KUALA LUMPUR: Summer days are all about fun in the sun but Malaysian-born Ella Pung sat outside her garage all day in Austin, Texas, to raise funds to rebuild houses for poor Malaysians.
The 11-year-old girl with a big heart, who has lived in Texas for nine years, spent the time selling sodas to raise funds for Projek Wumah, a home-grown initiative that helps to rebuild dilapidated homes of the hardcore poor.
“I feel sorry for people who don’t have enough food or a house to live in like I do. I wanted to help. And I realised a drink sale was something I could do by myself,” said Pung in an e-mail interview.
Ella was inspired by her grand-uncle, radio personality and actor Patrick Teoh and Projek Wumah founder David Wu, who embarked on a cycling journey to China to raise funds for the project.
Teoh has completed his stint while Wu is enroute to Guangzhou.
“My mum donated the sodas for the sale. I offered to pay her back but she wanted to do her part, too,” said Ella.
From 6.30am, Ella set up her stall – a cooler full of drinks and a handmade sign detailing what she was doing – and sat waiting, in the heat.
“At first, there were no people. My generous older brother Ian gave me five dollars and I gave him a soda. He was my first customer.
“A couple of neighbours bought a Sprite and a Dr. Pepper. And a painter, who only spoke Spanish, was driving past – he donated a dollar without even taking a drink. We didn’t speak the same language but we both wanted to do our part.
“After that, I had no customers until my mum put my story on Facebook and my friends and neighbours came to the rescue. They bought drinks and even donated extra money. A few of my friends drove straight from the airport just for that.”
Ella raised US$51 (RM204) from her soda sale, which she promptly donated to Projek Wumah.
Previously, she has taken part in the Austin Crop Hunger Walk, which raises funds to feed the poor.
“I walked two miles and collected donations from sponsors. Now I’m going door to door around my neighbourhood, collecting for the food banks,” she said.
Ella’s story reached Malaysia when Teoh shared it on Facebook. This led to many Malaysians commenting that they were touched by the kind deed halfway across the world.
Ella’s mother Corinne Teoh, 49, said: “Sometimes, I feel like God put her in our lives because He needed her to teach us to be better human beings and to love the world.”
In the meantime, Ella wants to continue her fund-raising activities.
“My plan for tomorrow is to continue selling drinks to earn more money for the cause. This time, I’m selling drinks at my mum’s workplace,” she said.