Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer


What Makes A Hero

What Makes a Hero?

COVID-19 has affected everybody globally, forcing non-essential businesses to shut down and for citizens to stay at home. For the employed, an opportunity to work from home (WFH) is available as communication can still be continued using video conferences and digital platforms. However, not everybody has been earning their living through employment. Some do odd jobs, freelance, and work that requires day-to-day hustling to bring food to the table. These people are the most affected by the Movement Control Order (MCO), but thankfully, we can rely on our Social Heroes to look out for them.

James Ho from Yayasan Kebajikan Suria has bags of rice, instant noodles, and other non-perishable food items in his car. He gets referrals from other NGOs and friends, and even strangers contacting him to ask for food. With a car; a friend had donated inclusive of full petrol and topped up toll card, James has been making around 100km runs per day to different houses to send them food with no questions asked. He has been delivering food despite the rain and roadblocks. His main concern is that with the lack of jobs, money, and food, people might resort to crime of stealing to feed their families.

Befrienders Johor Bahru, an anonymous ‘befriending’ hotline, understands this and hence, their lines are kept operational throughout the MCO. According to them, this time of uncertainty has caused fear and worry. Opening their hotline gives a listening therapy at a time of isolation. 

Desmond Leong, an individual winner, takes care of 70 families at PPR Sri Stulang providing them lunch and dinner packs. Dr. Serina Rahman, from Kelab Alami Tanjung Kupang, ensures the livelihood of the fishermen at Mukim Tanjung Kupang by helping them sell their catch online, along with delivery. She also facilitates the donation of seafood to the needy. 

Ihsan Johor has started a DIY Face Shield campaign to donate to the frontliners. With a how-to video provided, they hope the public would play their part by making their own face shields for the frontliners. According to Farrah Baptist from Ihsan Johor, the Hospital Sultan Ismail – ICU unit uses 40 pieces of face shields a day. The face shield helps protect the whole face, unlike a face mask which covers only the mouth. Ihsan Johor aims to collect 10000 pieces of face shields. They have also been providing aid to families as well as preparing food packs for policemen on duty.

Freemarket Johor focuses on urban poor families, collaborating with the representative from each flats’ housing who holds the data for its residents. Each family receives about RM30-50 worth of food, and they have helped out 300 families so far. Meanwhile, Gangayyah and team, another individual winner, has been busily sending essentials to needy families in the Kulai, Johor area.

Jamilah binti Zainal, individual winner, also a member of Johor Trucks 4×4, uses her great 4×4 vehicle to provide transportation to NGOs and individual families alike. Along with other members of the group, they assist NGOs in ferrying their goods to various places. Jamilah also helps families or individuals without vehicles with their grocery runs in this MCO period. 

The list of our social heroes doing their part as frontliners in this crisis continues. Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA), under the Social Hero Foundation, has 60 winners from the individual category (NGI) and 60 winners from the NGO category. Their relentless spirit and effort in making the world better lives on, despite having to risk themselves in situations. They are indeed our heroes, being the missing links that connect needs together.

The whole world might be practicing social distancing, but it is not social disconnection.

IMSHA Gets Recognition from United Nations Malaysia

IMSHA Gets Recognition from United Nations Malaysia

Exchange of Document between Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) and United Nations Country Team as Good Practice Award Provider under the United Nations (UN) in Malaysia TOGETHERforSDGs Hub

The United Nations (UN) and the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) pledged to work together towards benchmarking IMSHA against global standards and at the same time promoting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at a document exchange ceremony on 25th of June 2019.

Witnessed by Datuk Dr Sahruddin Jamal, Menteri Besar of Johor, and Datuk Ismail Ibrahim, Chief Executive of Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA), the document exchange was fulfilled by Thanam Visvanathan-Suresh, Chairman of IMSHA, and Juanita Joseph, Head of RCO Office for Malaysia.

Datuk Ismail said, “IMSHA truly reflects the spirit of social inclusiveness and volunteerism that the region cherishes. Being acknowledged by the United Nations and chosen as one of their partners will definitely help to put Iskandar Malaysia on the global map and achieve its vision as a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing”.

“IMSHA is entering its sixth year since its inception in 2014 to ‘Spot, Recognise and Empower’ individuals, organisations and corporate organisations that are making a difference in our communities through social service. The partnership is a testament that IMSHA is a programme that deserves global recognition with its existing best practice model that will be further enhanced by incorporating the SDGs under the United Nations (UN) in Malaysia TOGETHERforSDGs Hub,” said Thanam.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goal’s each have a list of targets that are measured with indicators.

With the partnership in place, the IMSHA Winners who are trained under the IMSHA 2.0 Training Series will be given SDGs training to align themselves with the 17 Goals. They will also be given coaching sessions to input data to the SDGs portal to enhance sharing resources via data management.

“From 2014 till 2018, IMSHA has received over 800 nominations and we currently have over 100 individuals and organisations as winners of IMSHA who will benefit from our partnership with the United Nations,” added Thanam.

The United Nations (UN) in Malaysia TOGETHERforSDGs Hub programme is an initiative to humanise the SDGs. It is a unique crowdsourcing solution connecting partners through a supply-matching system that effectively channels resources where it is most needed and realise the shared vision of achieving measurable impact in the 2030 Agenda.

Developed by UN Country Team, and supported by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, it is Malaysia’s single-most authoritative SDGs network of partners that drives transformative change combining operational capabilities and policy best practices for an equitable, inclusive and sustainable Malaysia.

Nominations for IMSHA 2019 are open till the end of July. For more information, visit:

Awards will be presented in 11 categories, from which 22 winners will be drawn – 10 for individuals and 12 for organisations. The increase in awards presented for the organisation category is due to the increase in CSR award which will be given to three outstanding organisations instead of just one. 

The key players behind IMSHA are The Iskandarian-Iskandar Malaysia’s Official Newspaper and Iskandar Regional Development Authority. The current Chairman of IMSHA is Thanam Visvanathan-Suresh, and Edey Suresh from The Iskandarian as the Founding Chairman.

More Aid from NGOs

NGOs Lead the Way

IMSHA winners network of NGOs & NGIs collaborate to provide aid

By Edey Suresh

IMSHA Chairman Thanam Visvanathan, Yayasan Kebajikan Suria James Ho, Ihsan Johor Farrah Baptist and IMSHA Founder Edey Suresh

Humble people from various backgrounds and beliefs came together to fulfil social needs of the community by contributing their time and efforts to do their part to improve the lives of others.

130 volunteers assembled to pack the food items

Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) winners’ network of NGOs and Volunteers gathered the strength of 130 volunteers who devoted themselves to serve 1178 families. The initiative was led by IMSHA winners Ihsan Johor and Yayasan Kebajikan Suria.

“The volunteers are assembled in staggered phases to ensure social distancing was maintained. We all want to serve the community, but we must also adhere to the Movement Control Order (MCO) and ensure steps are taken accordingly,” said Farrah Baptist, CEO of Ihsan Johor who coordinated the programme.

In total, around 120 baskets or 4 tonnes of non-leafy vegetables and 200 chickens which was cut in half was packed by the volunteers. The vegetable produce was donated by Persatuan Kebajikan Sooriya Udhayam, Kulai and the chickens were donated by Aqina Farms.

The programme is part of a food aid campaign which will have five series overall. In total, 1178 families in the Masai, Larkin and Kempas areas were the beneficiaries. The programme was completed in under three-hours.




IMSHA’s Social Heroes COVID-19 Aid Awareness Report

IMSHA’s Social Heroes COVID-19 Aid Awareness Report

Today, more than 820 million people regularly go to bed hungry. That’s one in nine of the global population. Hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Undernutrition is the cause of around 45% of deaths among children under five.

Hunger increases one’s risk of chronic diseases. Hunger traps people in poverty. Hunger kills.

In Johor, 15,597 employees are facing unemployment or salary reduction throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO). This means the poverty statistics will need to be recalculated and the number of people going to bed hungry in our beloved state becomes a guessing game.

Households which were already facing financial stress can’t cope with fulfilling their basic needs of functioning and to cater to the needs of the household. The ripple effects of hunger can be huge as societal impacts can range from psychological disorders to an increase in crime.

Social Hero Foundation (SHF) and Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) which has around 60 Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and 60 Non-governmental individuals (NGIs) in our IMSHA Winners Network saw 25 of our Hero organisations and individuals mobilising aid to help disadvantaged communities such as the poor, the stateless, the homeless and refugees in the city.

The report will help to briefly capture the work of these organisations, the reach impact as well as the financial expenditure from the 18th of March till the 12th of May 2020.

Without the involvement of NGOs and NGIs, we will not be able to close the gap of disparity and effectively reducing inequality.

The report is available for download here

Discovering The Making of IMSHA

Discovering the Making of IMSHA

For six consecutive years since 2014, the Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Awards (IMSHA) have been identifying and recognizing the social heroes in our community. The objective of IMSHA was to “Spot, Recognise and Empower” social workers who carry on their work valiantly, serving voluntarily and unconditionally.Very often, the contributions of social workers go unnoticed because they preferred to serve with anonymity. Now the social heroes in Iskandar Malaysia who have been doing their work quietly over the years, are being identified and honoured with the IMSHA recognition which will be publicly presented to them in a grand awards ceremony graced by VIPs, corporations and fellow social workers.

At the IMSHA Night, these humble social workers have the privilege to shine among their peers and enjoy being appreciated for their selfless contributions – and have fun being dressed up smartly – for just one night in the year. Organized by The Iskandarian, the official newspapers of Iskandar Malaysia, in collaboration with Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA), SIRIM Berhad and other sponsors and partners, IMSHA has established itself as a prestigious annual awards event.

Between 2014 and 2019, IMSHA received 1410 nominations of Civil Society Organisations (CSO), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and Non-Governmental Individuals (NGI) who are doing social good in the Iskandar Malaysia region. From among these hardworking nominees, 60 NGOs and 60 NGIs have been acknowledged as winners at the annual IMSHA.

For IMSHA 2014, only 173 nominations were received. Every year the number of nominees gradually increased and in 2019 there were 301 nominations.This rising number of nominees is proof that the spirit of volunteerism is very much alive in Johor. I remember attending the inaugural IMSHA in September 2014 held at Le Grandeur Palm Resort, in a glittering affair graced by the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (2003 – 2009), who was Patron of IMSHA for 2014 and 2015.

Meanwhile Edey Suresh, Editor-in-Chief of The Iskandarian had shared with me about their visit with Tun Abdullah when they went to invite him to be the IMSHA Patron and for him to grace the IMSHA event, planned to be held in Johor Baru. In addition to presenting Tun Abdullah with the Malaysian traditional buah tangan, they also brought along copies of The Iskandarian newspapers to introduce Iskandar Malaysia’s official newspaper to him. Edey said that as Tun Abdullah turned the pages to review the newspaper, he paused significantly longer at Page 10* to admire this page printed with My Johor Stories! IMSHA thought that it was appropriate for Tun Abdullah to be its Patron as he was a Board Member of the South Johor Economic Region, a major Federal infrastructure project in Johor under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.The South Johor Economic Region which started in 2006, was also known as the Iskandar Development Region before being renamed, Iskandar Malaysia.

In the inaugural IMSHA, awards were presented in 11 categories from which 22 winners were drawn – 10 for Individuals and 12 for Organisations.In addition to the 22 winners who were recognised for their selfless contributions, the Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation (JARO) was honoured as the recipient of the prestigious Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Iskandar Malaysia Ultimate Social Hero Award.

I was thrilled that JARO was recognised for their many years of training and employing the disabled and helping to give these artisans dignity in their lives. When I congratulated Datin Patricia Lim, who received the award on behalf of JARO, she told me that JARO shared the award with me because my regular coverage of JARO activities had helped to raise its profile in the community. Her spontaneous acknowledgement was indeed a pleasant surprise as I never thought that my work played such a significant role.

Since the inaugural IMSHA in 2014, I had the privilege to attend each subsequent IMSHA Night to witness how Iskandar Malaysia’s unsung heroes each took their turns to proudly receive due recognition.

Speaking of unsung heroes, I had featured the work of several NGOs who happened to be IMSHA winners, in an exclusive story, A tribute to our unsung heroes in my 2017 bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

So in Book Three of My Johor Stories, I thought it was apt for the IMSHA story to be featured under the section Proudly Johorean, along with other brands that were proudly established in Johor and developed into household names.

I know that the IMSHA was the brainchild of Johoreans, supported by Johor agencies and corporations, that had developed into a coveted award in Iskandar Malaysia. And to discover more details on the birth of IMSHA, I needed to speak to those who were involved since its inception.

Most NGOs are familiar with Past President of NGO, Johor Women’s League (JEWEL), Thanam Visvanathan-Suresh, who is Chairman of IMSHA, but very few may be aware that the founders of IMSHA were in fact, two young men. In line with the spirit of volunteerism and working with anonymity, these young men decided to work behind the scenes while Chairman Thanam became the face of IMSHA.So it was my privilege to hear from Thanam and Edey, all the interesting details and exciting anecdotes as they walked me down the proverbial Memory Lane to recall how the idea was hatched for the birth of IMSHA, up to now when it is recognised as a quality annual award which is backed by a strict selection, governance and judging criteria.

It was amusing to learn that while Edey initially thought that the IMSHA event could be held over a simple High Tea, Thanam was aware that the awards event would be a grand affair, one that should properly celebrate the achievements of our social heroes.

Thanam believed in having all the bells and whistles because to her, the awards event was one evening when the hardworking social heroes could dress up for dinner and be honoured in the presence of their peers, guests and VIPs.

I could not help laughing as I visualized her description of the glamourous and prestigious event from her descriptive phrase, “Rambut dua tingkat affair, complete with manicure and makeup!”

IMSHA was privileged to have Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Patron in 2014 and 2015, and the brand gained further recognition when former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam was Patron for 2016 and 2017.

IMSHA 2018 and 2019 were taken to new heights when the awards events were graced by guest-of-honour, Johor Prince the Tunku Temenggong Johor, Tunku Idris Al Haj Ibni Sultan Ibrahim.

In 2019, IMSHA achieved yet another major milestone when it was recognised as a Good Practice Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Award Provider by the United Nations in Malaysia.

When we look back on how far IMSHA has developed over the years, who would have thought that this was an idea hatched by two young men who were passionate about the project to spot, recognise and empower the unsung heroes in Iskandar Malaysia?

Thanks, Thanam and Edey, for your time and effort to rake up your precious memories to share with me the juicy tales and key moments in chronological order, to let me document the story of IMSHA in Book Three of My Johor Stories.

Written and Published by Peggy Loh