“Planting the seeds for better health”
For Ms Norazlina Wagiman, 44, who is part of NKF’s outreach team, educating people on the importance of caring for their kidneys and staying healthy gives her a tremendous sense of fulfilment. Here, she shares her thoughts on what inspires her in wanting to make a difference in someone’s health and the work she is so passionate about.
I spent a lot of time growing up with my uncles and aunts when I was younger. So, my heart sank when one of my favourite uncles passed away in 2017 from kidney failure due to his uncontrolled diabetes. My family has a medical history of diabetes, and my mother was diagnosed with this condition as well. This worries me a lot. Through these episodes, I finally understood the importance of controlling chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, which can damage the kidneys. I decided to tweak my lifestyle, especially in adopting healthier eating habits to stay healthy.
“I hope that my outreach efforts will go a long way in encouraging people to take care of their health and reduce the burden of chronic illnesses like kidney disease.“
More than just a job
When I had the opportunity to join and lead kidney health outreach efforts in the Malay/Muslim community five years ago, I accepted it without hesitation because I see this as a job with a meaningful purpose. However, helping to spread awareness of chronic kidney disease and prevention in the community is a mammoth task. All of us at NKF cannot do it alone. Much of my work revolves around garnering support and establishing strong partnerships with various Malay/Muslim organisations, mosques and voluntary welfare organisations within the Malay community to help enhance this awareness.
Through active networking and sharing sessions, I have come to understand our partners better, their needs and limitations, and how we can complement and collaborate with each other to effectively reach out to the community. I am happy to share that we now have 36 corporate and community partners that are always supportive towards NKF’s outreach initiatives. I have even been given the nickname ‘Kakak Ginjal’ (Kidney Sister) by a few mosques that I am working with!
Work adventures that get me going!
I am most happy when conducting public awareness talks. I conduct talks and forums in mosques, community centres and neighbourhood libraries, as well as organise events with interactive booths such as Ramadan Bazaar. Together with my outreach colleagues, we share key information on diabetes and hypertension, and adopting a healthier lifestyle with tips on cutting down on sugar and salt, as well as exercising regularly.
Amid my daily work, I try to find time to befriend a few kidney failure patients every month. Talking to them and their caregivers helps me understand their challenges better. There are moments when I try hard to hold back my tears listening to their pains and struggles, but at times, I end up crying with them! Their poignant stories remind me of the fragility of life, and that we must do our best to stay healthy for ourselves and our loved ones too.
While work can of course be challenging, I feel that what I am doing is certainly meaningful and fun too. Through outreach events and activities, I get to meet and converse with people from all walks of life. And seeing them come forward with questions on how they can better manage their kidney health and being inspired to take baby steps to achieve a healthier life, truly gives me fulfilment and satisfaction.
Walk the talk
I am also grateful to have helpful colleagues and volunteers who readily extend their help when the need arises. When I bump into old friends and ex-colleagues, I always receive comments such as “I can really see that you are enjoying your work”. I cannot agree more! I cannot be an advocator of good health if I do not walk the talk. With that said, I do my best to keep healthy by participating in outdoor activities like urban and jungle trekking with my friends, and constantly eat clean.
I hope that with my efforts to educate and encourage people in the community to take charge of their health, as well as for my own family to stay healthy, we can all do our part to break the cycle of chronic illnesses like kidney disease!