A morning with Peggy Loh and IWA JB

When the organizer and I finally found a mutually agreeable date, an invitation with the headline, A Morning with Peggy Loh and IWA JB, was circulated among members of the International Women’s Association (IWA) Johor Baru and their Book Club.

A morning with Peggy Loh and IWA JB recently
IWA members from nations like Australia, Belgium, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, India, Korea, Japan, Netherlands, England, Scotland, the United States, Singapore and Malaysia have made Johor Baru their home with their husbands, who are based here for work.

Established in May 1999, the IWA is a non-profit charity organization which organizes fund-raising social events to contribute towards healthcare, education and other social needs in JB. Its tagline, Connecting – Caring – Contributing, reflects how IWA recognises its role in the community.

While IWA helps expatriate women adjust to living in a foreign country, they also have a social purpose. As IWA becomes more aware of the needs of local charities, they are working in partnership to support them.

Since its inception, the IWA has raised funds to support various causes including the welfare home in Saleng, the Rotary Haemodialysis Centre and several Tamil schools in Kulaijaya. 

Peggy with Jane Perkins-Mackenzie [Left] and
Leila Nordgren [Right]
Before Johor Streets, the southern section of The New Straits Times newspapers ceased to be published in 2015, I often covered community events and had the privilege to work with the IWA and shared their community projects in this newspapers.

The members soon became familiar with what I was doing to share with readers, their community projects and how people were benefiting from it.

In mid-July several IWA members witnessed the launch of my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, and showed their support not only by buying it but also by inviting me to introduce it to IWA at one of their Coffee Mornings.

I was in touch with Jane Perkins-Mackenzie (England) for the event arrangements and as we discussed the details, I agreed to check with MPH if they would set up a book sale table at the event. And they said, “Yes!”

The MPH book sale table at the event
With the venue arranged at the Amari Johor Baru Hotel, I was later informed that the place assigned for this event was the Lido Hall.

This was particularly relevant to the local heritage that I was about to share with the IWA– who are mainly expatriate ladies – and who may find it exciting that the spot we were sitting on at the event, was the site of two of JB’s popular landmarks, the former Rex and Lido cinemas!

Later when I highlighted this in my presentation as proof of the rapid development in this city, I saw their reaction to this interesting fact. I explained how the hotel owners recognized the local significance of this site and they decided to name their two event halls, the Rex and Lido!

“So now I know…” was the prevailing sentiment as I showed them more photos from my memories of the old markets and bus terminals – which were once situated on the site of present-day Johor Baru City Square mall.

Presenting my book to the IWA JB members
Even before the event programme started, some of the ladies were keen to buy my books while some brought theirs (bought earlier) along for me to autograph later.

Three ladies, Priya Preet Kaur (India), Maike Neelsen (Germany) and Tajana Holleboom (the Netherlands) approached me for a chat and Priya was quick to tell me that before moving to Johor, she read My Johor Stories on line and my stories helped her connect with this place even before she arrived!

While the number of attendees was small, the IWA members were a good audience who listened avidly as I introduced them to My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

Autographing my book for IWA members and their friends
I invited them to feel free to ask questions, during or after my presentation, and they kindly kept all their questions and comments till after.

I was deeply encouraged to hear their interesting feedback and among them was a suggestion for me to take the IWA members on a heritage tour!

It was IWA Vice-President, Anne Taylor (England) who said it would be wonderful if I could do a walk-around JB to show them the places from my book.

They also suggested that I add a map into my book to show them the relevant sites mentioned in my stories. This is worth considering simply because readers unfamiliar with or new to Johor, would get a better perspective of where these places were situated.

Signing my book for Jane Perkins-Mackenzie
Leila Nordgren (Finland) who was not able to attend my book launch event because she was back in her home country, told me she really enjoyed reading my book and my presentation at this meeting, made my Johor stories even more alive.

Akiko Kosug (Japan) was interested in my book and that was why she came to meet me.

Rocio Silva C. (Mexico) told me she learnt a lot from what I shared in the meeting and now she loves Johor more!

All too soon, our time together was nearly over but before that, we had a photo session to add these shots to the IWA newsletter, and finally, the book-signing.

I was pleased to share with IWA that for the week-ending Sept 24, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage remains on the MPH Bestsellers Non-Fiction [Local] list.

Books are available at MPH bookstores nationwide, the nearest in JB being in JB City Square or on line via, www.mphonline.com

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