A Voice For the Voiceless


The Advocacy Project (AP) recruits students to help marginalized communities tell their story and claim their rights.

My RSS Feed

Twitter: #apfellows

Jenny Pong Siew Chin – Overcoming Tragedy

Maria Skouras | PostedJuly 6th, 2011 | Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Jenny was born on January 3, 1966.  Along with her 6 brothers and sisters, she was raised in a small village down a long dirt road in Ipoh, Malaysia.  Ipoh is known for its limestone hills and beautiful women.  Jenny is one of these women.

Living a country lifestyle, Jenny’s family grew their own vegetables and tended their own chickens.  Their house was built by family and had dirt floors and no electricity or running water until about 10 years ago.  The house requires constant repairs to fix the roof and walls; the day I visited Jenny a severe rainstorm had blown a large part of the roof off of her bedroom and needed to be repaired.

Jenny's House
Jenny's House

*Click on photos to enlarge.

Jenny learned responsibility early in life and by the age of 7 she was helping her mother grow and sell vegetables to support her 7 siblings.  Like her mother, she stopped going to school when she was 12 years old to assume additional responsibilities for the family.  She washed dishes at a local restaurant and worked in a karaoke bar as a teenager to earn income for her siblings.

When Jenny was 18 years old, she married her sweetheart.  Less than a year later, she was pregnant and excited to be a mother.  She went to the general hospital in Ipoh give birth, but the baby was stillborn and she required an operation to have it removed.  Heartbroken, Jenny returned home to recuperate physically and emotionally.

A few days later, Jenny was feeling exceptionally weak from a post-natal viral infection.  She got up in the night to urinate but collapsed.  When her mother found her in the morning, Jenny told her that she needed to use the bathroom but couldn’t get up.  Her mother told Jenny that she had already urinated on the floor.  Jenny had no idea because she had lost sensation in most of her body.

Her parents brought her to the ICU at the hospital where Jenny fell into a coma. As the days went by, Jenny’s mother stayed by her side and was confident that she would regain consciousness.  After 2 long months, Jenny awoke but she still did not have feeling in her arms or legs.  She remained immobile in the hospital for 2 years.

During this time, Jenny waited for her husband to visit her, but he never came to the hospital.  He moved out of the house and Jenny has not seen him since.  While it pains her to think about the happy times they shared and whether he has a new family, she has no intentions of looking for him.

Jenny’s mother continued to provide emotional and physical support to her daughter.  She encouraged Jenny to try to squeeze a rubber ball and after a few days she was able to make slight movements with her arms and hands.   While Jenny strengthened her arms by pulling buckets of water up from the local well, her legs never regained feeling.  To move around her house, she used her arms to pull herself on the ground.  People in Jenny’s village called her “the mermaid” because of the way her legs dragged behind her.

With her doctor’s diagnosis that her legs would never function again, Jenny had them amputated.  After the surgery, Jenny discovered that the incision was uneven and prevented her from sitting upright.  She continued to drag herself on her stomach along the dirt floors in her house to do her daily chores until her 11-year-old brother advised that she use a trolley to prevent her clothing from becoming soiled and her stomach from being injured.

Jenny Pong Siew Chin
Jenny Pong Siew Chin

With her brother’s help, a trolley was constructed for her to get around more easily in the house.  Jenny lies on her stomach and pulls herself along with her hands.  Learning to get used to her new vantage point of the world, which is about two feet off the ground, has been a difficult and emotional journey.  With time, Jenny has been able to see her circumstances and the world in a positive light.

Jenny at Home
Jenny at Home

She shared more about her road to recovery and daily life with me when I visited her in March.  To read more, click here.

Jenny will be featured in an upcoming documentary by eHomemakers on inspiring women in Malaysia called Portraits of Perseverance.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Security Code:

Fellow: Maria Skouras

eHomemakers in Malaysia


Agila agnihotra bipolar Chinese All Souls Day Chinese New Year Chong Sheau Ching Easter eco-baskets eco-friendly economic independence eH eHomemakers empowerment FGA handicrafts ICT justmarketing Kuala Lumpur localization Malaysia mcdonald's Pink Triangle Pink Triangle Foundation Portraits of Perseveranc Portraits of Perseverance Qing Ming rumah panjang Salaam Wanita Salaam Wanita eco-baskets SLE Thaipusam transgender visual culture volunteer weavers weaving women's empowerment




2013 Fellows


Benan Grams
Meron Menwyelet
Mohammed Alshubrumi
John Steies


Andra Bosneag
Chris Pinderhughes
Emily MacDonald
Jasveen Bindra
Kelly Howell
Raymond Aycock
Sujita Basnet

Middle East

Mona Niebuhr

2012 Fellows


Dane Macri
Laura McAdams
Mallory Minter
Megan Orr
Oluwatooni Akanni
Katie Hoffman


Adam Kruse
Alex Kelly
Alicia Evangelides
Heather Webb
Jesse Cottrell
Matthew Becker
Rachel Palmer


Claire Noone
Elise Filo

Latin America

Laura Burns

Middle East

Nur Arafeh
Thayer Hastings

North America

Caroline Risacher

2011 Fellows


Charlie Walker
Charlotte Bourdillon
Cleia Noia
Dina Buck
Jamyel Jenifer
Kristen Maryn
Rebecca Scherpelz
Scarlett Chidgey
Walter James


Amanda Lasik
Chantal Uwizera
Chelsea Ament
Clara Kollm
Corey Black
Lauren Katz
Maelanny Purwaningrum
Maria Skouras
Meredith Williams
Ryan McGovern
Samantha Syverson


Beth Wofford
Julia Dowling
Quinn Van Valer-Campbell
Samantha Hammer
Susan Craig-Greene

Latin America

Amy Bracken
Catherine Binet

Middle East

Nikki Hodgson

North America

Sarah Wang

2010 Fellows


Abisola Adekoya
Annika Allman
Brooke Blanchard
Christine Carlson
Christy Gillmore
Dara Lipton
Dina Buck
Josanna Lewin
Joya Taft-Dick
Louis Rezac
Ned Meerdink
Sylvie Bisangwa


Adrienne Henck
Karie Cross
Kerry McBroom
Kate Bollinger
Lauren Katz
Simon Kläntschi
Zarin Hamid


Laila Zulkaphil
Susan Craig-Greene
Tereza Bottman

Latin America

Karin Orr

North America

Adepeju Solarin
Oscar Alvarado

2009 Fellows


Adam Welti
Alixa Sharkey
Barbara Dziedzic
Bryan Lupton

Courtney Chance
Elisa Garcia
Helah Robinson
Johanna Paillet
Johanna Wilkie
Kate Cummings
Laura Gordon
Lisa Rogoff
Luna Liu
Ned Meerdink
Walter James


Abhilash Medhi
Gretchen Murphy
Isha Mehmood
Jacqui Kotyk
Jessica Tirado
Kan Yan
Morgan St. Clair
Ted Mathys


Alison Sluiter
Christina Hooson
Donna Harati
Fanny Grandchamp
Kelsey Bristow
Simran Sachdev
Susan Craig-Greene
Tiffany Ommundsen

Latin America

Althea Middleton-Detzner
Carolyn Ramsdell
Jessica Varat
Lindsey Crifasi
Rebecca Gerome
Zachary Parker

Middle East

Corrine Schneider
Rachel Brown
Rangineh Azimzadeh

North America

Elizabeth Mandelman
Farzin Farzad

2008 Fellows

Adam Nord
Annelieke van de Wiel
Juliet Hutchings
Kristina Rosinsky
Lucas Wolf
Chi Vu
Danita Topcagic
Heather Gilberds
Jes Therkelsen
Libby Abbott
Mackenzie Berg
Nicole Farkouh
Ola Duru
Paul Colombini
Raka Banerjee
Shubha Bala
Antigona Kukaj
Colby Pacheco
James Dasinger
Janet Rabin
Nicole Slezak
Shweta Dewan
Amy Offner
Ash Kosiewicz
Hannah McKeeth
Heidi McKinnon
Larissa Hotra
Hannah Wright
Krystal Sirman
Rianne Van Doeveren
Willow Heske

2007 Fellows

Johnathan Homer
Adam Nord
Audrey Roberts
Caitlin Burnett
Devin Greenleaf
Jeff Yarborough
Julia Zoo
Madeline England
Maha Khan
Mariko Scavone
Mark Koenig
Nicole Farkouh
Saba Haq
Tassos Coulaloglou
Ted Samuel
Alison Morse
Gail Morgado
Jennifer Hollinger
Katie Wroblewski
Leslie Ibeanusi
Michelle Lanspa
Stephanie Gilbert
Zach Scott
Abby Weil
Jessica Boccardo
Sara Zampierin
Eliza Bates
Erin Wroblewski
Tatsiana Hulko

2006 Interns

Laura Cardinal
Jessical Sewall
Alison Long
Autumn Graham
Donna Laverdiere
Erica Issac
Greg Holyfield
Lori Tomoe Mizuno
Melissa Muscio
Nicole Cordeau
Stacey Spivey
Anya Gorovets
Barbara Bearden
Lynne Engleman
Yvette Barnes
Charles Wright
Sarah Sachs

2005 Interns

Eun Ha Kim
Malia Mason
Anne Finnan
Carrie Hasselback
Karen Adler
Sarosh Syed
Shirin Sahani
Chiara Zerunian
Ewa Sobczynska
MacKenzie Frady
Margaret Swink
Sabri Ben-Achour
Nitzan Goldberger

2004 Interns

Ginny Barahona
Michael Keller
Sarah Schores
Melinda Willis
Pia Schneider
Stacy Kosko
Carmen Morcos
Christina Fetterhoff
Stacy Kosko
Bushra Mukbil

2003 Interns

Erica Williams
Kate Kuo
Claudia Zambra
Julie Lee
Kimberly Birdsall
Marta Schaaf
Caitlin Williams
Courtney Radsch