A golden opportunity

06 Apr 2021 / 14:10 H.

WITH age, comes a wealth of experience. For the past two years, the Jasmina Awards have been celebrating members of Malaysia’s golden generation by publishing winning stories, photographs and poems that have been submitted by participants aged 60 and over.

This unique literary competition is the brainchild of Dr Jasmina Kuka, co-founder of consulting company W!SE Achievements, who has had years of experience in managing, monitoring and evaluation of national and international cross-sectoral programmes.

The Jasmina Awards was inspired by the Dragan Awards, a similar competition which she started in her native Serbia, and named after her late father.

In an email interview, she explained: “My father was a great role model of active ageing, which both I and my whole family are deeply passionate about. [If] I tell you that my father started to write his first book at the young age of 70, and my mum at age of 71 discovered her talent and love for beach volleyball and for photography you will hopefully understand that physical age means nothing to my family.”

With the help of fellow corporate leader and philanthropist Datin Sunita Rajakumar, Jasmina launched the Jasmina Awards in 2019 and received a total of 55 entries in both English and Bahasa Malaysia. Besides having their works published, all category winners were feted with an enjoyable three-day stay at a relaxing resort just outside the Klang Valley.

Last year, the number of entries for the awards had doubled, proving that the event was a success among its target audience.

Jasmina said: “It is a sad truth that the older generation is, regardless of the level of a country’s economic or social development, a rather neglected group in any society. We wanted to create a platform that will allow senior citizens to share their voices, their feelings, memories, opinions and wisdom. To have their space. To be heard.

“Authors who send their stories and poems come from all walks of life. There are no limitations to who can be a contributor. In fact, it encourages people from all over to share their experiences and let their feelings, emotions, thoughts and life stories to be heard.

“When a plumber, professor and housewife have their stories in a publication, maybe for the first time in their lives, that means a lot to them. It means a lot for the development of a inclusive and supporting society as a whole.”

Jasmina added that while each competition has its own theme, the entries submitted cover a variety of topics. “[Stories] and poems that we receive cover topics of love, childhood, growing up, mysteries, regrets, loss, joy, lessons in life, crime stories, hopes, dreams, aspirations. It is a great privilege to be trusted with stories from someone’s life and a great opportunity to learn from each one of them.

“While writing, the senior citizens will not only receive the various health benefits that come with the writing process, such as maintaining good memory and refreshing their cognitive skills, but they will also get the recognition they deserve for all they have done for us and our society.”

When asked how the experience of organising the Jasmina Awards has affected her, she said: “I personally learnt a lot from the entries, not just about Malaysian history, its hardship and people, but about ever-surprising human nature. While reading the stories, I felt like a student who is learning precious life lessons.

“Both [the Dragan and Jasmina] awards reminded me again that: It is not the years in your life that count, it is the life in your years.”

This year, the awards is back for the third time, and is seeking entries centred around the theme of ‘Journey’. The categories include Micro Story (up to 150 words), Photo Story (photo and story up to 1,000 words), Short Story (up to 2,500 words) and Poem (up to 5 pages). The closing date for entries is June 4.

“The old saying says that when a student is ready, a teacher will appear,” Jasmina said. “I honestly believe that with all the changes Malaysia has been going through since its independence, the time has come for Malaysian society, or a student, to be ready to support their senior citizens. I hope the Jasmina Awards will contribute to that great aim.”

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