Finding ways to support each other

Fishmonger Ganesh Kumar Vasudevan (left) delivering a seafood order, made through a WhatsApp chat group, to Pirapakaraan Balakrishnan. Both are residents of Taman Puchong Utama 1 in Selangor.

RESIDENTS of Taman Puchong Utama 1 (PU1), Selangor, can be found “shopping” almost daily — not at physical stores or even online shops, but through a chat group.

The chat group coordinator Fiona Chanthren said another resident, May Lee, came up with the idea of creating a platform to enable the community to buy and sell items easily.

“After getting the green light from our residents association (TPU1RA), a dedicated WhatsApp chat group was set up in May to connect buyers and sellers.

“The buyers comprise residents only, while sellers are from within and outside PU1,” said Fiona.

Her husband, Balachanthren Sinna Nair who is Taman Puchong Utama 1 RA treasurer, said the shopping group was kept separate from the main RA WhatsApp chat.

“It is a win-win situation for everyone. The buyers can reduce their trips to the market and save on costs (since delivery is free),” said Balachanthren, better known as Chanthren.

“For the sellers, they have another avenue to market their products, while buyers can lower costs with group buys,” said the training manager.

Among the items available for sale are fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables, cooked meals, baked goods, coffee pods, keto and diabetic-friendly meals as well as pet food.

“The chat group is very active and there are daily updates, including feedback on purchases,” said Fiona, highlighting that sellers were thankful for the platform.

Zainuddin (left) giving a food basket to a recipient who is also a Taman Puncak Jalil resident.Zainuddin (left) giving a food basket to a recipient who is also a Taman Puncak Jalil resident.

“For example, a fishmonger, who also runs a stall at a local market, will update on when the next catch is expected to arrive, the type of seafood available and prices.”

The full-time homemaker said the platform allowed her to take a break from the kitchen and she would usually order three to four meals a week for her family of three.

“We have ordered cooked meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, besides cakes, cookies, frozen pau and tau fu fah (beancurd dessert),” said Fiona.

“The sellers offer a wide range of cuisines, and they are all home-cooked and freshly prepared.”

She said the initiative also helped to foster neighbourly ties.

“By connecting buyers and sellers within our community, people are getting to know their neighbours.

“We expect this platform to be permanent, even after movement restrictions are lifted,” she added.

Fiona shared that other community initiatives by TPU1RA included a programme to neuter and vaccinate stray dogs and a White Flag campaign to assist the local community.

“The stray dogs programme started in March 2021, through funds donated by residents.

“As for the White Flag campaign, we are hoping to assist those residing within a 10km radius from PU1, which is under Subang Jaya City Council (MBSJ).

“Residents contribute either in cash to the RA’s bank account or send essential items to a specific RA committee member’s house.

“TPU1RA will coordinate the contributions, with recipients to be identified by residents, local groups and the city councillor,” she said.

Supporting local businesses

Bandar Sri Damansara Residents Association (BSDRA) embarked on its digitalisation initiative by launching a loyalty platform for members in May.

The website with app-like interface serves as a communication tool for BSDRA to post announcements and reward members with perks while offering businesses an avenue to advertise their goods and services.

“Last year’s MCO prompted us to use a different way to engage and support the community,” said BSDRA president Zohrab Chong.

“In the early days, we used banners, flyers and word of mouth to send reminders and information.

“We also used a Facebook page to post about BSD matters, but that was mostly one-way communication and nothing commercial was allowed.”

WhatsApp is another tool used by BSDRA to reach out to the 15 sectors and some 15 high-rise buildings located within this Petaling Jaya neighbourhood.

“Over the past year, the Facebook page and WhatsApp chat groups are being used mostly for Covid-19 updates and SOP reminders,” said Chong.

He said that as a self-sufficient township with 15,000 houses and some 60,000 people, they wanted to encourage residents to stay home and shop locally where possible.

BSDRA committee members distributing essential food items sponsored by businesses and donors under its food aid initiative.BSDRA committee members distributing essential food items sponsored by businesses and donors under its food aid initiative.

At the same time, he said BSDRA wanted to update, grow and digitalise its membership base while helping businesses survive the pandemic.

“So, we looked at having a loyalty programme and worked with a solutions provider to develop a website with an app-like interface,” said Chong.The website is in line with the association’s objective to grow its membership base by encouraging sign-ups with differentiated perks for members.

“We are now working on a fee structure and mechanism to get businesses to advertise and let them determine the perks to be offered to members.

“The cost to set up and maintain the website is borne by BSDRA for now, but we hope to sustain it through new membership and advertising fees,” Chong elaborated.He said the first phase would focus on supporting BSD’s community, such as local businesses and micro-entrepreneurs.

The platform will eventually include a full e-commerce store with e-payment gateway and other features.

“We see a lot of potential in this digitalisation programme and we believe it will have a positive impact in our neighbourhood.”

Meanwhile, the association has embarked on a food aid initiative to assist families in need in BSD.

“We have approached three developers, businesses and other sponsors to contribute,” Chong revealed, and said the initiative was supported by the local assemblyman and councillor.

“For phase one, two developers sponsored supermarket vouchers and essential food items that were distributed to needy families at low-cost flats.

“For phase two, we are getting sponsors to donate, whether in cash or kind.

“The recipients can be anyone living in BSD, provided that they meet certain criteria such as family income, number of dependants and employment status,” he added.

BSDRA serves as the secretariat and its office is the distribution centre for the food aid initiative.

Using personal resources

Taman Puncak Jalil Residents Association (PUJRA) president Zainuddin Zainal initiated a food basket programme to assist the needy within the PUJ community in Seri Kembangan.

It is a corporate social responsibility project of his company, Quin Consult.

Zainuddin publicised the offer of help on two Facebook pages — Taman Puncak Jalil RA and Puncak Jalil Digital Community — where he made it clear that it was only for PUJ residents.

He screened the recipients and only gave food baskets to those who met certain criteria, including employment status and family background.

Fast delivery: Winnie Yap Pui Lian (left) delivering an order to May Lee in Taman Puchong Utama 1. The order was placed via a chat group set up to aid entrepreneurs in the neighbourhood and help residents stay home as much as possible. — SS KANESAN/The StarFast delivery: Winnie Yap Pui Lian (left) delivering an order to May Lee in Taman Puchong Utama 1. The order was placed via a chat group set up to aid entrepreneurs in the neighbourhood and help residents stay home as much as possible. — SS KANESAN/The Star

“The food baskets were distributed to 100 multiracial recipients. They were presented by me and a few RA committee members.

“I also got the joint management body of two apartments to help,” he said.

He made arrangements with a hypermarket manager, who is also a PUJ resident, to purchase the food items and have them delivered to his house.

Each food basket, valued at RM50, contained essential items such as rice, tinned sardines, tea, sugar and mee hoon.

“I received appeals for help from residents outside PUJ as well as offers from people who wanted to donate.

“I referred them to other organisations running similar food aid projects.

“I initiated this project as I really wanted to help my community during this difficult time,” said Zainuddin.

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