Dato’ Dr Ahmad Faizal
The Humanitarian at Heart
“I just wanted to help people and with a few of my friends, we registered as volunteers for Mercy Malaysia,” explains Dr Faizal. From the get-go Dr Faizal was already asked to helm a project - this was MERCY Malaysia’s drug rehabilitation program which he headed for the next 4 years starting in 2003.
Dr Faizal became the President of MERCY Malaysia in 2009, replacing Dr Jemilah, who was also the founder of this organization. “You have to understand, it’s not like I came out of the blue and took up the position. I was appointed into many different positions before they offered me this particular one,” explains Dr Faizal. 2011 would be his second year heading the humanitarian group and these are the notable challenges he has encountered and the decisions he has made to address them.
One of the trials faced by many volunteer groups these days is to strike a balance between becoming a professional organization as well as a volunteering group. “This is something which MERCY Malaysia has to deal with as well, but in this case I would want MERCY Malaysia to be both a professional and volunteering body,” says Dr Faizal.
According to him, maintaining a balance between these two elements makes sense and is the best possible way strategically especially in terms of developing support. “I do not deny the fact that professional bodies are capable of carrying out their duties, and even better than other organizations which are volunteer-based but at the end of the day, you just lose sight of the original objective, and the passion to help others becomes too formulaic,” states Dr Faizal.
Dr Faizal sees leaders as an essential part of the organization; there’s no denying that but according to Dr Faizal, any organization should also be able to sustain itself and progress when it’s time for the leader to step down. This is where the challenge comes in, how an organization can still be relevant when the leader is not at the helm of the organization. It would certainly be a waste to see the responsibilities of MERCY Malaysia wane due to a lack of sustainability.
“Perceptions also need to be managed whether it is a positive or negative observation. For example, when people think MERCY Malaysia is doing well, they would start questioning the need for funds and donations,” says Dr Faizal. “Negative perceptions usually relates to the fact that people think we only do humanitarian work overseas, which is not true at all. We do have projects in Malaysia, but unfortunately it is not as widely reported as our overseas activities. However, there is no use in pointing fingers at anyone; MERCY Malaysia has to pick up the pieces and communicate its message as effectively as possible to the masses.”
Passion is of course a prerequisite in anything that you do but unfortunately when reality sets in, passion can only get you so far especially for volunteer work. From his experience, Dr Faizal notices that many who apply to volunteer for MERCY Malaysia are very enthusiastic and of course the sincerity is there, however when it comes to actual volunteer work, it is a different story. “In the end sacrifices have to be made and how many of us are willing to do that?” questions Dr Faizal.