A Tribute to Mahanum bt Itam

By Paul Chong                                              Thursday, 9 September 2010

From a senior civil servant in Malaysia to the status of “Mother Teresa”.

Ms. Mahanum Binti Itam 63, retired Director General, National Housing Department, Malaysia, has had a full & active life serving the Civil Service in various capacities including Defense Ministry, Health Ministry, University Hospital, Ministry of International Trade and Industry and Ministry of Rural Development.

She has seen the world & through dealings internationally, has acquired relevant knowledge, skills, experiences and aspiration that assist in her executing challenging tasks while in service.

For one who has aspired & retired as a top civil servant in Malaysia, one would be expected to lead a life of ease & pleasure for the rest of one’s natural life.

Not in a million years for this unassuming dedicated character Mahanum, who happened to be a former student of mine from the prestigious Anderson School, Ipoh, Malaysia. She was here in Perth visiting some relatives of hers from September 2 -12, 2010.

It was a rare occasion for teacher & students to be meeting up again especially after a lapse of two score & three years. I feel both proud & honoured to have this privilege to have been her Form Master in the Class of 1966/67 Sixth Form Arts.

As a teacher, you often wonder whatever happened to this or that student – often you never know. Straight after their graduation, each person went his or her own way in their life pursuits, never really ever to meet again.

It’s always gratifying to hear of your students’ successes, and to know that they still remember you.

Before her retirement, she wondered why she was wearing expensive clothings & having an expensive lifestyle when there are so many poor kids around. Prompted by this realisation, she sold off all her collection of expensive stuff And landed assets and built in 2000 an orphanage on her parents’ land somewhere off Teluk Intan in Perak.

She’s like Malaysia’s own “Mother Teresa” – even more so, if I may say so, to be running it all by herself only supported by her cousin Janariah bt. Md. Shah who takes care of the tremendous amount of washing. Mahanum’s day begins at 5 am and the comfort of the repose comes round only by 10.00 pm. at night. She has at the moment 50 kids – all mostly from problem families.

She is single, never got married, still quiet & reserved – and fully dedicated to her ideal of helping poor kids. Friends may find her sometimes to be aloof . . . but she has a heart of purest gold. I dare say few men can match with her high ideals nor dare to venture like she does. She’s a real quiet selfless achiever.

Malaysia could do with more people like her calibre with a true dedication to serve the community. She step out of her comfort zone to personally and sacrificially pursue her worthy ideal. She does personify the alma mater‘s motto: “To Strive, to Seek, to Find & not to Yield”. She does what she does best in her own quiet unspoken way.

As an outsider now, looking in from “Down Under”, I am often both appalled & distressed by the economic havoc & deterioration of my fond Golden Chersonese. Sadly, the once beautiful country, which could have been great, is in the grip of “thieves & cheats” at the helm . . . “pariahs & mafias” of the highest order from the so-called UMNOputras. This is positively my own perspective and does not in anyway reflect on the thoughts & standing of Mahanum.

With a “kris” in hand . . .

the ruling BN is ruining the land.

Its political policy is CCN – Corruption, Cronyism & Nepotism. (please don’t confuse it with CNN – the famed media channel).

May the good Lord bless Mahanum

And may God save Malaysia!

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Sekolah Tahfiz/Rumah Anak Yatim Al Amin

Kg Pengkalan Ara

36600 Chenderong Balai

Teluk Intan


Selamat “Hari Raya”


3 thoughts on “A Tribute to Mahanum bt Itam

  1. Tan Hau Kiang

    Many thanks for great write up on Mahanum; no one, other than you, could have written a better real life story than this! Cheers

    1. Paul

      Thanks Hau Kiang. I thought what Mahanum is doing is indeed praiseworthy & globally more people must come to know. All Andersonians, past & present, can take pride in having someone like “Mother Teresa”.

  2. Aminah Omer

    Thank you Mr. Chong for a true reflection of Mahanum “Mother Theresa”. She has come into my life 5 years ago whilst on holiday in Malaysia and she handing over her housing projects before retiring. I am blessed to know such a marvelous woman and cannot wait to host her in my humble home in Cape Town, South Africa on her annual visits here. She has a broad network of “neady friends” here and only strives to visit our welfare organisation and under-priviledged homes here. She rolls up her sleeves and cook for the needy and hands out food here for the less fortunate. She gives freely her donations and now her network has expanded to oher provinces in South Africa such as Eastern Cape (ie East London and Port Elizabeth). May Mahanum “Alone” be blessed with a long and healthy life.
    Her friend and hostess in South Africa
    Aminah Omer

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