THE effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the movement control order has hit everyone hard, but it has been even harder for some.
For the past few months, RC Deaf Missions Malaysia (RCDM) co-founder Agnes Isobel Peter had to resort to fishing into her savings to keep the enterprise afloat.
The business is rapidly running out of funds, but not of hope, as RCDM believes that the public can help.
Run by and in support of the deaf community, RCDM has been around since 2006 and like many businesses affected by the pandemic, it may shutter without the public’s support in this difficult time.
It would be a shame as the enterprise is doing great work in helping the deaf community, including providing gainful employment, opportunities to learn new skills as well as advocating for their rights and raising awareness.
“We don’t ask for donations. If people wish to do charity, that is welcome but I’d rather they buy items from us.
“My employees want to work plus it instils a sense of pride and dignity in them, ” Agnes said.
Agnes, together with her brother Mario, founded RCDM to advocate more for the deaf after having served the community as volunteers in a church.
“I felt that the best way to do this was to become an employer myself, ” said Agnes, who also holds a full-time job.
A registered business, RCDM has several initiatives, from making and selling cakes and biscuits to running a small cafe at its headquarters located opposite the Kelana Jaya LRT station.
“We were able to get some good exposure for our products last Christmas and we managed to do better than the previous months, so Agnes decided to give the staff, including part-timers, some extra money out of her own pocket, ” said data processing and accounts manager Renik Jayanasen Fair.
“We tried to replicate the things we did to get the same kind of exposure we had during Christmas for Chinese New Year, but there have not been that many orders since the second MCO, ” he said.
Renik added that hardly anybody came by the premises where one could browse and purchase baked goods and handicrafts on display.
At present, with no dine-in allowed and the inability to hold any on-premises sign language classes or sell handicrafts at bazaars, RCDM is only able to achieve about 30% of its revenue compared to pre-pandemic days.
Relying only on takeaways, online sale of handicrafts and virtual classes, RCDM is unable to cover its monthly expenses for rental and wages for five of its skilled and deaf employees as well as other administration staff.
It also cannot cover the purchase of raw materials.
Agnes said RCDM required about RM20,000 each month to sustain itself and was more than happy to collaborate with other businesses in projects.
“We strive to produce things that people are willing to buy because they like them, and not because of the deaf.
“We have had lots of good feedback from those who have bought cakes from us, ” she said.
Unwilling to let go of her staff, Agnes has applied for government wage subsidies which will help save a few thousand ringgit while she has forked out the remainder from her savings.
Despite looking forward to the start of the year, RCDM’s strategy to expand its Chinese New Year promotion to include a variety of biscuits along with improving its food and beverage menu has been hindered by the MCO since Jan 13.
Nowadays, its passionate staff jump at any chance to prepare orders that include their bestsellers such as the RCDM Jackpot Rice, curry laksa, baked flourless almond coconut cake, vegetarian dishes or coffee.
As part of its mission to raise awareness, RCDM also runs a number of Malaysian Sign Language courses, ranging from introductory ones for children to diploma level.
The sale of food and beverage, baked goods, handicraft and classes all help ensure employment of deaf individuals.
It also goes towards supporting its Signing Angels Fraternity, which trains interpreters to help underprivileged deaf individuals around the country who have no access to the already sorely lacking number of interpreters in Malaysia.