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My 27th birthday wish: Teach for Malaysia

The first book I ever borrowed out of my local library in Alor Setar at six years old was Enid Blyton’s The Three Golliwogs.

It started me down a path of discovering new worlds – and a love for reading that has fundamentally shaped who I am today.


Education changes lives. This song has bubbled into reprise after reprise in my heart over the years.

I’ve often looked back at my life and thought: I’ve been very, very fortunate to have received so many learning opportunities! So on my 22nd birthday, I fundraised for Room to Read to build a library for 300 kids in India. A huge chunk of the projects, causes and people I’ve supported in subsequent years have a common thread running through them: they all made learning possible and/or better for others.

I turn 27 on 7 February 2016. For several years my birthday has been a non-event. 😦

I want to celebrate this year! If you are thinking of blessing me with a birthday gift, the best thing you could give me is to help me impact the lives of Malaysian students:

Teach For Malaysia (TFM) is a program I had considered doing post-graduation. Following the ups and downs of friends who have taken 2 years out of their lives to teach in underprivileged schools, I’ve been inspired by their passion, dedication and creativity.

They’ve struggled with teenagers who still can’t write their ABCs. Who wouldn’t be able to read Enid Blyton fluently at 15 years old. They’ve laughed and cried and empowered young Malaysians to dream. Their work matters to me.

This year I will be financially supporting what TFM does for young Malaysian lives. I hope you will consider joining me in your own way -ESPECIALLY if you are a Malaysian abroad!

The giving of jasmines

I never thought life would do this to me – make me tired enough to forget the precious things.

It’s been a long hard year, and the grind of it all has worn me down.

But it must be true, what people say about the importance of stories, and how fundamental they are in shaping us. I guess even more so when the story is in my naming.

Some years ago, a Pakistani friend told me that my name Yasmin means “a gift from God” in Persian, named after their love for the exquisit bloom.

In Chinese culture, the jasmine is special too.

I thought this captured the blossom beautifully: “茉莉花叶色翠绿,花色洁白,香味浓厚,清雅宜人。它虽无艳态惊群,但玫瑰之甜郁,梅花之馨香,兰花之幽远,玉兰之清雅,莫不兼而有之。”

Stories about the sweet fragrance of the jasmine flower have been for me like the resonant strands you hear in your head long after the vibration of the strings soften into silence.

Smelling the jasmine-scented candle I received for Christmas, I could almost hear the beautiful song again – of fragrance released in crushing, of giving life, of blessing others.

I have always thought the sacrificial dying of oneself for the blessing of others to be beautiful.

I remembered it again now: in jasmines, but also in the Christmas story.

A fortune cookie encounter

Tell me: when do you ever get a Chinese man offering you a fortune cookie? The stuff of novels and movies.

“Pick one and see what it says,” he said.
Fortune Cookie幸运饼干上说的是:“有耕耘必有收获。”

这是 King William St 按摩店的新老板。

我们聊了起来,我就告诉他,“我以前在这里干过活的呢,就是脚底按摩技术没学完。” 于是,他让我点评了员工们的按摩技术水平!




These days I frequently answer questions about what WeChat is, and I usually say it is like Facebook+Twitter+WhatsApp all in one.

Today I had to do the exact opposite and explain Facebook to a Chinese businessman! I said it was the WeChat of Australia. I then suggested that Facebook was a great tool to offer targeted promotions to tired workers in the Adelaide CBD.

Crossing the cultural (and age) barrier can be slightly jarring! At least the fortune cookie suggests that one will reap the rewards of their hard work.

The last couple of months have been a lot of hard work!

As I look back, I am grateful for how things have come together — to the various individuals who have provided opportunities and worked with me, and to friends who have been kind and supportive.

After I returned to Malaysia last year, I felt that serving my nation was something deeply precious and meaningful to me, and it’s something I want to dedicate a portion of my life to. I initially planned to go home to teach at the end of 2015, but as I looked at career paths, finances and the lack of support, I did not see how it could happen. Sadly it looks like I have to postpone that commitment by a number of years. 😥

After becoming accredited as a NAATI Chinese-English translator in July, I completed a Cert IV in Small Business Management via the NEIS program.

I have also been actively attending events in the Australia-China space and meeting Australian companies who need assistance in engaging with the Chinese market. Here’s an article I wrote for The Lead on the first Greater China Future Leaders Dialogue in SA. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Holmes at The Hahndorf Inn where he shared his top tips on creating successful Chinese tourism ventures.

As luck would have it, I bumped into Patrick Baker of Baker Marketing Services at an Chinese e-commerce seminar, right after I had done some work for an agriculture company at an exhibition that morning, engaging with a Shandong procurement delegation.

“Hey, you’re the ones who are hiring!” I said to Patrick, remembering the ad I saw in a freelance group on Facebook. I grabbed him and quickly told him how I could complement his current service offerings with my Chinese language skills and WeChat know-how.

Three meetings later, I am pleased to now be a part of the Baker Marketing team. I am currently there three days a week, which leaves me time to work on other projects and service other editing and translation clients.

Have you considered how your business can engage the Chinese community in Adelaide, Australia or in China? 

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help!

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