By Amar-Singh HSS, Lim Swee Im
June 30, 2014
On the 28th of June 2014, quietly and with little fanfare, one of the greatest of Malaysians has died. He has now gone on to be with God for all eternity, receiving a reward far beyond what many of us can ever hope to receive.
Rev Peter Young was a gentle giant. A truly great Englishman who swapped his British citizenship for a Malaysian passport to serve the underprivileged here. He was a rare man amongst men, one whose heart of compassion was far bigger than any tiny ego he may have had. He never clung to power or fame, thus remaining unrecognised and unacknowledged for his great service to our people, whom he adopted and loved as his own.
Peter was an exemplary person. He has done a great service for Malaysians. He is an inspiration to many of us, as his life speaks louder than his words. Many people have probably never heard of him, as he is not one to ‘blow his own trumpet’. Allow us to share some of his life and contributions to our country.
We first met Peter when he was with Malaysian CARE in 1980. He happened to live near our home and we became friends through mutual interests and beliefs. He was appointed the first Executive Director of ‘Malaysian CARE’ in January 1980, a Christian organisation aimed at showing God’s love by action in the community. Through the inspiration and leadership of Peter, his wife Betty and others involved with Malaysian CARE, many different segments of the marginalised population of Malaysians were reached and supported. At this time the social services by the government was in its infancy and most NGOs were doing ‘charity work’. Peter tried to move our hearts and minds from a ‘charity model’ to a ‘social and rights model’. In this, his vision was very far ahead of most of us. He worked by setting up model services that others could see and pattern after. Pioneer work was started with Rumah Care, a home for children whose parents were patients and residents of the Sungai Buloh Leprosarium. Soon after, work and sheltered homes were set up for those mentally ill, prisoners, drug dependents and disabled persons.
In this Peter was a landmark and watershed in the history of social work in Malaysia. Without his work and example we would have been much slower in developing services as well as poorer at focusing our energy on the right areas and right approach.
Our contact with Peter continued and he was instrumental in encouraging our hearts, and the hearts of many, to turn to look at the needs of the poor, disabled, disadvantaged, marginalised and outcast in Malaysia. In this his heart was truly after God’s. Peter was never one to cling on to his past achievements. I remember vividly at one Asia-Pacific Paediatric Conference in 1993 where everyone was talking about the physically disabled, Peter instead presented a paper on the needs of children with intellectual and learning problems. Another paradigm shift for many of us. This area is now recognised as an enormous need in the country
Peter never needed to cling on to power or have fame and recognition. I still remember clearly what he said when I met him at Malaysian CARE during its early days, and when I was still a young and immature doctor. He expressly stated his intent was to build up Malaysian CARE and then to hand over the organisation to a local born Malaysian when its foundations had become firm and stable. True to his original intent, after many hard decades of labour down the road, he stepped down and handed over the leadership completely, without further interference or intervention, to a local born Malaysian. He did all the hard work when the organisation was unknown, and gave it all away to another person just when the organisation had become a recognised and well known force for social service. He was content to just fade away and remain forgotten by younger generations.
As said, after many years, he left Malaysian CARE in capable hands and started ‘Dignity and Services’ — an advocacy group to promote the needs and champion the cause of persons with learning disabilities. Dignity and Services gave birth to United Voice which is the first and only registered self-advocacy group for members with learning disabilities in the country. He also helped to start ‘The Micah Mandate’, a Christian-based public interest advocacy ministry that seeks a transformation of Malaysia through justice, mercy and humility.
Peter has spoken and shared at many meetings and through books and writings over many years. He speaks simply but with passion and conviction. He is by nature a quiet and reserved man but has a great sense of humour. Spending an hour with him is to be with a true VIP, a servant of God. In Malaysia, those who most deserve awards, are often least likely to get them. Many get awards just for occupying a position without doing much work. Peter deserves awards many times over for the depth and scope of his work.
In memory of Peter we ask that we jointly “Make the Right Real” (Incheon Disability Strategy). We know what is needed in our country to heal our social problems, let’s work together to make this really happen. We have lost our focus as a nation and are fascinated with grandeur, twin towers and feeding the rich. Too little of government expenditure, tax payers ringgit, are spent on supporting those in need. Our social services (Welfare Department) are poorly funded and very poorly staffed. Few of the staff in the Welfare Department are trained social workers. Peter, as a true Malaysian, would be delighted if we rose to the occasion and grew significantly the services for the poor and disabled, disadvantaged, marginalised and outcast.
Peter has gone Home, one of Malaysia’s greatest humanitarians, a wonderful man of God.
But Peter remains in our hearts.
Peter remains in the work that he has started, sustained, flourished and multiplied.
We bless you Peter and your beloved wife Betty, who stood alongside you in your hard years of labour, for your inspiration, dedication and loyalty to Malaysia and Malaysians.
Malaysia is so much poorer without your physical and spiritual presence.
We are glad you are with the God whom you love with your entire being.
(This article was originally published in the Malay Mail Online)