Dr Hamid Rahmatullah Razak vividly remembers his fun childhood while growing up in Queenstown’s Stirling Road area in the 1990s.
Nearly every day after school, he would rush outside to play sports with children from the neighbourhood, or if luck permitted, take part in community events organised by grassroots organisations.
At that time, the old neighbourhood felt almost like a village made up of long-time residents and families.
“The ‘kampung spirit’ was very much alive then,” recalls Dr Hamid, 32.
It is this spirit that he wants to keep alive through his work as an orthopaedic surgeon at the new Sengkang General Hospital located in the heart of the community.
He hopes to work with the community on primary prevention and musculoskeletal health by promoting exercise and teaching them injury prevention.
Dr Hamid also does voluntary work with non-governmental organisations such as HealthServe, which assists migrant workers, and IM.PROF, which reaches out to Indian Muslim youth.
His passion for helping others has clinched him the Singapore Youth Award 2018.
The aspirations of Indian Muslim youth are not unfamiliar to Dr Hamid, who grew up as a third-generation Singaporean in the same community.
His father was a Customs officer and his mother, a clerical assistant. Their work hours were long, so it fell to his grandparents, uncles and aunts to take care of Dr Hamid and his two younger sisters.
He says: “My grandparents were from Kadayanallur, a small village in south India who had come to Singapore seeking greener pastures. My grandfather worked as a storekeeper, while my grandmother sold spices in the market.”
Dr Hamid never thought about how his family made ends meet as he was growing up. It was only when he enrolled in Anglo Chinese School (Independent) on merit that he realised how tough it would be for his parents to pay his school fees. Fortunately, he was selected for the school’s financial assistance scheme.
He then went to Raffles Junior College where, for the first time, he struggled with his studies. The demanding course load, along with multiple co-curricular activities, caused him to stumble.
Remembering his grandfather’s long-held dream to have a doctor in the family, Dr Hamid made a colossal effort in the last two months before his A-level exams to qualify for medical school.
He eventually made it to the National University of Singapore, where he studied medicine. He took a tuition fee loan from a bank to fund his studies.
It was in medical school that he embarked on a serious commitment in voluntary work.
“By then, I had started volunteering at the grassroots, and I realised that I enjoy listening to people’s stories — even more so, if I could help them,” he recalls.
He says: “The value of resilience, which I had learnt from stories shared by my late grandfather, helped me tremendously. Not having had formal education, he had to work hard to support his family of eight.”
Serving the community
In September 2015, while he was a trainee orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Hamid set up Indian Muslim Professionals (IM.PROF) with his friends to reach out to the youth of his community.
He recalls the challenges the community faced when he was growing up, and how there were no such organisations that catered to them then.
For instance, the organisations at the time — such as the Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League or Tenkasi Muslim Welfare Association — were more focused on the cultural, religious and social needs of the earlier generations.
To bridge this gap, IM.PROF ran programmes on entrepreneurship, personal development and spirituality, and career guidance for the youth.
Three years after its inception, it now plans to add a quarterly newsletter, and holds regular forums called “Chai Chats”.
Currently held at the Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre, the forum topics have included current issues of interest such as cryptocurrency, the power of social media, business development, and the Singapore Budget and small and medium-sized enterprises.
“We are still working to make Chai Chats a regular fixture,” he said.
Through its efforts, IM.PROF hopes the youth can become better integrated and benefit from national programmes.
While the organisation is open to accepting youth of all races and religions, Dr Hamid said the Indian Muslim community was a good starting point, as the founders came from that community, and were familiar with that culture.
Dr Hamid adds: “My upbringing has made me a part of this community, and a big part of me wants to give back to it.”
Social media has now made it much easier to find like-minded people to work on community projects, but the passion to serve must come first, he says.
“It all starts with the heart.”
For more information on the Singapore Youth Award, visit sya.sg