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What does it take to make a dad? This Father’s Day makchic takes a look at some fathers and father figures out there who do all they can for the children they love. We salute all of you amazing dads!

The Long-Distance Father

There’s never a day that I don’t miss home

More often than not, most fathers look forward to going back home after a long day at work. They wish to see their children’s loving faces and spend some quality time with them.

However, for the thousands of immigrants working in Malaysia, that is a dream they may never achieve.

In a bid to give their families better lives, these foreign workers often leave their homes with a heavy heart and work in a different country, hardly getting a chance to see their loved ones.

Decades away

One such person is Ravichantran Arumugam, an Indian citizen who has been working in Malaysia for about 20 years.

“I left home to another country when my baby was just one-year-old. It was a very difficult decision to make but because I have her best interests in my heart, because I want to give her a better future, I chose to leave.

“In 1995 I first went to Singapore to work. I did some odd jobs there and my staying permit ended. I came to Malaysia in 1999,” said the 46-year-old from Tanjavur, Tamilnadu.

Ravichantran said in Malaysia, he took on employment as an assistant to a man running a laundry business in Ampang.

He worked for years under the guidance of the man, slowly learning the art of the laundry service.

“As time went by, I was mistreated by the man. Sometimes, he even refused to pay my salary. I had to leave because the main reason I am working abroad is for the money.

“If I don’t send back money, my family can’t even eat,” he said.

New opportunity

Through his acquaintances here, Ravichantran got the opportunity to open his own laundry business.

“I rented a space in a shop lot and with the knowledge I acquired from my previous job, I became the boss of my own laundry business.

“My loyal customers from the previous shop switched to my laundry and business has been good,” he explained.

Ravichantran misses his daughter every day.

Love for daughter

Ravichantran’s daughter is now 18-years-old. She is studying engineering in a local university in India.

“She always dreamed about becoming an engineer one day. I took it upon myself to do whatever I could do to make her dreams come true.

“Even if that means I won’t be by her side to watch her grow up. At the end of the day, I want her life to be better than mine,” he said.

He said as a father, his most difficult challenge was to be separated from his daughter.

“There’s never a day I don’t miss home. There’s never a day I don’t think of my daughter and my wife.

“I’ve gone away for so long that all three of us don’t even have a family picture together. I do visit them occasionally, but it is not the same as living with them,” he said.

Ravichantran said one of his biggest lessons in fatherhood is appreciating his own father.

“When I was a little boy, I never really appreciated my father because I had no idea being a father required such hard work. Now, as I have become a father, I know the hardships. I know how my father must have felt, sacrificing so many things for me. I appreciate him a lot,” he said.

He only has one advice to younger fathers, especially those who are lucky enough to get to see their children every day.

“Be there with them. Watch them grow up. I am unlucky because I never got that chance. But if you are lucky enough to be with them every day, just be with them as they grow up. They grow up so fast, you know?”, he said.


Special Needs Fatherhood

Caring for a special needs child

Parents around the world know that caring for a child is one of the most difficult things to do. Add a special needs child to the equation and one can imagine the parenting challenges that comes with it.

One person who knows the challenges too well is Iman Wan, whose son, Adam Wan, has Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Iman, who has two other children Arena Wan and Aramysara Wan, first found out about Adam’s condition in 2007.

“Adam was diagnosed when he was two and a half. He had poor eye contact and did not respond to calling like normal kids,” he said.

Iman who has 15 years of experience in the music industry (working with Malaysian artistes like Siti Nurhaliza, Sheila Majid and Amy Mastura), said he had to make lifestyle changes when this happened.

Iman Wan and Adam.

The endless sacrifices

 “I had to leave my job to stay home and help my wife raise Adam. I built a home-based essential oil business called doTERRA. I work from home and I am my own boss, which gives me the privilege to set my own working hours.

“Adam, now 18, is non-verbal, with severe Autism and ADHD. He is aggressive and suffers from meltdowns due to sensory processing disorder. Raising a child with Autism in general requires enormous level of patience and a huge portion of your time,” he said.

For Iman, his typical day starts very early because Adam wakes up early.

“I send my daughter to school. Come home and go out for breakfast with Adam and my wife before sending Adam to school. After that I get on my computer to check emails and respond to messages and inquiries. Then I review sales performance from the day before.

“We pick Adam up for lunch and pick up my daughter from school before heading home. After Adam is asleep at night, I go back to the computer and have meetings online, hold oiling classes and work on social media postings. I have some quiet time with my wife and go to bed about 12 am,” he shared.

 The social media link

Iman also shares his typical days on his Instagram page @adamsautismfamily, including videos of Adam’s aggressive behaviors in public.

Iman said the page is a way to keep in touch with friends and family because he could not find the time to hang out with them anymore.

The page has ever since generated over 200,000 followers.

For Iman, his most difficult challenge after becoming a father is to find the time to make a living.

“I can’t build my career. I can’t compete in a normal job environment because I need to spend much time with my family. My travelling time and time away from home is very limited.

“I need to make more money to cover additional expenses needed for Adam’s school, therapy, diet and his future. My life revolves around Adam.”

An old photo of Iman Wan with Arena and Adam.

His biggest lesson in fatherhood is learning to communicate with his children, especially Adam.

“How we are and the way we communicate with our kids can influence them in a big way. I have learned to communicate better with my children, and to have quality time with them. The moments and times we share with our kids will remain forever in their memories. I want to create as many memories as possible with my children,” he said.

He hopes that his children will always stay together and take care of one another.

“There are many families out there with autistic kids. First accept them, then grow with them. It’s ok to be abnormal. Rebuild a life around the child and learn to be patient,” he said.

For younger and newer dad, Iman only has three words, “Enjoy the ride!”


The Grandfather

Lovable grandpa

They are adorable, they are wise and they spoil us with love (and extra candies). That is why every child lucky enough to have felt the loving affections of their grandfathers will always think the world of them. With many grandparents also caring for their grandchildren, sometimes grandpas also play a fatherly role.

For Atan Derus, 64, his life has become more meaningful with the addition of his two grandchildren, Husna Muhammad Taufiq and Barack Muhammad Ashraf.

Even though Husna is only 10-months-old and Barack is 3-months-old, Atan is pretty sure his grandchildren love him right back.

The proof?

“It’s their little gurgles of delight when they see me. That’s love,” he said.

Atan and Husna.

Life changing experience

Atan said raising grandchildren, is pretty much similar to raising children.

“Fatherhood and grandfatherhood is pretty much the same for me. Children will be children no matter what era they are born in and in my opinion, they still need the same amount of attention and care.

“However, my children think I am much ‘softer’ on my grandkids,” he said.

Atan also said that apart from his life, so much has changed since the arrival of his two grandchildren.

“So much changed, I don’t even know where to begin. But I learnt to put the family;s needs before me. For example, when you are younger,  all your resources are spent on yourself.

“When you are a dad and a granddad, you suddenly need to think about your partner, your children and their children. What kind of father or grandfather would you be if you buy new clothes every month but your child or grandchild can’t afford to buy books?,” he asked.

Atan added that life has also become busier for him but more interesting. He is learning new skills, such as how to take photos using smart phones.

“Now that I am retired, I help to care for my granddaughter. Sometimes I cook, because I enjoy doing that. I make sure I hear from all my children everyday, be it via text  or call. I am learning how to take photos on my phone so I can capture my granddaughter’s special moments,” he said.

Transitioning between being a father and a grandfather

Atan said he has always been a very involved parent.

“I used to send my daughter to work until she was 28, but now I can’t drive long distances anymore. My children would say that I am overprotective, but that’s the only parenting way I know.

“It’s crazy, if you think about it – how your actions can directly and indirectly shape a person’s life, so I just have to give my best. I will not forgive myself if something goes wrong just because I do things half-heartedly.

‘Sometimes it’s very hard for me to just let go. For example when my daughter was studying in Penang I rode on the bus with her from KL to Penang, took a cab with her from the bus station, showed her the whole process. I’m sure she could just do it on her own. Youngsters nowadays are so much more resourceful and the information is all on their fingertips. But I have to make sure, and when I feel that she’s ready, I will let go.

“And I am very sure I will feel the same for when it’s time for my grandkids to leave the nests,” he said.

Atan said letting go is also the biggest lesson for him in fatherhood – he is preparing himself to do the same with his grandkids.

His only hope for his grandchildren is for them to get more and better opportunities than what he had when he was growing up.

His advice for newer or younger dads?

Atan said they should treat their kids or grandkids like friends.

“Be a friend. So your kids don’t feel there’s a distance and they can be more open in expressing their feelings,” he said.

The Godfather

A kid’s happy place

‘A godfather is a gift sent from above, a guardian angel that was chosen with love.’

This quote beautifully captures the role of a godfather in our lives. A father figure, and specially chosen for a child as a guide and supporter, a godfather is often the source of great joy for children lucky to have one.

Advin Lourdes, a project manager from Kuala Lumpur, can attest to this because he is a godfather that children love.

His two godsons – Mithiran Lourdes and Varun Lourdes – adore him so much they constantly ask their parents about his whereabouts.

He transforms himself into a kid when playing with them and shows his responsible self when teaching.

“Having no kids of my own, I had the opportunity to become a father figure to both boys. It created in me a sense of responsibility towards them. I feel proud to be a part of their lives and help shape their future,” he said.

Teaching through fun activities

As opposed to strict ‘classroom’ type activities that bore children, Advin chooses to keep learning fun with the kids through outdoor activities.

“Going on outings is the main highlight. They call me ‘periappa’, which literally translate to ‘big father’ in Tamil. So when ‘periappa’ is around, the fun begins. I become a human playground to my godchildren and their siblings.

*My older godson Mithiran, is known to be the brainy one who can sit a whole day and explain the solar system to me. He gets irritated when I give wrong answers to his questions! My younger godson Varun, is quite a chilled guy. He is very stylish, thanks to his mum,” he said.

Advin and Mithiran

Time is of the essence

Advin said although he would love to spend 24 hours with his godchildren, he could not find the time due to his busy working schedule.

“It’s challenging to make time for them when work or other responsibilities get in the way. That remains a challenge that I am trying to overcome by trying to find a balance.

“Another challenge is when the boys get a little too naughty. I don’t have the heart to scold them. Discipline is my wife’s territory as she is a teacher. I choose to be the lenient one hence, I stay out of the way when they’ve done something wrong. I wait to comfort them,” he said.

Advin added that because children are very honest, he learnt some lessons from his godchildren.

“I’ve learned from my godsons to answer truthfully and to never make a promise I cannot keep.

“My hope for them as their godfather is to see them and my other nephews and nieces grow up to be successful adults and enjoy their journey getting there,” he said.


Happy Father’s Day to all you dedicated daddies out there! 

Come Teacher’s Day, stories of inspiring teachers often fill our social media timelines.

It may not be an exaggeration to say that Malaysians’ all-time favourite Teacher’s Day story is perhaps the story of Cheryl Ann Fernando, whose teaching journey inspired the movie ‘Adiwiraku’.

Cheryl went to a rural school in Kedah and helped form a choral speaking team which went on to become a top qualifier at a district-level choral speaking competition.

It was a triumphant moment for SMK Pinang Tunggal which had never ever won a prize, let alone make it to a top tier in a competition.

It has been three years since the feat was achieved but Malaysians can never quite move on from the feel good story.

Cheryl remains grounded

Despite her popularity, the humble teacher does not let fame get to her head.
“Ahh, my life is the same. I don’t think I became popular after the movie. Occasionally, people ask me if I’m that ‘kampung’ teacher but other than that, it’s just the same.

“While I love Adiwiraku (after watching it 25 times) and proud of it, I also remind myself that it’s important to move on and continue working for our schools. As long as we have kids struggling to read, my work is not done yet,” she said.

Cheryl now runs an organisation called Global School Leaders Malaysia.

“We work with school principals and their senior leadership team. Through a series of workshops and coaching sessions, we help them increase student achievement in their schools. In a way, I still teach but this time, to principals and other teachers,” she shared.

Teacher enjoying motherhood

These days Cheryl is also busy with the latest addition to her family, her 7-month-old daughter, Leia Darshini.

She said Leia’s name was inspired by her husband’s obsession with Star Wars.

“He wanted her to grow up and lead the rebellion, hence Leia. After having Leia, I realised I’m not a superhero after all. No wait, after I gave birth I thought I was a superhero and then we brought her home and I felt like such a failure. Being a first time mother, I struggled with many things – breastfeeding, putting her to sleep, colic and all that.

“In my head, I figured that perhaps motherhood will be something like teaching but I was wrong. If teaching is tough, parenting is crazy tough!” she said.

Cheryl said her life has changed in more ways that she imagined.

“I work harder and more efficiently now because I wan t to get home in time to be with her. I’m often tired, but looking at her sleeping peacefully is so worthwhile, as cliché as it might sound,” she said.

“Since I work with schools, I think of Leia in school. Will she like this school? Will this school be good for her? I feel like whatever I’m doing, I do it to ensure that one day, Leia and her friends will get to go to any school in Malaysia and it will be a great school,” she said.

Cheryl speaking at TedX about her experience and Adiwiraku.

Lessons from Motherhood

Cheryl said that motherhood has given her lots of lessons.

“I’ll never be rude to my mother again! Motherhood has opened up my eyes to just how tough it must have been for my mum to raise me. After giving birth, all I wanted to do was to apologise to my mother for all the times I was rude to her.

“I feel like I’m learning something new every other day. Perhaps, the greatest thing I have learned is that love isn’t just for a day. It isn’t something to be bragged about on social media. Loving a child means you have to spend time and effort to raise her to be a useful human being,” she said.

Teacher’s Day message

This Teacher’s Day, Cheryl has a message to her former students and teachers.

“To all the teachers who have taught me before and for the ones in my all-time favourite SMK Pinang Tunggal, Teach for Malaysia teachers and my Global School Leaders Malaysia teachers, know that the things that you do in the classroom every day is so great, it can change the nation.

“For all students, especially to my dear ones from SMK Pinang Tunggal, know that you are capable of achieving great things and please be nice to your teachers, no matter who they are!

“Happy Teacher’s Day!”

 

All photographs courtesy of Cheryl Ann Fernando

For quite some time now, the news of babies and infants dying after being left in the car by forgetful parents has been hogging the limelight.

In 2016, a one-year-old girl from Kulai Johor Baru died after she was left inside a car by her father for more than five hours. It was reported that the father of the child had driven straight to work without realising that his baby was in the backseat of the car.

The news shocked many Malaysians and they were quick to put the blame on the parents’ ignorance.

As the nation moved on from the devastating news, they were again shocked with another similar case.

In 2017, a six-year-old boy died after he was allegedly left inside a van for about three hours. The van driver, who had sent other children to a kindergarten in Rawang, did not notice that the boy had fallen asleep at the back of the van.

The nation was yet again shaken in a recent negligence case last month. A two-year-old toddler died after being left in a car by her mother for four hours at the Port Dickson Vocational College.

The mother, a lecturer at the college, only realised that she left her child in the car around 1pm, by which time the child was already unconscious.

Some parents have forgotten their child when they have veered from routine, for example, a change in pick-up or usual schedule.

No child seat at the back of car?

To curb such incidents from recurring, the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim came up with precautionary measures for parents. This included placing their children aged five and below in a special seat especially made for them in the vehicle; placing infants in the front seat and securing them with a safety belt, and to disallow children from being placed in the back seat, especially behind the driver’s seat as it is a blind spot.

The minister may have meant well as she wanted to see a reduction in such cases, but some child and automobile experts quickly begged to differ.

Airbag hazard

Popular automobile site paultan.org said it is absolutely vital that children are seated in the back and properly secured in a child safety or booster seat as opposed to sitting in the front.

“This is to position your kids away from the front airbags in case of a frontal accident (the most common type of crashes).

“The only time you should ever place a child seat or booster seat in the front is if your car allows you to turn off the front passenger airbag (not many cars do, and even fewer still have Isofix anchors on the front passenger seat) – and even then, only as a last resort,” the site stated.

Car seats can be placed in front only if the car’s airbag can be switched off

The article also stressed that one should also avoid having any loose items their vehicles, as they would turn into projectiles in major accidents.

Meanwhile, following the statement from the minister, a group of pediatricians and physicians came up with a joint paper to put things into better perspective.

In a joint email to makchic, Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Hospital Sibu consultant paediatrician Dr Toh Teck Hock and Penang Medical College senior consultant family physician, Professor Dr Krishnan Rajam, explained where a car seat should be installed.

“Most evidence and international expert guidelines recommend that young children under five years should be placed in a car safety seat in the back, not the front.

“A child car safety seat in the front passenger seat is risky due the presence of an airbag, which will push on the infant in the seat.

“In many developed countries, it is illegal to put a child in a car safety seat in the front passenger seat. The best location is in the centre back seat.”

The trio also suggested ways to reduce the risk of leaving your child in the car or how the public can help in the case of finding a child being left alone in a vehicle.

How not to forget that your child’s in the car

1. Keep an important item in the back seat with your child. It should be an item that you cannot do without at a meeting, work or shopping. For example, keep your purse or your hand phone or shoe on the floorboard of the back seat. This will serve to remind you as you leave the car.

Keep something important in the back seat near your child.

2. Keep an object in the front seat to remind you of your child, like a stuffed animal. Swap the child and the object when you place the child in the back seat and vice versa when you take your child out of the vehicle.

3. Remind your carer, babysitter or kindergarten teacher to call you if your child does not turn up at the correct time. This can serve as a back-up safety net.

4. As members of the public, it’s our duty to be alert whenever we see any child left in a car. Find out why and call the police if you cannot immediately find the parents.

5. There are technologies being developed to support parents. We should keep abreast of them – car seats with built-in sensors/alarms, apps with alerts/reminders and GPS trackers/distance alerts for our children.