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Sunday January 19, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday January 20, 2014 MYT 4:23:30 PM
by rebecca rajaendram
In good company: Navin with children in a Kenyan village.
The joy of helping out communities in the most remote corners of the world far exceed the thrills of a top-paying job for some.
A COMFORTABLE cosmopolitan lifestyle, a well-paying consulting job in a reputable multinational company, fancy meals, fun holidays and being constantly surrounded by loving friends and family — how many of us would willingly give it all up to get down and get our hands dirty, have the back of our necks burnt in insect-infested areas just to see a toothy smile on a stranger’s face?
Navin Muruga is one of a few individuals who willingly gave up the good life so that he could bring some joy and happiness to those who haven’t had it so easy.
People from war-torn nations to those in the most remote areas of the world are living in squalor, way below the poverty line and it is to these people that his heart is with.
“Quitting my cushy job and giving up my pay cheque to live in uncertainty is no sacrifice at all simply because I have stopped putting a value to my job and salary.
“Instead, I have started to value the alternatives which is all about pursuing my purpose and passion,” he said.
So, in the name of discovering his purpose, he joined a non-governmental organisation (NGO), quit his job, packed his bags and bought a one-way ticket to north east Sri Lanka, devastated by years of war. He visited villages and it was in these backwaters that he discovered that there was a lack of proper sanitation and the absence of clean or treated water.
“Children were falling sick all the time, the villagers wasted hours everyday simply collecting water and I witnessed first-hand how the lack of water and sanitation had a direct impact on education and economic development in the impoverished communities,” he shared.
He returned to Malaysia armed with a brilliant idea to bring clean water and proper sanitation to the world’s most disadvantaged communities and set up a social enterprise — Water and Toilets (WNT).
Friends and family were supportive of his venture.
“They had seen me doing crazy things before ... after all, I had quit an earlier job to set up a recycling business which required me to physically collect newspapers and other recyclable items to sell them. They teased me no end calling me a glorified rubbish collector,” he quipped.
However for his first WNT venture, he needed the capital. Without any money and fund-raising experience, he turned to his friends and social media to organise a fund-raising concert — Rock For Clean Water.
The effort paid off and the RM12,000 received far exceeded his expectations.
Navin is currently the founder and CEO of WNT where he controls the direction of the organisation, ensures things go according to plan and brings in volunteers.
The lack of experience did not stop him and, through trial and error, he developed the right business model for his business and the best ways to raise funds.
WNT has organised a group fund-raising campaign which encourages the public to run their own fund-raising programmes and channel the proceeds back to it (WNT).
The idea behind group fund-raising is for members to launch their programmes simultaneously in different locations.
The satisfaction of pursuing his purpose has made his backbreaking and labour-intensive venture, truly worthwhile.
“I believe that clean water and sanitation can change lives and I’m extremely passionate about this cause.
“It’s hard not to be (passionate) when you see the faces and reaction of the people that we’ve helped.”
Navin said one could always find his or her true calling the moment they stopped worrying about money and focused on finding an idea or mission they believed in.
He advised youth who were clueless about getting involved in charity to start by offering their services during weekends for a local NGO, or by volunteering at any country in the region during short trips.
“Just start! There should be no excuses as you’ll always have commitments,” he said.
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