Happy 'Angels' at Lafarge


CONDUCIVE ENVIRONMENT: Four deaf women find work fulfillment as fellow employees at the cement company


MANY people today are caught up in the rat race and are never satisfied with what they have. Not Rebecca Lim Pei San, Mazuin Abd Manaf, Maryam Magesveri Abdullah and Joyce Low Li Yong.


At Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd,  these four women have become good friends, and the opportunity to work as a team for a company they really love and appreciate has been highly fulfilling.


This is because the four are deaf and, having faced enough challenges in life, they cherish their camaraderie at work, sense of accomplishment and the resultant self-esteem. Despite their disability, they have competently carried out all the work given to them.


Speaking through a sign language interpreter from the Malaysian Federation Of The Deaf (MFD), the four shared with Streets about their lives and why their jobs mean so much to them.


Kuala Lumpur-born Mazuin, the youngest of four children, was the one her father Abdul Manaf Mohamed, who drives a school bus, and mother Wan Maziah Wan Hassan worried about the most because of her disability.


After spending her early years in special schools in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, she graduated in graphic arts from Sekolah Pendidikan Vokasional Shah Alam in 2001.


"Upon graduating, I sought the help of MFD to get a job. I tried applying for jobs in various places but employers were unwilling to take me in because they felt I could not communicate with those who were not deaf like me," she said.


"I finally got a data entry job but working conditions and the pay were bad. I had no friends as I wasn't allowed to mix with the other workers and most of them couldn't understand sign language anyway."


"As I felt I was being taken advantage of and asked to work long hours for a meagre salary, I left the job. I then took to sewing clothes and worked as a babysitter for my neighbour's kids. I could only make about RM300 per month.


"In 2010, MFD sent an interpreter to help me at an interview at Lafarge and the company decided to give me a try. I am really happy now as I am working with three other women who are deaf and we get along well together. The four of us assist the supply chain team at the company's office in Bangunan TH Uptown 3, processing distribution copy despatch notes from transporters to cement dealers.


"My friends and I are glad that the working environment here is conducive. We really appreciate our bosses and all our co-workers who have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome and for showing us that they care.


"We write down what we want to say to communicate with the non-deaf staff or get help from MFD's interpreter on occasions when it is absolutely necessary."


Maryam, the daughter of taxi driver Rajanayadu Marikkan and Rkumani Nalippan, a housewife, did her secondary school education at SMK Damansara Jaya before enrolling at a vocational school in Shah Alam. The death of her elder brother in an accident was traumatic for her and the family.


"While in school, I had to face the taunts of some students who were unsympathetic but I learnt to ignore them. Upon graduating, I started doing clerical work, data entry and documentation for an insurance company for about nine years, from 1999. It was quite stressful as I had no friends since my colleagues weren't deaf and some of them took advantage of me by dumping their work on my table while they took it easy as they knew I couldn't 'speak up' for myself.


"In October 2010, I sought help from Wan Zuraidah Abu, a sign language interpreter and coordinator from MFD and I got this job. The deaf community is really grateful to MFD for helping us to get jobs by informing us of job offers in various companies. I just love working here as it has a positive working environment," said Maryam, who is in the family way.


Like Mazuin and Maryam, the motto of Kelantan-born Rebecca Lim Pei San, 40, and Joyce Low Li Yong seems to be "when the going gets tough, the tough get going".


Said Rebecca: "When I ventured into the job market in 1991 at the age of 21, I found, like most of my deaf friends, that getting a good job was hard. I didn't have many options."


After stints in a fastfood outlet and as a graphic designer in Johor Baru, Rebecca landed the job at Lafarge. Meanwhile, Joyce Low Li Yong did data entry work for many years before getting the job at Lafarge. Both said they were happy to work for a reputable multi-national company which was caring and where the people were warm and friendly.


Though the recruitment of the four disabled women was initially part of Lafarge's corporate social responsibility programme, their commitment and passion for their work have earned the company's admiration. They are now known as the "angels".


"We believe that these four have the potential to progress and provide real business value for the company. In time, we hope to give them more responsibilities such as doing research and analytical work related to supply chain management," said the company's public affairs director, Syed Muhammad Syed Nadzir.