MANY Malaysians are feeling the pinch of increasing prices and the weakening ringgit but the hardest hit are welfare homes.
As people find it challenging to make ends meet during trying times, it has led to a drop in their contributions.
Several welfare homes visited by StarMetro say they are living on a prayer and relying on the generosity of a few to survive.
Caring for the helpless
Pastor Stephan Samuel and his wife Graceline Stephan, both 48, are looking after, not one, but four homes in Port Klang.
The Destiny Starting Point Welfare Association Klang runs three homes for delinquent children and one for the homeless, elderly, blind, people with physical or mental disabilities as well as those with tuberculosis and HIV.
With 48 residents in the fourth home, including four workers, running costs can get very high as many of them are bedridden and require medical treatment.
To top it off, instead of receiving assistance from government hospitals, Samuel said welfare homes usually have to take in terminally ill patients as they have no family to care for them.
They require a minimum RM25,000 a month to run all four homes and rely on the generosity of individuals who pledge money to pay for their rental or donate provisions.
“We do not run a home to make profits. We want lives to be changed.
“Once upon a time, I was on the roadside and somebody helped me,” he said when explaining his motivation for keeping the homes running.
Graceline said there had been a significant drop in donations of cash and kind as early as 2015.
“Many people say their own bills and expenses are getting higher. So they will think twice before giving to others,” she said.
She recalled that in previous years, the children’s homes would receive over RM6,000 from donors during Chinese New Year. This year, the amount dropped to RM2,000.
While they no longer receive big amounts from random donors, the congregation in several churches have acted as a lifeline in times of need.
Gaining corporate support
Rumah Kasih, a girls’ home in Petaling Jaya, says their operations are still sustainable, thanks to the numerous fundraising activities by its executive committee.
The home has been operating since 2006 and provides 19 girls with care and education to enable them to support themselves into adulthood.
However, Persatuan Kebajikan Kasih executive secretary Herbert Gomez said the organisation’s coffers was fast depleting.
Rumah Kasih was only one of its projects and it cost RM15,000 a month to keep it afloat.
“At the moment, we can still sustain ourselves because there is a slight surplus but we are definitely going to feel the pinch in the second half of the year,” he said.
Gomez has noticed that some regular donors started giving less since the middle of last year, and other welfare homes they are in contact with have experienced it too.
“We know that during this present economic climate, people are very careful about their charitable contributions as they don’t have enough for themselves,” he said.
Nevertheless, thanks to the organisation’s good relationship with corporations, Rumah Kasih is often picked as a beneficiary for their corporate social responsibility programmes.
The association also holds annual fundraisers and its biggest event is coming up in July, but Gomez foresees difficulties in selling tickets for the charity dinner.
An uncertain future
Zahari Alwi, 55, who runs Pertubuhan Kebajikan Baitul Kasih (PK Baitul Kasih) in Ampang, had to use his own money to keep the home running this year.
He currently has 12 underprivileged children being cared for by two caretakers at the home.
Things were fine earlier as Zahari was earning a good income trading in foreign currency but things went downhill after the Brexit referendum and he ran out of funds by October last year.
Zahari said his biggest concern was coming up with the RM36,000 needed for a year’s rent in a lump sum at the start of the year.
“Malaysians are generous and we received enough food for the children to live quite comfortably.
“However, we have been receiving less food since last Ramadan, so I had to use my own funds,” said Zahari.
He often goes the extra mile to ensure the PK Baitul Kasih children, who are from impoverished families, have sufficient food.
Zahari said most monetary donations came during the Hari Raya season and it was usually enough to last them until the next Ramadan.
“But this past year, the funds have not been enough,” he said, adding that even the duit raya the children received dropped from about RM2,400 to RM1,400 last year.
Now Zahari has to balance PK Baitul Kasih’s expenses with his own financial commitmentsand hopes there is enough donations during the upcoming Hari Raya to help the home through another year.