Malaysia elections: Families uphold values by volunteering in election campaigns

Zuraidah's passion for politics comes from her mother Satbiha Nordin (left) who is the Ketua Wanita (Head of Women) at the centre.

LIKE most working mothers, Zuraidah Mohd Shariff prefers to spend her weekends in the quiet comfort of her home. Since the beginning of last month, however, the bank clerk has not had the luxury to do so, but she's not complaining.

Zuraidah has been spending her weekends and most of her weeknights at the Umno operations centre in Taman Bukit Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, a 10-minute drive from where she resides. The single-storey building comes to life after working hours, which is when most of the volunteers, with their children in tow, stop by to lend a helping hand.

Zuraidah is continuing her family's tradition of volunteering for the Barisan Nasional campaign this general elections.

Her 16-month-old daughter, Qaseh Anirah Zahirah Azlan, is happiest when she is left in the care of extended "family members" at the centre, who are really neighbourhood friends.

"I started volunteering when I was still in secondary school," Zuraidah, 30, recalls. "I would follow my mother to the centre and help out with the simple stuff, like chopping vegetables (to prepare meals for the other volunteers) and tidying up the tables and floors."

Zuraidah became even more actively involved after her mother, Satbiha Nordin, 62, was given the role of Ketua Wanita (Head of Women) at the centre in 1991.

"It's no wonder that I have a strong passion for politics," she says. "I grew up listening to my mother's daily rants about the political scene in the country. She has this habit of reading the newspaper headlines out aloud and sharing her opinions on the issues."

This year, Zuraidah is the centre's Ketua Kebajikan (Head of Welfare), and is responsible for ensuring that the campaign workers have sufficient food and supplies on-the-go. Her father, retired civil servant Mohd Shariff Wahid, 65, who is also a committee member at the centre, has been appointed the designated driver to ferry voters to the voting centres this polling day.

Zuraidah is taking this hectic period in her stride, but she admits it can be quite a challenge as her husband is working in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, and she is balancing her commitments at home and at the campaign centre on her own.

"A lot of my friends and colleagues are always curious as to where I get my enthusiasm from. Most of them aren't interested in volunteering because they know they won't get paid for the job. The common mindset is: no money, no talk. Politics doesn't concern them at all and they think I'm wasting time over here," she shares.

"Volunteering may not gain me any recognition, but that's OK. I'm satisfied knowing that I'm doing something to help the country. It's a story that I can tell my daughter in the future - that her mummy may not have worked as a minister in the Cabinet, but she's doing something important nevertheless."

And perhaps her daughter too would be inspired to do her bit when she is older.

Winning hearts

Contractor Teo Yook Yeng, 63, also started volunteering to help with the Barisan Nasional campaign as a way of giving back to the community. He started way back in the 1980s: he was the Persatuan Ibu Bapa dan Guru (Parent-Teacher Association) chairman at his children's Chinese vernacular school in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

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