Jumpstarting future of Orang Asli mums

Wee (right) and Lim (second from right) hope to strengthen their social enterprise under HLB Jumpstart, for mothers from Orang Asli communities to have sustainable income.

HONG Leong Bank (HLB) is collaborating with The Asli Co under the bank’s corporate social responsibility platform, HLB Jumpstart.

Through this platform, The Asli Co will be receiving assistance and mentorship to help transform businesses run by Orang Asli mothers to be more profitable and scalable so they are able to improve their livelihood in the long-term.

Founded by Jason Wee and Lim Xin Yu in April 2019, the social enterprise’s mission is to improve the lives of Orang Asli in Malaysia by empowering indigenous mothers to earn a sustainable living through making artisanal handicrafts and products from home.

By doing so, it helps keep their children in school to break the cycle of poverty in the community.

The Orang Asli mothers come from two villages — Kampung Orang Asli Serendah and Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Buloh.

The handmade items include cement potted plants in which the moulds are made from recycled bubble tea cups, handmade soap bars made to look like local kuih, and hand sanitiser, all made with natural ingredients.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia, followed by the movement control order (MCO) and conditional MCO, the social enterprise has ramped up production of the hand sanitiser to meet demand for the item.

They are also looking to produce fabric face masks as a sustainable alternative to disposable face masks in order to help Malaysians curb the spread of the virus in a sustainable manner, as well as provide a steady stream of income to Orang Asli mothers during these challenging times.

HLB group managing director and chief executive officer Domenic Fuda said, “We believe in working together with partners who want to create a vibrant and thriving community ecosystem. The Asli Co’s partnership with marginalised communities fits the bill as they are providing them with income opportunities as well as new skills that may help them with their livelihood.”

The Asli Co started producing hand sanitiser to meet growing demand amid the Covid-19 outbreak and MCO.The Asli Co started producing hand sanitiser to meet growing demand amid the Covid-19 outbreak and MCO.

HLB chief marketing and communication officer Zalman Zainal said the bank would be sharing their entrepreneurial expertise, provide best practices and relevant solutions to help them scale up and upskill more Orang Asli mothers for greater income opportunities.

“We will be helping them procure sewing machines so they can start production on the fabric face masks, build a more seamless payment gateway so their customers can make payment easily, receive mentorship from our SME banking team and expand their social procurement plans.

“Apart from these, we are also planning to organise financial literacy sessions for the mothers so they would have a better understanding of the right financial planning for their future.”

Orang Asli mothers are paid upfront for their creations and make between 14% and 20% from sales.

To ensure mothers earn a fair and viable income, Wee said they paid up to four times the minimum hourly wage.

Within the next two years, the social enterprise aims to have a range of at least 20 handmade products to gain a wider customer base and provide more income opportunities for Orang Asli mothers.

Items in the pipeline include reusable face masks, surface disinfectants, hair removal wax, home décor and jewellery.

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