with friends in the Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association and Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk, I discovered a fair bit about Johor Baru that was shared in features like Pulsating Parade, Ancient Temple Steeped in History, Chinese Heritage Museum, JB Heritage Walks, Johor Chinese Heritage and Coffee King Reminisces.

Uncle's comments written in the museum visitors' book
My friend Florence is aware that I’m familiar with the old sector of JB town and would enjoy showing it to her mum, uncle and aunt, so we spent a lovely morning exploring Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and Jalan Dhoby.  Her uncle and aunt, who were visiting from Kuala Lumpur, were delighted to see JB’s traditional merchants, ancient architecture and the artifacts displayed in the Johor Baru Chinese Heritage Museum. 

As I shared my knowledge to help them better appreciate the walking tour, they were very impressed with how the museum is preserving the rich legacy to give visitors a comprehensive overview of the Chinese role in the early development of Johor. 

Old mistake in the new mall!
At the end of the museum tour, I invited them to sign the visitors’ book and give their comments.  Uncle was the last person to sign in and as soon as he stepped away from the book, I discreetly peeked to see what he wrote.  These are his comments:

“A wonderful documentary of the contribution made by the early Chinese community to the nation of Malaysia.  All true Malaysians should be interested to visit JB Chinese Heritage Museum.  Amazing piece of history!”

This trio of senior citizens did quite well, considering their climbing the flights of stairs inside the museum [created inside a renovated old shophouse] and walking the streets in the heart of old JB.  After all the morning’s physical exercise, they were ready to go for a drive and I took them through the Street of Harmony pointing out the churches, temples and mosque that gave these streets its special name!

Sign in front of Sinar Juita children's shelter
In the heart of the city, towering malls are built next to temples and quaint old shops.  It was good to see the recently renovated former Plaza Kotaraya on Jalan Trus, now re-branded with a catchy name, Galleria @ Kotaraya.  Ramadan must be my favourite time of year to visit Kotaraya and although they announced a soft opening, I was disappointed that most of the shops were still unoccupied and there was only a festive bazaar in the ground floor atrium.  This was just a small setback and I can return again when the shops are all open.  But there’s no excuse for such a careless mistake on a bunting in the brand new mall because it was simply appalling to read that the Food Court was “Open for Dine” …Ouch! 

Enjoying ice-cream dessert with Prof Jamilah Ariffin
Speaking of dining, I was invited to buka puasa with the residents in the Sinar Juita Children’s Shelter and it was no ordinary breaking-of-fast event because this shelter was being filmed for a RTM programme – Apa Kata Wanita – to be screened on the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. 

Every year, RTM selects a state to feature a Hari Raya Rumah Terbuka or “open house” and when it is Johor’s turn, the RTM crew came to JB to film the activities in the shelter (over three days!) leading up to a musical variety show that showcased Johor dancers and singers, including talented special children in their “open house.”  It’s going to be a Raya with a difference for everyone involved – especially to see themselves on TV – and it was my privilege to be a part of this special event.


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