This article is in conjunction with Father’s Day which is celebrated on the third Sunday of June every year.
KUALA LUMPUR – If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught father-of-five Mohd Rafae Abd Raof, it is the importance of having the necessary skills to enable one to pull through any catastrophe.
The 46-year-old former engineer, who resides with his family in his kampung in Baling, Kedah, has taught his children to trap and catch birds so that they can “find their own source of food in the event of a food shortage or cut in supplies”.
“It’s to prepare them for worst-case scenarios. I taught them how to trap and catch burung merbah (bulbul) and doves… in fact, they are now able to catch a few of these birds daily which we cook and eat,” he told Bernama.
He also taught his children other useful skills such as repairing washing machines and motorcycle engines, as well as how to cook simple meals like fried rice and some side dishes.
“These skills will come in handy for them one day,” said Mohd Rafae, who has two sons aged 14 and 12 and three daughters aged 10, eight and four.
Mohd Rafae, who is the sole breadwinner of his family, said he has had to face all kinds of challenges after he met with a road accident in February 2008 that left him with a broken hip and a limp in his right leg.
Now categorised as an OKU (orang kelainan upaya or person with a disability), he still manages to put food on the table despite his disability, thanks to his innovative skills.
“I hope my story can inspire others to never give up on life and to keep going despite their shortcomings. My message to all fathers on this coming Father’s Day is that nothing is impossible in this world,” he said.
Mohd Rafae, who obtained a diploma in mechatronics engineering in 1996, is no stranger to crises. He had just started his career as a technical executive at an automotive factory in Senawang, Negeri Sembilan, when the global economic crisis struck in 1998.
“I had just worked for a year then and Malaysia was also affected by the recession. I had to quickly adapt to the situation… I learnt a lot about crisis management and how to solve the problems we were facing.
“I was a member of the crisis management team that came up with a special plan to ensure that our company did not go bankrupt. We managed to weather the recession and our company became stable again after the economic crisis ended.”
After working for seven years with the company, he joined another firm Delphi Packard Electric as an engineer. Then came the accident on Feb 8, 2008, while he was driving on the road from Seremban to Kuala Pilah, which turned his life upside down.
“I was already married then and my eldest son was just five months old. Luckily, my wife and son were not in the car when the accident took place as they were in her kampung in Kuala Pilah. That accident made me an OKU and yes, in the early stages I lost confidence in myself and even became depressed at times,” he said.
He then thought of his family and decided to pull himself together and move on.
After his accident, Mohd Rafae was on medical leave for a year. For the first six months, his salary was paid in full but he only received half pay in the subsequent six months, at the end of which he had to leave the company under its voluntary separation scheme.
“It was a tough time for me as my wife was not working. I did all kinds of part-time work to earn some money, including selling baby diapers and used jeans,” he said, adding that he even withdrew RM120,000 from his Employees Provident Fund account to open a tyre service workshop but was forced to close it in 2013 as he ran out of capital.
Determined not to give up, he operated a small car servicing centre from his home in Seremban, where he lived with his family before they moved to Baling in December last year, and business turned out to be good as many of his friends and neighbours sought his services.
Being the budding innovator that he was, Mohd Rafae also worked on developing various innovations, including a special tool that can help plumbers to clear clogged toilet drains.
This particular innovation earned him the first prize in a competition for bumiputera start-up entrepreneurs organised by the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) in 2015.
“My life and career starting improving after I participated in this competition… my victory helped me to regain my confidence and I knew that nothing is impossible in this world, even for a person like me with OKU status.”
His potential in creating innovations saw him designing a face shield out of an old plastic file that he cut and connected with a rubber pipe.
“I made several improvements to the prototype and it caught the attention of an NGO (non-governmental organisation) which ordered 3,000 pieces of my face shield (when the pandemic started last year) to be donated to hospitals, including Hospital Serdang and Hospital Kajang,” he said.
Mohd Rafae is also often invited by universities to give lectures on innovation and he has, in fact, also developed his own lecture module which he shares with the participants.
He has even developed a massage technique which he calls Bugaga to help relieve backache.