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KINDNESS AND COMPASSION: A former drug addict now supervises a home for neglected women and children
FIDAH embraces the term inclusivity to the hilt. Nothing stops her from embracing the word in her everyday life as a relief worker. She does this with minimum fuss, and with a passion that few can equal.
Her full name is Arfidah Abd Latif. She operates from Sinar Salam, a shelter home in the Chow Kit area in Kuala Lumpur. Her dedication is unsurpassed. Indeed, she has raised the bar for relief work in this country.
Fidah supervises a home for problematic and neglected women and children. Many of them are victims of abuse by male friends and relatives. Some ran away from home, hiding their shame brought about by unwanted pregnancies.
When all seemed lost, some would turn to Fidah and her shelter home.
She would provide them with shelter, care and affection. In Fidah, they find hope and renew their reason to live. Many lives have been saved and families reunited.
In her 40s, Fidah is no ordinary relief worker. She started as a volunteer, helping non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with all sorts of work. She wasn't always a helpful soul, mind you.
I caught up with Fidah and her husband, Raja Azizan, in Kampung Baru for supper a few nights ago. Fidah had just finished distributing food to the homeless in the city, a ritual she has been doing many years during the fasting month.
In her own words, Fidah said she was a heavy drug user for many years. She was into every drug then, from ganja to opium and on to heroin.
"But I came to a stage where I got bored. I had no challenge. It was the same thing day in, day out. I was wasting away. I was arrested, jailed and underwent therapy with the help of my family members.
"It wasn't easy. I was even sent to the only women rehab centre in Bachok, Kelantan. It took me five long years. Alhamdulillah, I got rid of my dependence on drugs and realised what a fool I was."
How did she get involved in relief work, I asked.
She said she took pity on many women who were left by their boyfriends or disowned by their families. She took them under her wing and provided shelter in her own home in Kampung Baru.
She has not looked back ever since. With help from sponsors and an NGO, she now operates Sinar Salam, a shelter home smack in the notorious Chow Kit area.
During Ramadan, kind individuals would provide up to 250 packets of food for the homeless, drug users and sex workers, who are mostly drug dependents as well. Some would collect the food packets between 5pm and 6pm.
At night, usually after 11pm, Fidah and her team of helpers and volunteers would go into the streets and hand out the remaining food packets to more of the same people.
"I drive a small car, a Myvi. How many packets of food can I bring in such a small car? If there are kind souls out there who can donate a van or a pick-up vehicle, I can do more.
"Don't give me the car. Give it to the shelter home and we can use the vehicle for all sorts of work. Come join us in our rounds, if you have the time. You'll see the kind of people we help. Mind you, these people didn't want to be what they are.
"I know what's it like to be looked down upon. I've been there, done that, seen that.
"As long as my health permits, I'll do my rounds and help my fellow human beings. I like it when Datuk Seri Najib Razak made inclusivity his vision for a united Malaysia. I, for one, will support this for as long as I live," Fidah said as she paid tribute to the prime minister.
It was way past 2am when we parted, with a plea: "Help me get a van, please. I can do more."