What makes a dad? To Michael Tong, recipient of the Exemplary Father Award 2024, it’s having a caring, loving, sympathetic heart over blood ties

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — “Being a father to someone doesn't necessitate blood relations. A father figure is someone who is caring, loving, and has a sympathetic heart,” said Michael Tong Wai Siong, a Chinese Malaysian man who adopted three Muslim children nearly two decades ago.

Tong, 55, was honoured with the Exemplary Father Award 2024 today by Better Dads Malaysia, a non-profit organisation dedicated to initiating, leading, and coordinating a national movement for fathers in Malaysia.

Speaking to Malay Mail after receiving the award, Tong expressed that he never sought recognition for his actions.

He shared that he had been involved in charitable work long before adopting his first child, Rafie Ahmad Fauzi, now a 29-year-old entrepreneur.

Single and moved by Rafie's profound sadness and isolation back then, Tong took it upon himself to take care of the boy.

Sixteen years later, he welcomed Rafie’s two brothers into their family after finding the two other boys at an orphanage in Klang, Selangor.

“I'm a reserved person; everything I do, I do without seeking publicity. It didn't sit right with me to see him so despondent, so lost. Despite not being Muslim or his biological father, I resolved to do whatever I could to help him come out of his shell.

“Now he is content, with his brothers by his side and a promising future ahead. I simply want to urge people not to abandon or neglect children in need. Without adults to guide them, they are left feeling hopeless and adrift.

“Children don't need to be biologically related for you to feel compelled to assist them; that shouldn't matter. If you are able, when you encounter a child in need, please do your utmost to help. They represent our future,” Tong said.

Michael Tong hopes his story will inspire others to take action and not be indifferent when it comes to helping children in need.
Michael Tong hopes his story will inspire others to take action and not be indifferent when it comes to helping children in need.

Michael Tong hopes his story will inspire others to take action and not be indifferent when it comes to helping children in need.

He added that race and religion should not deter people from performing acts of kindness.

“Please lend a hand; do not let these children endure severe trauma. Losing one or both parents is a daunting experience.

“As their uncle or aunt, you should take on the responsibility of caring for your kin; don't consign them to an orphanage,” he said.

The self-described reserved man shared with Malay Mail that he has been approached by people on the streets after word spread of his adoption story as a bachelor.

Tong hopes his story will inspire others to take action and not be indifferent when it comes to helping children in need.

The other recipient of the Exemplary Father Award was Dr Joseph Pang, founder of the House of Love – Pertubuhan Rumah Anak Yatim Berkat as it is called in Malay – in Klang, who was absent from today’s award ceremony.

The House of Love is a charitable home for orphans, abused, abandoned, and neglected children and aims to provide them shelter, compassionate care, and a loving family environment while supporting their overall well-being .

Currently, House of Love accommodates 28 children.

Jason Leong, founder of Better Dads Malaysia, said that the association aims to conduct programmes and workshops for fathers.

He highlighted the challenges fathers face in the workplace and the high expectations placed upon them, which can be overwhelming.

Founder of Better Dads Malaysia Jason Leong delivers a speech during the launching of the 2024 Fathers Day here at Temu Jelatek June 22, 2024.
Founder of Better Dads Malaysia Jason Leong delivers a speech during the launching of the 2024 Fathers Day here at Temu Jelatek June 22, 2024.

Founder of Better Dads Malaysia Jason Leong delivers a speech during the launching of the 2024 Fathers Day here at Temu Jelatek June 22, 2024.

“We aim to support struggling fathers and educate them on managing their time better to spend more quality moments with their families,” he said during the award ceremony at Dewan Temu Jelatek.

“The role of a father is pivotal in the family dynamic. While some fathers may struggle, we hope our initiatives can equip them with the necessary tools to cope,” he added.

The event was attended by around 100 people.

The guest-of-honour was Hairil Fadzly Md Akir, Deputy Director (Management) of the National Population and Family Development Board.