The following article first appeared on Berita MCOBA, the official publication of the Malay College Old Boys Association (MCOBA), on 16 June 2021. I’m re-posting it here for my own records.
2021 was supposed to be the year we, the Class of 2001, marked our twentieth year since leaving MCKK. So, like any self-respecting organisation, we drew up our to-do list:
- Vanity/commemoration project chosen? Yes!
- T-Shirt designs discussed on WhatsApp? Of course.
- Appropriate hashtag selected for maximum social media impact? #DuaDekad…BOOM!
- Money raised to finance all the above? Guys, err…guys? Wait, where’d everyone go?
Unsurprisingly, all our plans went out the window because of the pandemic. To make matters worse, we lost one of our brothers through illness early this year. Al-Fatihah buat Mohd Zulfadhli Faiq bin Baharuddin, semoga ditempatkan di kalangan para solihin.
Having said that, every obstacle can also be an opportunity.
Sure, a virus pretty much shut down civilisation for the 2020/2021 season. But you know what else is like a virus? An idea. According to the famous philosopher Leonardo DiCaprio:
An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.
So, what exactly is this idea? It’s the notion that one has a bigger role to play in society, a bigger responsibility than just to get good grades, secure a high-paying job, marry a pretty lady, and focus on making money.
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Maju terus mara
As Form 1 students at the Prep School, we were taught John F. Kennedy’s words: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
With that idea in mind, since the start of the pandemic, our boys have been actively supporting the nation’s frontliners and healthcare facilities.
Initially, this mostly took the form of food packet distribution at the COVID-19 Integrated Quarantine and Treatment Centre (PKRC) 2.0 at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS). But in April 2021 when case numbers were rising rapidly and there was a need for manpower at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) at Stadium Malawati, Shah Alam, our boys volunteered to help under the auspices of the IMAM Response & Relief Team (IMARET).
Chief of them all is Dr Ahmad Munawwar Helmi; no, this is not even a figure of speech, he literally is the IMARET COVID-19 Taskforce Coordinator! Working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, his efforts have been crucial in giving physical, mental, and emotional support to the nation’s frontliners. +10 points to Ahmad House!
Captain Syed Fayez Idid, a pilot who is ‘on leave’ because of the pandemic, was one of the earliest to join Munawwar at the CAC. In his capacity as team leader, he helped to train new volunteers on top of maintaining the smooth running of the CAC.
Captain Amirul Hijjas raised some money, got his mother to cook some food, and personally drove (by car, not aeroplane) to the CAC to distribute lunch to the frontliners. Some of us, like Hazrul and Azri, took leave from work and donned personal protective equipments (PPE) for the first time in our lives while volunteering at the CAC. Others like Amir chose to contribute lunch packs to the frontliners. Behind the scenes, the rest of the batch conducted their own fundraising initiatives to support all this volunteer work.
For those who aren’t aware, volunteering at the CAC is not an easy task. It can involve lots of time and effort and carries significant risk particularly if you haven’t yourself been vaccinated.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, these are miniscule contributions compared to the actual effort of fighting COVID-19 by our frontliners. But anyone who has ever done volunteer work knows this: it is not a zero-sum game, every little bit helps!
Therein also lies the beauty of charity.
What do I mean by this? Well, has it ever occurred to you that we only truly keep what we give to charity? Our wealth, our time, our families…none of these will accompany us to the grave EXCEPT for what we have used or given to help others.
Reputation-wise, MCKK is not known for its academic prowess (I hear ‘Intergom’ is the place to be these days). But if I were writing one of those Facebook posts about ’The Importance of Your SPM Results’ for the benefit of our SPM 2020 & 2021 juniors, here’s what I would say to them:
“Your worth is not determined by fast cars, good grades, or the amount of money in your Bitcoin wallet. Whatever your results are, think about how you are going to contribute to society.”
Towards the end of the musical Hamilton, the protagonist Alexander Hamilton asks:
What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.
So for our #DuaDekad anniversary, we hope to inspire others to volunteer their time, money, and effort to charity. Let this be our legacy, inshaAllah.
Fiat Sapientia Virtus