KUALA LUMPUR: Noor Fazliyana Mohamad Fadzil has been volunteering since September 2015 with Kedai Jalanan, the street store which provides free clothes and toiletries for the homeless and urban poor in the city.
The 23-year-old Universiti Malaya undergraduate took part in it because her friends were involved with the project.
However, she stayed on because she got to know the regulars and jatuh hati (fell in love) with them.
“We don’t just give. We receive. We learn about others and ourselves. I’ve gained in confidence and now find it easier to talk to people,” she says.
And she has also fallen in love with volunteering. She has since organised a project for the UM Student and Alumni Affairs’ High-Achiever Volunteer for Community (Havoc) programme.
She joined the Higher Education Ministry’s global volunteer project and was selected from a large pool of university students, applying from all over Malaysia, to go to Laos in September.
This is what founder Dr Rusaslina “Lin” Idrus was hoping would happen with Kedai Jalanan, which won the Star Golden Hearts Award and the Star-Gamuda Inspiration Award last year.
Kedai Jalanan’s original goals were to provide a service for the homeless and to create civic consciousness among the students.
It’s not a charity project, Lin stresses.
“We are creating a space where people feel a sense of community, feel safe and treated equally with dignity and respect. There’s some empowerment there,” she says.
One of the regular customers is Yuli Suparman, a 30-year-old Indonesian.
“It’s difficult to get work. But with the clothes I got here, I was able to get part-time work washing dishes,” he says.
With RM50,000 from the Star-Gamuda Inspiration Award and RM3,000 from the Star Golden Hearts Award, Kedai Jalanan has been able to expand its services.
About a quarter of the funds has been used so far, reports Lin.
They bought racks, containers and boxes for the storeroom at UM. They also bought two tables and stools for a mobile clinic, as well as toothpaste, soap, shampoo and deodorant.
The awards provided Kedai Jalanan with legitimacy, adds Lin, and more groups are collaborating with them.
Last year’s winners have kept in contact through a WhatsApp group and help each other.
Social enterprise Viva Starfish, for example, set up a booth offering job placement services during the second anniversary of Kedai Jalanan on May 21.
Kedai Jalanan is also collaborating with Dapur Jalanan, a volunteer soup kitchen, which started a literacy class for orang asli school SK Bukit Lanjan.
Kedai Jalanan contributed RM1,000 and helped with additional fundraising for meals and other needs for the class.
The largest part of the funds used so far – about half – has gone towards creating a database of services for the homeless in the Klang Valley.
It was used for the salary of a research assistant and for online mapping.
“We have collected the preliminary data on 46 groups providing different services,” says Lin.
“We want to share this information with other groups, to check if it’s correct and to have a conversation about gaps and overlaps.
“We will also share it with the relevant authorities if they find it useful.”
The awards have also inspired and funded another award.
The UM Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will be starting its own award for excellence in volunteerism.
It will be given to one student this year with a cash prize of RM300, to be announced at the end of this month.