Keeping hope alive in Kuching

Hope Place members delivering food aid to Kampung Bako by boat when the village was placed under the enhanced movement control order. Photos: ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

WITH Covid-19 continuing to impact lives and livelihoods, generous people in Kuching, Sarawak, are coming forward to help charitable organisations like Hope Place carry on serving needy families under its care.

One such person is businesswoman Kelly Lau, who has been supporting Hope Place since it started in 2013 by collecting funds from friends to buy food and other needed supplies to be donated to the non-governmental organisation (NGO).

This year, as Hope Place’s scope of work has grown to include assisting frontliners and families in quarantine, Lau has tried to channel the supplies more often.

“Normally I would buy supplies once in two months but now I do it every two weeks or once a month,” she said.

She usually puts up requests for funds on Facebook before purchasing items needed by Hope Place, such as mineral water and cup noodles for frontliners on duty.

She observed that people were still willing to help at this time, giving amounts that they could afford such as RM20 or RM30.

“I have a group of about 100 people who donate towards buying the supplies. We try to give to everyone in need.

“Every little bit helps and I’m happy to continue doing this because times are really tough for a lot of people now,” Lau added.

Single mother Helen Jee, another regular supporter of Hope Place, is continuing her “RM10 project” although donations have declined during the pandemic.

Wan: Hope Place depends a lot on public donation of food items and other supplies to help families in its care.Wan: Hope Place depends a lot on public donation of food items and other supplies to help families in its care.

“I gathered a group of friends to contribute RM10 every month to buy adult diapers for Hope Place, as they are usually short of this item.

“I’m trying my best to maintain the supply of diapers. Some people cannot continue contributing but I keep trying to raise funds,” she said.

Jee now supplies the diapers once every three months instead of monthly like in pre-pandemic times but she is determined to keep her efforts going.

“As a single mother, I have faced hard times and people helped me. So I want to give back by helping others,” she said.

For Hope Place founder Kelvin Wan, regular donors like Lau and Jee are testament to the caring spirit in the Kuching community, especially at this time when more people are in need of aid due to the Covid-19 pandemic and movement restrictions.

“We depend a lot on public donation of food items and other supplies that we give regularly to families in our care.

“Before the pandemic, on average three to five people would come to our office to donate supplies, but now this has dropped to one or two a week.

“But I’m thankful for our regular donors and everyone who supports us,” he said.

Hope Place is currently serving more than 200 needy families in and around Kuching, delivering food and necessities to them every month.

Since the pandemic started, the NGO has been providing one-off assistance to more families, including those in quarantine or unable to work during the various movement control orders.

“We are receiving a lot of calls for help.

“This year we have helped more than 500 families who have been affected by the pandemic.

The Hope Place team sorting out rations to be given to people in need.The Hope Place team sorting out rations to be given to people in need.

“We give them one-off food supply which can last more than a month, including 10kg of rice and boxes of biscuits and noodles. If they have children below six years old, we also provide milk powder,” said Wan.

Hope Place is also helping families under quarantine who have no means to buy food.

“We encountered a very poor family in Kampung Quop whose father and eldest son tested positive for Covid-19 and were sent to hospital, leaving the mother and two young children quarantined at home, so we sent food to them,” Wan said, noting that Hope Place had assisted over 100 quarantined families so far.

In addition, the NGO has distributed bottled water, cup noodles, hand sanitiser and face masks to police personnel manning roadblocks and Rela personnel on duty at quarantine centres.

Similarly it supports frontliners on duty in areas placed under the enhanced MCO, by providing bottled water, sanitiser and masks.

For Wan, the additional work Hope Place is doing during the pandemic is part and parcel of its mission to give hope and touch lives.

“I see a lot of need during this time. We have received calls for help with people crying on the line, especially from the elderly who live alone, telling us that they need food.

“People are suffering and don’t know how to continue to survive.

“But I also see a lot of caring people in Kuching. People are trying to help and share their resources.

“It may not be much but they are doing what they can.”

He said Hope Place would continue to provide help because the need was greater during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When people say thank you, it’s an encouragement to us as an NGO to keep bringing hope to them,” he added.

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