SOCIAL media are many things to many people, but perhaps the most significant fact about this communication channel is in the right hands, they make a powerful tool for social change.
That is certainly true in the case of seven individuals who got together with a common goal — to spread kindness and foster unity among the public.
Ahamad Emran, Fadly Daud, Hafiz Kamal, Hayati Ismail, Sarah Lee, Syarifah Athirah Al Tirmidhi and Syed Azmi Alhabshi have managed to undertake 30 community events in the last one year by relying solely support gathered via social media. They have no ready funds to back them and they have no links to political, government or non-governmental bodies. Six of them have full-time jobs, mostly in the service sector, while one is a full-time homemaker.
Among their other successful community initiatives are “freemarket,” village games, feed the homeless and free canteen for the poor children.
Their most recent project was collecting more than 200 tonnes of donations for the flood victims in Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang, receiving overwhelming support from both public and private sectors.
The flood aid drive started with a slightly whimsical post on Facebook, “If I have a helicopter I will help.”
“To my surprise, I received a call from an American company expressing their intention to help. So we took the opportunity to raise donations in kind.
“My friend and I flew with the items to Terengganu.
“Soon after, we did the same for the victims in Kelantan and Pahang. This time local air carriers extended their help,” said Syed Azmi, who was in the spotlight for organising the Pet-A-Dog event last year. Previously, he managed to raise funds in 17 minutes to buy a hospital bed for a cancer patient stuck in the Manek Urai flood.
Social projects organised by Syed Azmi and his friends have never failed to attract public participation from all walks of life.
How it began
The seven “met” in early 2014 through the community Facebook page for Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), Kuala Lumpur.
“We became close friends and began organising community events. The first event we organised was the village game ‘Jom Turun Padang Sukaneka Rakyat’,” said Syed Azmi.
“The public experienced playing traditional games such as teng-teng and batu seremban in TTDI,
“Even the elderly participated and it was fun for both the old and young,” he said.
Syed Azmi and Ahamad Emran then came up with the “freemarket” programme.
“At the freemarket, the public give and take anything that is available, for free.
“Unwanted things in mint condition such as household items and even perishables goods that are fresh such as meat or vegetables are given away for free.
“The only requirement is the person interested must ask politely and say ‘thank you’ upon receiving an item,” said Ahamad.
“We were inspired by a similar concept carried out in Kuala Lumpur, but instead of being fixed at one location, we organise it at various neighbourhoods.
“In TTDI, there were people giving away their barbecue sets and original luxury handbags,” he added.
The rewards are heartwarming to say the least, such as Syed Azmi witnessing a young boy from a People’s Housing Scheme (PPR) who was delighted to receive two tomatoes.
“He turned around and looked at his mother and said ‘we can eat a nice dish cooked with these tomatoes tonight,” said Syed Azmi.
While the seven always work in a group, they each have their own special causes which are supported by others.
Syed Azmi’s most memorable activity was the one organised at Little Wanton restaurant in TTDI, which required the public to communicate with the hearing-impaired when they ordered their food.
“It was a six-hour event that received overwhelming support.
“Restaurant patrons had to learn simple signs on the spot and then placed their order,” he said, adding that some children volunteered as waiters and waitresses.
For Sara Lee, her favourite activity was called “Say Something Nice” while the mission close to Hayati Ismail’s heart was related to feeding the homeless and her school canteen programme for poor children from selected areas in Kelantan.
Bumps in the road
It is still an uphill battle, and it’s a continuous learning experience.
“A politician had wanted to come for one event and so we drew up a programme to incorporate the guest-of-honour’s attendance but then he was two hours late, so we kicked off the programme without him.
“There were women and children standing in the sun and we felt it was not right to keep them waiting. The activities are for the public and it is about them,” said Syed Azmi.
He said the group decided that if a politician was interested to attend, they must come as an individual without wearing party logo.
“There will not be any special fanfare worked into the programme,” he added.
While the people who respond to the friends’ appeals on Facebook are by-and-large sincere and genuinely kind, the group has had to deal with a few bad apples.
Hayati Ismail recounted one incident where they were expecting a lorry to transport diapers to the airport to be flown to the flood-stricken states.
“The lorry driver who turned up led us to believe that he was sent by the organisation helping us.
“We only discovered that was not true after we had loaded all the diapers on it.
“There was not enough time and manpower for us to remove the goods because there was still plenty of other things to do at that time.
“We gave the lorry driver a stern warning that God was watching and had no choice but to send him off with the items after extracting a promise from him, and just have faith that he would do the right thing,” said Hayati.
She added that the group also encountered dishonest people at the airport loading bay stealing schoolbags meant for flood victims.
These unpleasant experiences are not deterring the group, who will continue to believe in the goodwill and goodness of people.
Their next plans are to organise a storytelling event by the elderly and teach people how to ride a bicycle, skateboard, scooter and roller-skate called “Wheels for Noobies.”
Their upcoming freemarket will be held at PPRT Gombak Setia on March 15.
Members of the public who wish to give away items in good condition are most welcomed.
The seven also encourage like-minded individuals who have ideas to help the public, to go ahead without worrying too much about funds.
“If you have an idea, just try it. Do not worry about money.
“Once people see results, they will jump on board to help and things will will become easier,” said Azmi.