Annual contest: Young writers tell heartwarming stories of ‘everyday heroes’
Stories of front-line workers braving the COVID-19 pandemic took centre stage in the Young Humanitarian Writers Competition this year. From medical personnel and police officers, to delivery riders and teachers, inspiring stories of everyday heroes were uncovered and shared by young writers in Malaysia.
“I wanted to talk about the mental health struggles of our everyday heroes while on duty during the pandemic. I wanted to start a conversation about how we can make our community more open to the plight of our riders because they too are fighting for us… the least we can do is make them feel heard,” says Nur Fatin Farhana Binti Md Ja’afar. A university student in Selangor, Nur Fatin has won the first prize in the English-language category for her heartwarming piece on the daily struggles of delivery riders.
As her cousin is a delivery rider, Nur Fatin was aware of the challenges that the riders faced even before the pandemic. Thereon, she did a deep dive into their lives by conducting online interviews with several riders. And it was through their eyes that she wrote her story, detailing the stress-packed and heartwarming moments experienced by these riders, the gig economy workers whose services helped keep household larders stocked and businesses stay afloat during the lockdown.
The winner for the second prize in English-language, Nurul Nabila binti Hasnor Zubaidy, is a student from Terengganu. She reported how a madrasah (religious school) in Terengganu had become a haven for learning for Muslim children from Rakhine. She even taught English for a month at the school, which she said is like a “second home” for the children.
She admitted that criticism by those around her about the arrival of undocumented migrants would sometimes rattle her resolve to help. However, interviewing the person in charge of the madrasah for this article helped her overcome those doubts. Brave and true to herself, she proceeded with conviction and ignored the naysayers.
A nurse, a police officer and a student were the central figures of the article by Aliaa Balqis, a student from Perak, who wished to know more about how the pandemic had affected people from all walks of life. She particularly wanted to uncover its impact on those working on the front lines as they face a higher risk of exposure to the virus due to their work. The article earned her the first prize in the Malay-language category.
Meanwhile Faheera Tayyeba Binti Abdul Latiff, a student from Sabah, highlighted the role of health-care workers, including doctors, nurses and lab workers in the fight against the pandemic.
“They have sacrificed tremendously for the country by saving numerous lives without worrying about their own. Without them, the infection rates would have been much higher,” says the second prize winner in the Malay-language category.
Organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the National Press Club, supported by the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, the Young Humanitarian Writers Competition 2020 aims to promote humanitarian reporting among young writers in Malaysia.
The winners’ list:
First prize (vouchers for electronic gadgets worth RM1,500): Nur Fatin Farhana Binti Md Ja’afar from Selangor
Second prize (vouchers for electronic gadgets worth RM1,000): Nurul Nabila binti Hasnor Zubaidy from Terengganu
First prize (vouchers for electronic gadgets worth RM1,500): Aliaa Balqis Binti Azemi from Perak
Second prize (vouchers for electronic gadgets worth RM1,000): Faheera Tayyeba Binti Abdul Latiff from Sabah
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