“Keep standing out”.
For Valerie Chai, 34, living by that statement has not come without a series of challenges.
She became a Persons with Disabilities (OKU) 5 years ago. She had Leukemia at 6, Achilles Tendinitis at 18, gout & diabetes at 25, stroke at 28 & other complications.
Despite having comorbidities, she is the designer team lead for the Make It Right Movement (MIRM).
MIRM was founded in 2015 and is now the official community service initiative of the BAC Education Group. It aims to create a positive impact on society, in line with its mission to enrich communities and transform lives.
She told GoodNews that although she is just 34, she takes more than 10 different types of medicine each day.
“With all my conditions I am also courting kidney problems now as well. These are all incurable conditions and diseases, which I have to take lots of medicines for.
In the morning, during the day and in the evening. Even at night before bed. My boss likes to joke that I am a walking medicine box, with all the pills I have to take.
“That is my life, but I am still kicking!” she said.
Due to her condition, she is unable to take vaccines including the Covid-19 vaccines.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer, the doctors told me it would be tough down the road and it has not been easy. How the doctors came to know I have leukemia was a fight to begin with because the doctors could not find it in my bone marrow, where it is usually found.
“They only found it in my blood, labeling me as a special case, with less than 25% chance to live. After 5 years of radiation, oral medication, and injections, I was deemed in remission.
“At age 6, the doctors in charge of me told my family and me that I could not take vaccines, which means no Hepatitis B, BCG and now no Covid-19 vaccine either.”
Valerie explained to GoodNews that of all things, she hated the fact that her vocabulary had shrunk due to her condition.
“I was recently asked what is my version of hell on earth? For me, it is my current inability to speak clearly. I used a lot of complicated words that now I cannot. Some of the words refuse to come to my mind.
“I cannot express myself even to say I need to go to the toilet.”
It is not all doom and gloom, Valerie says her luck with finding a job has always been on her side.
“I was the type of person who is incredibly lucky, when it comes to finding a job. It happened when I was looking for internships, and subsequently for all my previous jobs, but that changed after I had a stroke.
“Although I still got interviews, I never got a chance at a design role. This was happening because of my condition, and I could tell they did not want to hire somebody with problems they are ill prepared to control the situation.”
At this point, Valerie met MIRM through a Specialjobs job seekers talk session. She later joined MIRM as the design team lead.
She said she joined them because they focused on her ability.
“Through their job seekers’ talk, I realised why I could not get a job. I was now a person with disability and the Malaysian companies did not know what to do with people with disabilities.
“It was at this point I joined MIRM as a designer. My colleagues are Suhan and Subra, we are all OKU, and we design.
“I make videos, designs for online and print, but I can do basically any design. I have created many collaterals for MIRM and their partners, including the MIRM OKU t-shirt. I also have a hand in guiding interns and staff on design work.”
Valerie is not quite sure where she is heading but her time in MIRM gives her the sense of stability, growth and purpose.
“MIRM continues to explore and look at growing our work especially in the promotion and inclusion of PwDs, my best is yet to come!” she stressed.
MIRM, the organisation Valerie is part of, collaborates with over 250 national and global partners – governmental and non-government organisations and social enterprises – in championing worthy causes, and supporting more than 400 charities and community development projects annually.