Uncle Mike and his three Rs prove that family ties go beyond race

KUALA LUMPUR:  A chance meeting between a Chinese man and an orphaned Malay boy more than 16 years ago proves that familial bonds can be forged from kindness, despite coming from different races and backgrounds.

The man, Michael Tong Wai Siong, 55, struck a friendship with the boy, Rafei Ahmad Fauzi, ultimately adopting him and his two brothers Rasyid and Abdul Rahman.

Sharing their story, Tong said  he decided to take care of Rafei, who he first met when he was 12 years old at an orphanage in Gombak, Selangor because he wanted to help him get a better life.

Tong, who was active in a motoring club at that time, visited the orphanage for charity work with his fellow club members. It was here that he met Rafei.

"Rafei and his two younger siblings were sent to the orphanage after their parents died one month apart in the same year.

"Umi (the individual who manages the orphanage in Gombak) told me Rafei did not want to go to school.

"I went to his school to meet his teachers and only then did I learn that he had learning difficulties.

"So I decided to pick him up every morning and send him to school and my workers would pick him up and send him to the tuition centre before I would take him back to the orphanage.

"The situation went on for quite some time before it was suggested that Rafei live with me to make it easier. Rafei has also expressed his wish to live with me," he said.

Tong, who was single at the time, took Rafei to live with him and not long after that he found a note written by the boy, who was missing his two younger siblings who lived in another orphanage in Klang.

"Until now I still remember the note he wrote, asking why his mother had died and why he was separated from his siblings. The note made me cry and I took him to see his two siblings.

"Shortly after that, I brought Rashid to live with us and then Abdul Rahman came to live with us.

"Since then I have been their father and mother and until now we are still together," he said.

Tong said that he was determined to take care of his three adopted children because he had been through a difficult period in life and wanted them to have a better life including in academic and religious aspects.

"At first I was scared because I had no experience taking care of children, but many friends gave me support and help.

"My family did not object either, in fact they, especially my mother, treated them like their own.

"I know we have different religions but I wanted them to continue their religious education, so I asked an ustaz to teach them religious studies at home every night.

"In fact, I also cooked their sahur and iftar meals and we fast together during Ramadan.

"They don't call me father because I want them to keep calling me Uncle Mike. For me, how they address me is not important.

Tong, who is still unmarried, says the presence of the three boys in his life has filled it with much happiness.

"I did this because of God and not for anyone's praise. These three R's (Rafei, Rashid and Rahman) are my children forever and hopefully this story will help to show that we should not look at race."

Tong said after their story was published in Harian Metro, he was a little embarrassed by the attention received, adding that he took care of the boys with sincere intentions and did not expect anything in return.

"Now I am happy to see that my three children have grown up, have jobs and one has started a family, and I also have two additional R's, namely Rayyan and Rania, my grandchildren," he said when contacted.

Tong hopes that their family's story will show that helping one's fellow human beings does not need to be based on race and religion.

"I am not the first person to help like this. There are Malays who help the Chinese and Indians and other races and vice versa. This is proof that we live in harmony even though there are still a few who play on racial issues.

"As citizens of a multi-racial country we need to live harmoniously and peacefully together because we are all a family," he added.

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