Humanity backbone of volunteer’s success

The mother of 3 children has been actively participating in Mercy Malaysia’s humanitarian missions since 2003


SHE is a successful career woman, wife, mother and active volunteer all rolled into one.

Even as a five-year-old growing up in Ghent, Belgium, Datin Raja Riza Shazmin Raja Badrul Shah (picture) — who has participated in humanitarian missions overseas — was quite unlike other children her age.

Instead of playing and having fun all-day long, she preferred to spend her time going from house to house selling apples to raise funds for charity.

Raja Riza Shazmin was born in Ghent where she also received her early education, and stayed there with her parents Dr Raja Badrul Shah Raja Shah Kobat and Fara Majmin Datuk Abu Bakar for seven years while her father pursued his master’s degree and PhD in agriculture.

Raja Riza Shazmin’s penchant for charity work and her humanity remained intact after she returned to Malaysia but the scope grew bigger as she became older and now she is VP II and legal advisor at Mercy Malaysia, a well-known humanitarian organisation.

In fact, she was also instrumental in establishing Mercy Malaysia UK in 2014.

Interviewed recently at Mercy Malaysia’s headquarters, Raja Riza Shazmin, 44, told Bernama that her interest in charity and volunteering activities was sparked while schooling in Belgium.

“The school I studied helped me foster the spirit of volunteerism and develop a strong sense of identity from young.

“I still remember the time when my teachers would share their stories (of needy people) and show us certain photographs. We, students, were also given a bucket each to help collect donations and contributions,” said Raja Riza Shazmin, who practiced as a lawyer for almost two decades before resigning at the end of last year to take up the post of director of Philanthropy at Sunway Education Group.

Her current job requires her to groom the younger generation to engage in volunteering activities, as well as build up their philanthropic spirit. The compassion that wells up in her heart is matched by her humility — she refuses to be addressed as ‘Datin’ and insists that her friends, colleagues and acquaintances call her by her name.

Mercy Malaysia helped build the 1st mother and child clinic at a rural village in Ayeyarwady Delta, Myanmar (Photo courtesy of Raja Riza Shazmin)

Active in Humanitarian Missions

This mother of three children — aged 21, nine and five years old — has been actively participating in Mercy Malaysia’s humanitarian missions since 2003 after she joined the organisation as a volunteer.

Her first mission was to Aceh in the aftermath of the killer tsunami that struck the Indonesian province in December 2004 and claimed 280,000 lives. The experience, she said, grounded her and gave her a new perspective on life.

“(When I arrived there) the smell of death still lingered. Realisation dawned on me and I learned to be more grateful, more appreciative and more giving because I believed that God would repay kindness with kindness,” she said.

Recalling a heart-rending moment, she said she came across a girl aged about five or six sitting all alone and “I was grief-stricken when I found out that the child’s parents were swept away by the giant waves. I then thought of my family members and children back home”.

In 2008, Raja Riza Shazmin took part in a humanitarian mission to help the victims of the deadly Cyclone Nargis that struck the south of Myanmar. Some 146,000 lives were lost, and infrastructure, rice fields and farms were destroyed.

Mercy Malaysia had helped build a maternal and children’s clinic at a remote village in the Ayeyarwady Delta region, which was also badly affected by the cyclone.

It was a small clinic, offering only basic medical equipment but for that village, the facility was the first of its kind to be set up there.

Raja Riza Shazmin said when she and her team visited the clinic, the locals expressed their gratitude to Mercy Malaysia for providing a safe and comfortable place for women to deliver their babies and seek medical care for their children.

Legal Expertise

Raja Riza Shazmin’s expertise in the legal and governance field came in useful for Mercy Malaysia. She assisted the organisation in drafting policies and standard operating procedures to enable it to be more transparent and practice good governance in all its processes.

“In the early years of my involvement with Mercy Malaysia, I contributed ideas and helped in drafting and collating documents. As a lawyer, I worked on every aspect related to the legal point of view for the organisation.”

She also took it upon herself to study International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in greater detail as back then, not many lawyers were involved in humanitarian work.

In between juggling her career and humanitarian work with raising her children, Raja Riza Shazmin finds time to manage her household and tries to cook for her family as often as she can.

“I am what I am because of the support I got from my parents…they instilled in me all the values I have today. And, of course, I also have the support and love of my husband and my children,” she said.

Her advice for women who wish to volunteer their services is this: “I would advise them to give priority to what matters to them most. To me, what matters most are my children.” — Bernama