DR Khaira Ismail isn’t just any marine geologist-cum-lecturer (although that in itself is pretty rare): she is also the only marine geologist in Malaysia who specialises in mapping the seafloor.

It’s an impressive feat, for someone who’s only 30. But she couldn’t have done it without the help of CIMB Foundation’s CIMB Asean Scholarship, she said.

“CIMB Foundation changed my life!

“Not only are they one of the very few institutions to offer funding for ocean sciences, they actually funded me twice.”

Thanks to the foundation, she managed to complete both her Masters degree and PhD programme in Southampton, where she was attached to the National Oceanography Centre.

“All they asked of me was to justify the second round of funding by telling them how I’ll give back to Malaysia,” she said with a smile.

She told them her plan: to train the next generation of Malaysian marine geologists, and open the country’s first oceanographic centre.

“It’s my dream to run an oceanographic centre,” she said with a shy smile.

“But I wouldn’t be able to do it with just a Masters degree.”

Khaira (right) is the only Malaysian marine geographer specialising in mapping sea floors.


She’s kept her word to the foundation – she’s currently lecturing in Universiti Malaya Terengganu and conducting her marine research in Labuan, while she works towards her dream.

Khaira was speaking at CIMB Foundation’s tenth anniversary celebrations, held Nov 10-12. Over the past decade, the CSR arm of CIMB Group has poured RM120mil into changing over 700,000 lives, including Khaira’s, so it was only fitting that its celebrations included its beneficiaries as well.

“I can’t describe my feelings, meeting the people whose lives we’ve touched and knowing we’ve impacted their lives,” said CIMB Foundation chief executive officer, Datuk Hamidah Naziadin, as excited beneficiaries clustered in the background waiting for an opportunity to greet her.

“Seeing them all here – it really warms the heart.”

The foundation has reached into a whole host of communities, overcoming urban-rural divides, and helping those in need regardless of race or religion, through projects like income-generating workshops for single mothers, and aquacultural initiatives for rural farmers.

It has also worked to empower the disabled, by supporting differently-abled athletes. The national wheelchair basketball and blind football teams – both supported by CIMB Foundation – got the silver and bronze respectively during the Asean Para Games in September.

While it’s clear the foundation has an amazing track record, they have no plans to rest on their laurels.

“We want to do more, and we will do more,” said Hamidah.

More is an understatement – at the event, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak announced the four new thrusts CIMB Foundation would be making over the next few years at the celebrations, and they promise to hugely benefit communities not just in Malaysia, but across the region.

“In this age of rising uncertainty and disruptive change, we’ve decided to commit to spend 1% of our profits before tax on CSR,” he said to cheers from the crowd.

In context, CIMB Foundation has spent over RM23mil across the region this year.

In 2018, that figure shoots to an estimated RM65-75mil – effectively tripling their budget. And that’s just the first thrust.

Nazir also announced the foundation’s commitment to increasing staff involvement in their CSR activities through the newly- launched Flex4CSR programme, more junior sports development, and the regionalisation of the foundation’s flagship programmes Community Link and Be$mart.

“It’s a great idea for the foundation to increase its involvement in junior sports. Everything starts from there, that’s how our young players test themselves,” said Subramaniam Kaniappan, father of squash player Sivasangari Subramaniam.

Sivasangari, 18, won the biggest victory of her career thus far in October, when she captured the Malaysian Open women’s title in October.

She’s the only other Malaysian winner in the tournament’s history after local squash legend Nicol David. The young champ owes a great deal of her success to the foundation, which has been funding national squash organisation, Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM), since 2008.

With that funding, SRAM has been able to organise junior sports tournaments which serve as a competitive arena where young players can test their mettle.

“I’ve trained with Sivasangari and the other beneficiaries like (2016 world junior champion) Ng Eain Yow, and it’s great to see how they’ve progressed,” said CIMB Foundation ambassador Nicol David.

“It’s important to have corporate sponsors like CIMB Foundation that are so invested in developing the grassroots, working alongside the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Everybody has to come together.”

For the foundation, it isn’t just about sponsorship or funding, it’s about the lives they’ve touched.

“Even though Sivasangari doesn’t play in the local junior circuit anymore, the foundation still takes a personal interest in her career. They’ve done so much to help her develop into who she is today,” said her proud father.

“That’s why I’ll always regard her as a child of CIMB.”

CIMB Foundation also invests in junior sports, which has resulted in a strong youth squash division.


These stories really drove home how much the foundation has done – and not just in the sense of statistics and numbers, but also in the way they’ve truly changed lives.

“Seeing how many people we’ve empowered was a thrill,” Nazir said after the event. “It made me feel that we’ve really achieved something incredible over the past 10 years.

“Starting CIMB Foundation is definitely one of the best decisions CIMB has made.”

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