Voices That Care
Say Hello to ... Leena
Every single person in Care2Run’s ecosystem is essential, and we’ve grown so much in three years thanks to all the different individuals who’ve played a part in getting us to where we are.
It is for this reason that we aim to hand this section over to our people – our participants, coaches, volunteers, parents, friends and loved ones – so they can tell you what Care2Run means to them.
This week we say hello to ….. Leena Rajagopal, a vital member of Care2Run’s core team.
LEENA has been a vital member of Care2Run’s core team since the beginning of 2019. As a matter of fact, very few of the programmes we’ve led and been a part of over the last five months – including the on-going Junior Leaders Programme – would have been as successful without Leena’s phenomenal organisational and coordination skills. In short, she’s been the one constant behind the scenes who ensures that all the moving parts within Care2Run are oiled and working!
But despite this year being crucial in terms of her growth with Care2Run, what most volunteers, parents and participants don’t realise is that Leena’s journey with us actually began years ago, back at the very beginning, when a group of friends – most of whom were runners – decided to initiate a mentoring-based project to help transform the lives of high-risk and underprivileged children.
Looking back, Leena tells us that the early days were filled with much camaraderie and many brainstorming sessions which yielded great ideas. However, she notes that the Care2Run of today is more focussed and driven than in the past. And that’s a good thing, she says, because at the end of the day, it keeps the organisation fixed on our goal to transform the lives of differently-abled young persons.
Anyway, we’ll let Leena tell you the rest of her story …
Hi Leena, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello there. This is a question I’m frequently asked. [laughs] I am Malaysian and for more than 15 years, I’ve been travelling all over the world as a hotelier. My core area of expertise is hospitality sales and marketing and I’ve worked in Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Siem Reap, Cambodia. I just returned to Malaysia last year after a two-year stint in Yangon, Myanmar. Currently, I help my clients find hotel venues for their events, which can be anywhere in the world.
Can you share with us about how you got involved with Care2Run?
During a brief sabbatical in 2015, Prem invited me to be part of their Tuesday evening running group in Bukit Gasing. While they ran, I walked. [laughs] And on one of the many post-running/walking sessions, we started talking about doing some sort of activity to help the community. During one of the discussions, we spoke about high-risk kids in schools who would benefit from a one-on-one mentoring approach – in some-way similar to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programme in the United States – via the sport of running. Mee Leng, who was also on a sabbatical then, headed this project while YJ, another runner, and I headed the project to plan a run to be held in the Petaling Jaya area.
What were those early days like?
The early days were filled with meet-ups where we brainstormed ideas. We had so many awesome ideas for the modules thanks to the group. And crucially, we received support from education professionals, which was very encouraging.
In October 2015, I received a wonderful opportunity to be part of the team to open a new hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. However, Prem kept me updated on Care2Run progress throughout. When I returned home last November, I was honoured when I was presented with the opportunity by Prem to be a more active member of Care2Run.
How different is Care2Run now compared with what it used to be?
Care2Run is more focused now on what we want to achieve. Plus the passion within the team is amazing, especially as we’ve been self-funded these past few years. Regardless of the constraints, we’ve strived to help create a sustainable and supportive environment for parents and differently-able youths.
After a few years away, you got back into the thick of things earlier this year. What has that experience been like so far?
I have learnt a lot about child development since I re-joined Care2Run back in January. Every day, I learn something new. And working with volunteers, differently-abled youths and parents has been an educational journey.
I love seeing the happy faces after each Sunday session. They truly enjoy the sessions and I have seen some great improvement in some of our differently-abled youths. Another highlight I would like to mention is the large number of new volunteers that have come forward to be mentors to our youths and assist us during our sessions. It’s been amazing.
What are your aspirations for Care2Run, Leena?
My No. 1 aspiration for Care2Runis to see more differently-abled youths taking up the mantle as coaches and working with other differently able youths, which will give the latter group heroes to look up to!