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Meet the Malaysians who dedicate their time and energy to do good and make a difference in their communities.
The most meaningful change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s often the little acts and deeds that add up to move society in the right direction. From feeding the homeless to teaching underprivileged children a new skill to just offering love and support, there are many Malaysians who help their communities not for money or praise, but to make a difference. We speak with four such initiatives.
Project Senandung Lenggang Kangkung
A ten-hour pledge to teach kids from low-income housing areas (known as Projek Perumahan Rakyat, or PPR) how to play guitar.
That’s what musician Francis Wolf had in mind when he was part of KakiSENI Fest’s Make A Difference Project in 2013. But Wolf continued teaching even after the pledge was done and dusted.
Francis Wolf with his students.
“As weeks passed with laughter and smiles I realised that these classes we were doing all involved a whole lot of good,” he says. “So I kept on coming, and the kids did too.”
The project was renamed The Little Voices in 2014 before it evolved into Project Senandung Lenggang Kangkung, reflecting the Malay and English folk songs that Wolf was teaching. But the project hit a snag when his students were not improving. Realising that his students had less time to practise than he first anticipated, Wolf changed his approach to focus more on fun and laughter.
“Student turnover is rather high,” he says. “As the kids get older, ‘other’ pursuits become more important for them, so they leave the class. Luckily, almost monthly I see a new face who wants to come learn.”
At the moment, classes are held on Sundays, with the addition of ukelele lessons for younger kids who are too small to handle guitars. Wolf is also building a sustainability component into this project by training the more skilled students to become guitar instructors themselves.
“I'd like to meet more communities who are open to having these free classes and duplicate [from] there,” Wolf says.
Learn more about Project Senandung Lenggang Kangkung at www.facebook.com/ProjectSLK.
Pet Adoption Network Malaysia
Cats and dogs are some of the world’s favourite pets, but not all end up becoming furry companions. While there’s a regular stream of abandoned animals for adoption online, it’s still very common to see strays on the streets. Many end up dying slow, agonising deaths due to starvation, infected wounds or getting knocked down by motorists.
This is where Pet Adoption Network Malaysia comes in. Established in 2006, the volunteer-run organisation helps to re-home rescued cats and dogs – as well as neuter or spay stray cats – in the Klang Valley.
“First thing we do is assess where the cats are and see if they are friendly,” explains Sherrina Krishnan-Leyow of Pet Adoption Network Malaysia. “Then we try and put them in the carrier and take them to the vet.” Thereon the cats are returned to their colonies after they’ve recovered from being spayed or neutered.
Sherrina (right) with Pet Adoption Network Malaysia volunteers on a rescue mission in the city.
The team recently collaborated with Think City for KucingTamu, an exhibition of cat photos at Masjid Jamek LRT station. To raise funds, they opened submissions to the public and charged between RM30 to RM50 per photo submission. These photos are now on display all along the wall at Masjid Jamek LRT’s underground tunnel.
“Putting cats on the wall just inspires happiness,” says Sherrina, “and I think it was a good strategy to engage with people that use public transportation.”
Pet Adoption Network Malaysia also hopes to start a movement to spay or neuter strays. “If each of us takes this responsibility, we have more people helping us solve the cat population problem,” says Sherrina.
Learn more about Pet Adoption Network Malaysia at www.facebook.com/petadoptionmsia.
Sometimes, you need to give up something to find the reason you loved doing it in the first place. That’s what Lex Low, hairstylist and social entrepreneur, discovered after being a hairdresser for over ten years. He went back to the basics of hairdressing by giving free haircuts at orphanages, old folks’ homes, and even for the homeless.
Lex Low has been a hairstylist for over a decade.
“Volunteering and offering haircuts to the needy gave me a new perspective about my career,” Low shares. “What we are building now as a business has a bigger purpose and mission as compared to when I first joined this industry.”
After his love for cutting hair was reignited, Low began working with Dignity for Children Foundation in 2015 to train refugee children the basics of hairdressing. Not long after that came cut X dignity, the first ever social enterprise hair salon in Malaysia.
“Many thought it was a crazy idea,” recalls Low. “We believe in training the underprivileged and also to provide professional hairdressing services to the public. All the proceeds go towards funding for more children’s education.”
“The idea of having a haircut while knowing that your money is going [to] a good cause convinced many people that this business has its potential,” he adds.
Alongside cut X dignity is Othrs Barber School, which teaches barbering on top of getting its students to give free haircuts to underprivileged communities.
While Low doesn’t want to spread himself thin with more new projects, he is looking to build a more sustainable business model for the social enterprises he runs. “Our focus will be to train more youth and hopefully create more jobs in the future,” he says.
Teddy Mobile Clinic
Every Wednesday night, a group of volunteers visit downtown Kuala Lumpur to set up tables and chairs along Jalan Hang Lekiu. They are volunteer medics from Teddy Mobile Clinic, who are a welcome sight for the homeless and urban poor who can’t afford medical care.
“The homeless don’t have anyone to rely on for love and support,” says Dr. Madhusudhan Shanmugan, who started Teddy Mobile Clinic in 2015. “I assumed that most of them were drug addicts or criminals. I started listening to their stories and realised that my negative perceptions were not true. Everyone had their own reasons which caused them to be homeless.”
The mobile clinic typically sees some 40 patients each session, which involves checking blood pressure and sugar levels and dispensing basic medication.
Besides servicing the homeless in Kuala Lumpur, Teddy Mobile Clinic also visits orphanages and old folks’ homes around Klang Valley. They have also conducted medical camps for refugees and Orang Asli in other parts of the country.
Dr. Madhusudhan feels the homeless and underprivileged need to be given a second chance in life. “I realised I had to do something for them,” he says. “They usually suffer from low self-esteem and they do not like to be seen in public, hence I thought providing them with basic medical care on the streets may boost their self-esteem and give them back their dignity.”
While Dr. Madhusudhan bears the cost of the medical supplies himself, donors and volunteers have also stepped up to help. “My Teddy Mobile Clinic family means everything to me. Without them, I may not be able to continue doing what I do,” says Dr. Madhusudhan.
To volunteer with Teddy Mobile Clinic, contact them at www.facebook.com/teddyclinic.
By Myra Mahyuddin
Photos by Teoh Eng Hooi. Teddy Mobile Clinic photos courtesy of Teddy Mobile Clinic.
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