Helping NGOs help the needy

DIY protection: A file photo of Vasanthi cutting materials to make PPE suits with volunteers.

PETALING JAYA: The Covid-19 pandemic has affected millions of lives in Malaysia. During these challenging times, the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has become paramount in battling the virus and its impact on society’s most vulnerable populations.

Staying true to its long-term commitment in supporting NGOs, Star Media Group through its charity arm – Star Foundation – is donating RM547,500 in aid of 23 deserving charities nationwide.

“The pandemic and series of constraints over the past year had brought about an unprecedented impact, especially on marginalised communities, ” said Star Media Group Bhd and Star Foundation chairman Datuk Fu Ah Kiow.

“During such a crisis, we have witnessed NGOs stepping up to help provide for those who often fall through the cracks.

“For both Star Media Group and Star Foundation, we knew from the start that we needed to channel our resources and influence to lend support where it was needed the most, ” he said.

Aside from highlighting challenges faced by the people, he said Star Foundation had always been supporting deserving NGOs in their worthy causes.

“We knew it had been tough for charities to secure donations, and we came to know the extent of their struggles to keep operations afloat.

Useful tool: In this file photo taken before the Covid-19 pandemic, Silatulrahim demonstrates how to use a website that is accessible to visually impaired persons.Useful tool: In this file photo taken before the Covid-19 pandemic, Silatulrahim demonstrates how to use a website that is accessible to visually impaired persons.

“From making personal sacrifices to taking loans, these selfless charities are struggling to maintain their charitable efforts and they truly need help to continue their good work.

“As a company, we are not spared from the current economic fallout, yet there are others in society who are facing even greater challenges. Where we can, we have been responding to the needs of the country and the people through various initiatives, ” said Fu.

Since its inception, Star Foundation has disbursed over RM19.8mil to more than 300 NGOs in support of various social causes.

Last year, the foundation introduced the Star Frontliners Initiative, which distributed medical supplies worth more than RM2.6mil to battle the pandemic, and continued funding life-saving surgeries for ill children under its Medical Fund programme.

“On top of funding from Star Media Group, we are also thankful for donations from the general public and regular corporate donors, including a recent generous donation of RM500,000 from Datuk Robert Wong Lum Kong, who trust us in being their hands and legs in doing good.

“We remain committed and will continue to do whatever we can to help NGOs serve those in need, ” Fu added.

Reinforcing support for social welfare

A lot of the funding and support might have stopped, but the needs and the work do not.

While resources dwindled, existing problems worsened, especially for marginalised groups.

The devastating effects of the pandemic have forced several charities to resort to any means to stay afloat.

Pusat Jagaan Warga Istimewa Kempas coordinator and secretary Saraswathy Letchumanan has pawned her jewellery to support the shelter she manages.

“We are in a really dire situation, as most donors have stopped contributing because they are also facing financial difficulties.

“Before that, I used my savings as well as my EPF Account 2 savings to support our monthly expenses, ” she said, adding that her father Letchumanan Udayappan, who is also the founder, used his life savings for the shelter located in Johor Baru and is considering selling

his only property if the situation worsens.

Saraswathy said the shelter needs over RM20,000 a month to support its 43 beneficiaries who are mostly differently abled persons and autistic children.

The monthly expenses cover food, home maintenance, medication, adult diapers and staff salaries.

“Throughout the 27 years of our operations, we never really suffered as badly as this period and Star Foundation’s assistance came very timely, ” said Saraswathy, whose charity received RM25,000 from Star Foundation.

Safeguarding vulnerable groups

As the pandemic forces people to stay at home, domestic violence cases have reportedly increased drastically as well.

Seremban Shelter for Abused Women and Children chairperson Vasanthi Naidu said more women had been referred to the shelter since the first movement control order started last year.

“Many factors contribute to the rise in domestic violence. One main reason is financial problems, ” she said.

“As a result, the vulnerable such as women and children tend to become victims of domestic violence caused by their partners or parents.”

Due to the increase in domestic violence cases, she said they had to take in more people but the shelter struggled to cope with the operational cost.

“We do not have regular donors and some even stopped funding our shelter as they are equally struggling.

“When I received the news that our application for funding has been approved by Star Foundation, I was so happy!

“With this funding of RM20,000, it will ease our burden, including purchasing groceries and maintaining the house, ” Vasanthi said, adding that the shelter also provides skills training such as sewing and baking for the residents.

Advocating education for all children

Believing in equal access to quality education, Star Foundation donated RM30,000 to Malaysian Foundation for the Blind (MFB)

in support of its Braille book project.

MFB chief executive officer Silatulrahim Dahman said that more than 1,000 blind school students will benefit from the project.

“As school lessons have moved online since the pandemic started, blind students are mostly left out.

“Unlike visually abled students who have access to numerous online study resources, blind students struggle as they mostly rely on Braille learning materials that are only available in schools, ” he said.

The project aims to produce Braille learning materials for both primary and secondary schools with subjects varying from Malay proverbs to children’s story books, history and economic books.

“We produce the books at our facility and distribute them to schools nationwide to be given to needy students, through the Special Education Department, ” said Silatulrahim.

“On behalf of MFB and the entire blind community in Malaysia, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to Star Foundation for its contribution.

“I believe that equal access to education is the key to success and the foundation has helped us achieve that, ” he added.

Children living in welfare homes are also left behind when online classes became a norm during the pandemic.

Anning Home in Ipoh, which houses over 30 children, faces similar technological obstacles.

The home’s director, Loke Wai Loon, said the children had difficulty joining online classes due to limited available devices and Internet access at the home.

“We need to upgrade our computers, laptops and cellphones to ensure our children have seamless access to online learning, ” he said.

“Star Foundation’s RM25,000 donation will be very helpful for us to buy more devices for the children to keep them continuously engaged in learning, ” he said.

Established in 2004, Star Foundation is the charitable arm of Star Media Group which aims to deliver meaningful initiatives with lasting outcomes to diverse groups of beneficiaries.

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