Slow sales affect NGO’s efforts to raise funds and support indigenous people

Care United Society’s retail gallery in Taman Molek, Johor Baru sells handicrafts made by indigenous communities. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

CARE United Society Johor Baru is glad that its retail gallery is open once again under the conditional movement control order.

The space sells handicraft items made by the Iban and Penan from Sarawak as well as the Mah Meri of Pulau Carey, Selangor.

Founding president Datuk Florence Goh (pic) said the outlet located in Taman Molek had to be closed on Jan 13 when the movement control order was imposed and could only reopen during the second week of Chinese New Year.

Like other businesses in Johor Baru, the closure of international borders has greatly affected the shop’s sales, especially since most of their customers used to come from Singapore.

Although the society has started selling some of the items online, it currently only contributes 10% to 15% of total sales.

Care United Society was founded in August 2015, focusing on improving the educational outcomes of the underprivileged.

In 2018, it was supporting 10,000 schoolgoing children nationwide.

“The need to help the underprivileged has outstripped our current capability to raise funds, ’’ said Goh.

She said that over the past three years, the society was forced to cancel programmes due to insufficient funds, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic had worsened the situation.

The gallery was opened in 2018, and among the items sold are handwoven handbags by Iban and Penan women and mengkuang woven products by the Mah Meri.

Others include tiffin carriers, candles and handpainted shoes with prices ranging from RM5 to RM998 each.

“By selling these items, we want to preserve indigenous groups’ heritage and at the same time, provide them with a sustainable income, ’’ said Goh.

She said to move to the next level, traditional and heritage handicraft items need to attract interest not only among locals but also foreigners.

“We need to start appreciating the products as they are works of art.’’

She added that the handwoven handbags, in particular, went well with traditional, formal and casual apparel.

Proceeds from the sales are also channelled to the society.

“We need about RM1.6mil yearly to run our activities and programmes to benefit children from low-income families, ’’ said Goh.

The retail gallery is open from 10am to 5pm from Monday to Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and public holidays.

For information, call 07-357 6889 or visit — By ZAZALI MUSA

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