A social enterprise that operates as a grocery store in Subang Jaya aims to help the poor, one family at a time.
Caremart began as a community project by a local church Full Gospel Tabernacle (Subang) in 2008 to offer the poor subsidised groceries and other necessities.
"Our purpose is to help the poor, one family at a time, and to do so effectively, we need to have a sustainable process, says Tan Chin Chin who oversees the operations of Caremart.
“Those who qualify get a 30% discount on essential items which include rice, cooking oil, flour, noodles, selected canned foods, detergent, and other things that families frequently use,” says Tan.
Tan says that the store generates an income and 100% of the profits go towards helping the poor, adding that this method is more sustainable than organising fundraisers or asking for donations.
“To help the poor, we need the resources, namely, revenue. Having a grocery store means we’ll be able to sell stuff to the public to generate revenue, and this model is more sustainable in the long run. This means we can continue to help the poor, rather than trying to raise funds or ask for donations whenever we want to help,” she says.
“Relying on donations and fund raising can also be risky because as seen during the pandemic, people were earning less or not at all, and they couldn’t afford to give. As as a result, some charity organisations couldn’t sustain.
Tan says that during the pandemic, Caremart helped those who were impacted, whether because of the movement restrictions, loss of income or other reasons.
“When the pandemic hit, we were able to quickly mobilise resources because our team, suppliers and processes were already in place.
“As a grocery store, we’ve had the freedom to move around to help the needy. There are many poor families who couldn’t go out during the MCO, and we were able to move around to deliver groceries to them. It would have been more difficult for individuals and organisations because there are many restrictions and permits required,” she says.
During the floods in Sri Muda and Mentakab, Caremart also provided and delivered groceries to the families who were affected.
"Even though it's not exactly in 'our jobscope', because of our vision to help those in need, we mobilised our team of volunteers to help families whose homes had been destroyed in the flood. We worked together with several NGOs in Sri Muda," she says.
How it works?
Families in need are usually referred by individuals or organisations (NGOs).
"Sometimes, families hear about us or find us online and reach out to us too," says Tan.
Families need to go through an interview to verify that they genuinely are in need of help and also for the social enterprise to gauge how best to help them. Those who qualify are given a subsidy card making them eligible to a 30% discount off essential items.
"They need to attend an interview (usually at their home) so that we can understand their situation – whether they’re employed or unemployed, whether they have any illnesses and need medical care, whether they have any children who are able to help them – and to assess how best to help them," she says.
"From time to time, we’ll follow up with them to see how they’re progressing to ascertain whether to continue the help,” she adds.
Tan stresses that though Caremart was started by a church, they help anyone in need.
“We don’t discriminate. We’ve helped single parents, those who are ill and unable to go to work, those who’ve lost their jobs, even refugees and migrant workers, basically any poor who need help,” she says.
“Although our core focus is helping families, we have helped NGOs, homes for the abandoned, migrant workers and refugees (who had no income during the MCO). We’ve had NGOs reach out to us for assistance to provide supplies for families in need during the pandemic. This wasn’t subsidised groceries but outright giving. We do so for special circumstances,” she says.
Besides providing the subsidy on essential items, Caremart also provided monthly grocery packs to those in need during difficult times such as the pandemic and floods.
“We help the poor with food (groceries) so that they don’t have to worry about this basic need and can focus on getting a job. We don’t help indefinitely but encourage them to become self-sufficient. We’ve helped some to get jobs by teaching them how to search online or on social media, write resumes, or even help/teach them to design brochures for their small businesses,” says Tan.
“In the course of helping the families, we discovered some had school-going children without computers. So, we sourced for reconditioned computers and also helped some of them apply for phones for B40 families. Some were not aware of help out there, including the aid under BRIM,” she says.
They also have an online store (care2u.net) which started during the pandemic.
Members of the public can help by buying their goods from Caremart as 100% of the profits are channeled back towards helping those in need.
“In fact, some purchase grocery packs to be given out to poor families. During festive seasons, we offer hampers and other goodies through our online and physical store. We also have gift vouchers, which the public can buy to give to families in need," she says.
For more info, visit: fgt2u.org/caremart/ or facebook.com/caremart.kedairuncit/