PETALING JAYA: The citizen-initiated White Flag movement has seen kind-hearted Malaysians rise to the occasion to help those in financial despair, but it also given rise to the ugly side of others.
Countless efforts have been taken by ordinary Malaysians, alongside extensive aid from the government, but some are taking advantage.
A viral video of four people in a car caught bagging everything at a food bank, leaving nothing behind, sparked public uproar.
In another viral video, a food bank was emptied within minutes when a bunch of people rushed to snatch the food, some taking more than what they obviously needed.
There have been reports or social media posts warning of scammers.
However, most non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in this kind of activity said they encountered this before, but it had never fazed them and should not discourage others from continuing their good work.
Moses Sin, founder of Food Bank Malaysia, said only one out of 100 people engage in impropriety.
He said that having learned from experience, his charity organisation received data on the needy and by doing targeted assistance, it didn’t encounter these problems.
Food Bank Malaysia has a 15,000 sq ft warehouse where it stores its supplies. It works with different NGOs that need supplies, such as those distributing cooked food.
Sin noted there were businesses that initially freely placed items in their food banks, but now take record of recipients as a control measure.
“There is no solution to it. How can you judge a person? He has a need. We should not judge them.
“This will discourage more from doing such work, and the ones who are really in need will suffer,” he said, adding that those new to these activities should learn to be patient over this issue.
William Cheah, founder of Kembara Kitchen, does not expect the situation to improve anytime soon.
“There are more people hoarding right now and as a result, there is going to be less that can be given to others,” he said, adding that they needed to learn to identify those who were genuinely in need.
Among those in critical need currently are families with young children, where milk powder and diapers are crucial.
He added that as his soup kitchen had very limited supplies, it had to be very careful and stringent.
“The demand is the same, but the donations are less.
“Those continuing to give aid must space themselves – otherwise, it is going to be very difficult,” he said.
The Keatchen food delivery service, which set up a food bank at its factory in Petaling Jaya in May, has changed its standard operating procedure when it comes to giving out aid.
“Our SOP has had to evolve to prevent abuse,” said Keatchen founder Ivan Chan.
It started out by opening up its food bank every day, but now does it twice a week at a set time.
“There were a lot of food banks that mushroomed and couldn’t sustain themselves because the number of people asking for aid was tremendous,” said Chan, adding that Keatchen disbursed about RM50,000 worth of food aid weekly.
“When we started, we had no permit for a food bank. It was so stressful and I was on the verge of giving up.
“But the messages from recipients who sent me photos of their children smiling while holding bread has kept me going,” he added.