Sheila Kho

Passion for a cause.


“Why do you bother?”, one of the many questions thrown at me over my 25 long years of volunteerism. Indeed, Why? “Do you have nothing better to do?”. I often shrug my shoulders and leave the questions unanswered.

What kept me going all these years? It is an unexplained passion. To make a difference in someone’s life. It is one way traffic, without expectation of any returns. One of my philosophy in life is that if you don’t expect anything in return, you will not be disappointed. Disappointment often ends the desire to carry out something. Hence volunteer wholeheartedly with sincerity. Enthusiasm and commitment to help others can be contagious.

Joining Kuching Autistic Association (KAA) some five years ago as a life member gave me an opportunity to grow with something permanent. Nowadays, I talk about autism and our association to anyone who cares to listen. Many people are curious and want to know more, I am most happy to oblige. Working and listening to the stories from the families of our autistic students, one empathize and feel for them. The phrase,”Do not judge me. You don’t know what I have been through” rang so true and close to heart. For a family with an autistic member, every day is a challenge. The only thing predictable is the unpredictability.

Last year, I initiated and started the Sponsor-A-Child program for under- privileged autistic students with the support of our members at KAA and YB Datin Patinggi Datuk Amar Puan Sri Jamilah Anu. Our active public awareness campaigns reached even the lower income group. They now know that there is a disability called Autism and have approached our centre for help. The pool of funds under this program is used for therapy fees, medication and other expenses related to their stay in KAA. For the lower income group, getting therapy for their child may be beyond their reach. A majority of cases, these children are left to fend for themselves and at one end of the extreme, they often suffer bullying and abuse because of their behaviour. Through early intervention, the child can benefit from the different modes of learning, therapies and support which will help the child realise the full potential of their unique mind.

Once thought as “rare” a decade ago, research in the United States recently showed the official estimate of autism prevalence to be 1:88. South Korea is the first country in the world to do a survey on an entire population of school age children. It was alarming to note that 1:38 children has some degree of autism. Autism does not discriminate across cultures, ethnicities nor religion. One expert, however, said the increase was likely due to better detection rather than an increase in autism among children.

If this figure is alarming to you, please take a quiet moment and think what you can do for the community. Open your heart, give your time!
Sheila Kho