WHOEVER said poverty is a vicious cycle should take another look at the residents of Blocks 19 and 20 in Pangsapuri Melati, Taman Bukit Subang, Shah Alam.
In most low-cost flats, living conditions are bad due to safety issues, garbage woes and poor maintenance, making life miserable for its inhabitants.
However, at Pangsapuri Melati in Section U16, residents have turned their once-dilapidated flats into an envy-worthy area through their own ingenuity and effort.
Their determination to lead better lives has propelled them to change key areas at these two blocks into a safe haven for their families as well as vegetable gardens that provide side income for them.
From a place where residents barely greeted their neighbours, Pangsapuri Melati is now a community that enjoys special sports broadcasts together, such as the recent World Cup.
Melati Block 19 and 20 residents association chairman Mohd Tarmizi Anuar is the man behind this ground-breaking change, although he credits their success to the willingness of residents to work together.
The refurbishment project began from a special Tabung Subuh fund which was set up to collect maintenance fees from the residents four years ago.
The idea was for residents to donate a small sum to the fund every morning after their prayers.
“It is always difficult to give away a lump sum at the beginning or end of the month for those who earn minimum wage.
“However, through this concept, the people put in small amounts like RM1 every day so they didn’t feel the pinch,” he said.
At the end of the month, Tarmizi had collected RM1,000 and together with the residents, refurbished the space on the ground floor where motorcycles were parked, calling it Anjung Seri and placing a flat screen television with satellite connection.
“We got some rejected tiles at a cheaper price for the entire place.
“We also used old lorry tyres and wooden palettes to add aesthetic value to the space,” said Tarmizi, adding that their motto was quite straightforward – Just do it!
During the day, the space doubles as a tuition centre for the children, and religious classes for children and women are also conducted there.
In the evening, families congregate there to exchange news or relax while their children play nearby.
“It has brought the residents together; we all look out for each other’s children. All the children here are our children and their safety is our priority,” Tarmizi said.
As additional security measure, surveillance cameras have been installed around the parking areas and the ground floor.
Tarmizi said he bought the cameras from China during a work trip in order to save money.
By installing the cameras themselves, the residents were able to save on labour cost.
“We have not had a single motorcycle theft since we installed the cameras.
“No one has touched the cameras or even stolen the television set because outsiders know we are united,” he said.
Their success story has caught the attention of “Komuniti Prihatin-Kerajaan Prihatin”, an initiative which partners Selangor state executive councillors, local councils, civil society and businesses to grow caring communities through empowerment.
The initiative adopts a “top-down, bottom-up” approach that unites and empowers every stakeholder in the service delivery value chain, from state executive councillors, state assemblymen and MPs to local councils and communities.
Blocks 19 and 20 in Pangsapuri Melati have been selected as one of the exemplary groups under the Section U16 community which is supported by Komuniti Prihatin.
As part of their pioneer project under Komunity Prihatin, residents have turned three abandoned areas in their neighbourhood into vegetable plots.
Although the gardens have been cultivated over the last five years, they were individually run without much cooperation from the residents.
That changed six months ago when the residents association collaborated with Komuniti Prihatin to come up with a systematic way to manage the gardens.
The residents association even managed to get Sime Darby Property to sponsor RM15,000 for the gardens. Today, everyone shares the bounty from the flourishing garden which helps reduce their cost of living.
“For now, we are sharing it among ourselves, but we intend to make a profit from it as soon as we have enough crops to do so,” Tarmizi said.
Many people had told him that it was impossible to bring about change in a resistance-filled community, but he believed that all it needed was a bit of effort and encouragement.
He said finding ways to help raise funds and making a difference in a sustainable way that would not stretch the people’s purse strings appealed to the lower-income group.
“Of course, no one saw what I had envisioned until they saw the results.
“No one cooperated with me until I showed them the money collected and the changes made.
“Sometimes, we just need patience and perseverance to prove a point. We do not choose the circumstances which we are born in, but we have the power to change those circumstances,” he concluded.