MIRI: Malaysia's third national airlines - Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) - has embarked on a charity programme to airlift volunteers, food aid and medical aid to poverty-stricken people living in the remote interior areas of Sarawak.
The airline is to start its Fly Care Programme in joint venture with the Chief Minister's Department, and with a local newspaper, Eastern Times, functioning as its secretariat.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam launched the programme here on Friday night, witnessed by FAX Chief Executive Officer Raja Mohd Azmi Razali and the newspaper's CEO and managing editor Siva Kumar, as well as local community leaders.
Azmi said FAX has been in operations for only two months and the airline had already handled 150,000 passengers so far.
"We are now embarking on a move to help the poor people living in the remote parts of Sarawak and Sabah.
"Both states have more than 7,000 villages, with sarawak alone having more than 5,000 of these rural settlements.
"Many of these areas are not accessible except by air. We want to help those who are in need in these far away settlements.
"We will provide the basic transportation to airlift food supplies, medical supplies and volunteers like doctors, nurses and teachers who are willing to serve the needy in these areas," he said in his speech.
Kumar said this charity programme would start on a pilot basis once or twice a month, and the committee handling this project is seeking funds and volunteers from the public.
A task force headed by assistant minister in the CM's Department, Datin Fatimah Abdullah, is managing this programme.
Fatimah stressed that the CM's Department task force, called the "sejahterah task force" has already started a pilot project in Pulau Bruit in the coastal zone of central Sarawak to help women from very poor families earn a decent income.
She said the task force has established cake-making programmes and cottage agriculture for women from some 20 poor families to help them supplement their family income.
"We welcome the help from FAX and Eastern Times and from other like-minded bodies. This year, we hope to be able to help more poor people from more remote villages," she said.
Dr Chan said Sarawak, with a land size of more than 124,000 sq kms, still has pockets of very poor people scattered in the interior.