From media personality to social service crusader, journalist gives voice to country’s most vulnerable
08/03/2023. By Carmelle Wilkinson.
Hazlina Abdul Halim.
Affectionately known as Chief fairy godmother, Make-A-Wish CEO and Curtin Master of Film and Television graduate Hazlina Abdul Halim is certainly no stranger to taking the plunge.
From scuba diving in some of the world’s most isolated and exotic destinations on her honeymoon, to leaving the world of journalism to change the lives of children with critical illness – Hazlina does it all with endless enthusiasm and passion.
“I find diving to be liberating and incredibly fulfilling. It really puts things in perspective and gives you a great appreciation for life,’’ she said.
“I’m a firm believer that everything that has happened in my life is for a reason and it has prepared me for my role at Make-A-Wish.
“To be able to give the gift of strength, joy and hope to children is a true honour and privilege.”
For most of these beautiful children, holidays to Disneyland and loads of toys are not the only items on the wish list. The why of the wish goes much deeper.
“I had one child request a trundle bed so he could share a room with his siblings, and another asked for an indoor playground in their home so they could enjoy playtime with their brothers and sisters because they were unable to play outdoors due to his illness. He felt guilty that his brothers and sisters were also missing out on going to the playground, so he wanted to bring it to them.”
The former Channel News Asia Editor and Presenter said putting a smile on children’s faces and watching them find the strength and motivation because their wish came true, has become her world.
Hazlina is bringing the gift of hope and joy to Make a Wish children.
“Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with critical illness – not terminal, so the concept of hope always applies. And that is the greatest gift we can give these children and their families,’’ she said.
“We want them to believe in a better tomorrow and know there is so much to look forward to.
“We also recognise that while this is a wish for the child, the effect of their wish can be very empowering and uplifting for their family too.”
Prior to moving into the not-for profit space, Hazlina was a familiar face on Singapore TV.
Starting her career with an internship at Ria 89.7FM in Singapore at just 19, she soon landed the role of a part-time announcer while still in school.
A year later she was presenting for Berita, Mediacorp Suria’s prime-time news bulletin.
An avid reader from a young age, Hazlina recalls her fascination with broadcasting began at just six years old.
“I remember taking family road trips to Malaysia when I was young, and I would read aloud the slogans on every billboard as we drove past,’’ she said.
“I’d also mimic what was said on the radio, and I remember my Mum saying maybe you can do this when you are older? And I thought to myself, is that possible?
While Hazlina may have discovered her passion for storytelling at a young age, she says there’s no reason why people can’t find their passion or talent later in life.
“I had a wonderful 18 years in the media and public affairs, but I found a calling to change gears and move into social service,’’ she said.
“My background in journalism and public affairs gave me so many great opportunities and provided a solid foundation for what I do now.
“It also taught me to be sincere and brave.”
Prior to moving into the not-for-profit sector, Hazlina had an illustrious media career.
Hazlina said it was while studying Film and Television at Curtin University in Perth that the seeds of activism were first planted.
“While studying at Curtin I continued to work at MediaCorp and would return to Singapore on my Semester breaks and summer holidays to present and report the news,’’ she said.
“Giving people a voice and sharing their story is my passion, so while I was studying in Perth I volunteered at a local radio station and it gave me a burning desire to tell the stories of the local communities in WA.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life and in many ways, I’ve had the lion’s share of it, so it would be remiss of me if I don’t help others by giving back.”
Following graduation, Hazlina returned to Singapore to lecture Communications and Media Management at Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Business – a role she found incredibly enriching.
However, her love for storytelling again drew Hazlina back to the newsroom – this time becoming Channel News Asia’s news editor at just 29 years of age.
Alongside her current role as CEO for Make-A-Wish Singapore, Hazlina is also the President of Singapore’s Muslim Women’s Association (PPIS) – a role she’s helmed for three years since 2020.
“It took the pandemic to highlight just how essential social service is,’’ she said.
“PPIS supports Muslim women across the various phases of their lives through holistic community programs and initiatives.
“We work to build resilient families who can become part of an inclusive community that supports women’s aspirations.”
Before transitioning into the charity sector, Hazlina was U.S. Embassy Singapore’s public affairs advisor from 2019-2022, where she devised public engagement strategies and programs for the Embassy and its leadership team.
Hazlina said a career highlight was coordinating the media plan for Vice President Kamala Harris’ inaugural visit to Singapore in 2021.
US Vice President Kamala Harris arriving on Air Force Two in Singapore in 2021.
“When the opportunity arose to move into public affairs I jumped at it,’’ she said.
“I got the opportunity to also lead the local staff association as well as the diversity, equity and inclusion working group which was really inspiring and eye-opening.”
Hazlina said as her career progressed, she found herself attracting leadership roles.
“My good fortune is that my husband and parents are always incredibly supportive,’’ she said.
“My parents both come from STEM backgrounds. Dad is now retired, but Mum still works in mechanical engineering.
“When you have someone like Mum as a role model I don’t think you ever equate gender with any sort of limitation.
“And when you have a Dad who supports that – then you think of males as allies.”
“I’m so grateful to have a family who supports me in my many hats. There is no way I would be where I am now without them, especially my better half.
“His love, support and belief in me is what motivates me to do my best.”
Hazlina and her husband taking the plunge in the Ningaloo Reef.
So, what is Hazlina’s advice for fellow and future female leaders?
“As a leader, know that you are never alone in your leadership journey,’’ she said.
“You have a team, so be there for each other.
“Surround yourself with an ecosystem that is supportive and motivates and encourages you to be your best self so together, you can reach for the stars.”