This article explores the life story of Amir, a young adult from a rural village in Malaysia, who built resilience and developed soft skills to thrive in his life despite his vulnerable beginnings. Amir’s strong resilience and other soft skills that assisted him to be outstanding in his academics and career may have resulted from his caring and supportive authoritative mother, countering his strict and harsh authoritarian father, with an ecological system of protective factors and developmental assets strengthened by religiosity and spirituality. However, both his parents’ extremely different confrontive and coercive methods appeared to have worked together towards the development of certain soft skills, such as his entrepreneurial mindset. This fresh outlook may provide guidance to assist vulnerable children and youth from rural areas to thrive, while raising new questions for future research.


Life Story, Narrative Inquiry, Vulnerable, Resilience, Soft Skills, Entrepreneurship, Religiosity and Spirituality, Malaysia

Author Bio(s)

Yatela Zainal-Abidin is the Chief Executive Officer of Yayasan Sime Darby or Sime Darby Foundation, one of the oldest charity foundations in Malaysia; which mainly focuses on providing education to the underprivileged, at-risk and vulnerable. In addition to being a professional accountant with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), she has just completed her postgraduate degree at Universiti Utara Malaysia to explore how charity or non-profitable organisations may assist the underprivileged to break out of the cycle of poverty through education more effectively and sustainably. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: yatela.zainal@simedarby.com.

Rosna Awang-Hashim (BA, MA, UNT Texas) (PhD, USC Los Angeles) is Professor of Educational Psychology at the School of Education & Modern Languages, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM Sintok) and the Editor-in-Chief of the Malaysian Journal of Learning and Instruction (MJLI). She was a former Dean of the School of Education & former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and International) of UUM Sintok. Currently, she is the Vice President of the Malaysian Psychometrics Association (MPA) & Deputy Chairman of the Malaysian Society for Research and Higher Education Policy Development (PeNDaPAT). Her research interests include motivation psychology, learning and teaching in higher education & academic leadership.

Hasniza Nordin is a senior lecturer at the School of Education and Modern Languages, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM). She is a PhD holder from University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Her research interests include ICT integration, TPACK, teacher as change agent, mobile professional learning community, blended learning and MOOC. Her current researches are on the best practices of blended learning implementation in higher institutions and the effectiveness of the mobile professional learning community. Currently, Hasniza is a Deputy Director at the University Teaching and Learning Centre, Universiti Utara Malaysia. Her main responsibilities include planning for trainings related to teaching and learning.


The research was supported with funding from Universiti Utara Malaysia (s/o 15995).

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