Dr. Yoong Sao Chin is the recipient of the 2018 Study UK Alumni Award - Social Impact Category. As a private medical practitioner, he is currently attached to Klinik Bethany in Ipoh. His deep and genuine passion for humanitarian and volunteer work, to which he has devoted much time, has long been part and parcel of who he is and has become, and he is truly deserving of the award he has received. 

Dr. Yoong’s career has been a colourful and meaningful contribution spanning almost three decades, taking him all over the world. 

His involvement with the global community had its beginnings in his Master of Science (MSc) in Public Health undertaken at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). He completed this postgraduate degree via distance learning, which is a web-based learning environment where students have the flexibility to study independently in the comfort of their home countries. He networked with lecturers and course mates all over the world from diverse backgrounds and valuable field work. This exchange of knowledge and experience become his inspiration to set up the Malaysian alumni chapter to facilitate similar exchanges on the local scene. 

His journey into social work began with church medical missions to the Baram River in Sarawak to serve the Penan people. He then joined an NGO dedicated to disaster response, leading him to volunteer work all over Asia. On the side, he has taken up various courses to enable him to contribute to areas beyond medical needs in disaster response work. He acquired training and knowledge in disaster risk management, financial strategies in the management of post-disaster economic impacts, and damage and reconstruction assessment.

Dr. Yoong credits his rich and rewarding experience to LSHTM, which has given him the confidence to conduct workshops and train personnel for disaster response all over the world. His aspiration is to pass down his experience and knowledge as well as inspire the next generation of social workers to be passionate in meeting the needs of disadvantaged communities in underdeveloped countries. 

“My priority is investing in human capital and empowering individuals, for with compassion, responsibility and a sense of social justice, there is much that we can do, and there is indeed much to do,” he said. “As for the rewards, there are effectively none, especially financially, as the work is with and for those who have lost everything in disasters; and those who live in less than desirable conditions and environments, with nothing to lend or give,” he said, adding that “the rewards of our work are intangible, the sharing of the sorrows and burdens of the wounded and downcast far outweigh all the glitter of any financial remuneration.”

Dr. Yoong is the current Director of Crisis Relief Services & Training (CREST) in Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to disaster relief. He leads responses to natural disasters, planning and strategising emergency response action plans and empowering local communities in disaster-struck areas. He also trains disaster respondents, secures donor funding, as well as initiates and plans long-term sustainable projects with local partners. His humanitarian work for more than 10 years to date has included work in the 2006/7 floods in Johor, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, and the Nepal earthquake in 2015. 

Paying tribute to his alma mater for opportunities to work globally, he says:

“[LSHTM’s] vast networks of researchers stationed in far-flung tropical habitats have been instrumental in building my connections to work in different parts of the world.” 

Citing the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, he shared that countless people from the school had volunteered to be part of the response team, speaking volumes of the dedication and passion of the people in this institution. He also credited LSHTM with being his inspiration for thinking out of the box, broadening his perspectives, and spurring him to turn ideas into action. Proudly identifying the school as the best in the industry, he said the quality of learning it offered, from the wide availability of tutors in diverse specialties to in-depth and valuable guidance on projects, was unrivalled. Dr. Yoong’s work is indeed challenging and demanding. Through it all, his genuine passion to contribute towards a better world is evident in his dedicated efforts. 

“This award acknowledges doing good and doing it well. We are not special human beings with special skills, we just have a heart to serve,” said this humble servant.

As far as the judging process is concerned, Wan Dazriq Wan Zulkiflee, the Strategic Initiatives Manager at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), who is also well-known in the field of community work, said that it was highly challenging, as there were many outstanding and deserving applicants. His judging was based on three criteria: (1) Number of beneficiaries of the work; and scale of the impact; (2) relevance of the impact to the country and society; and (3) how the work had benefitted society, backed up by statistics and examples. 

“Dr Yoong’s humanitarian work more than meets all criteria for social impact. We also looked into how many lives he has touched and impacted through his constant energy and dedication over the years. At the end of the day, his deep compassion and dedicated service shone through brightly,” said the judge.