When angels come bearing gifts for refugee kids

PETALING JAYA: The smiles on the children’s faces said it all when bags of used toys were brought before them.

Carefully, but excitedly, they looked at the toys and were unsure if they could play with them until volunteers told them that they could do so.

The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” holds true for these stateless children, who live with their refugee families in Pudu.

Recently, volunteers from ShareAngel paid them a visit, to bridge the gap between “waste and want”.

The non-governmental organisation (NGO) works by turning pre-loved toys and other essential items into meaningful gifts and aid for underprivileged children and families.

The idea was mooted during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 when co-founder Angie Lee Hooi Chie saw many single mothers losing their jobs and ending up in dire need to provide for their children.

Lee saw children in need of toys.Lee saw children in need of toys.

“Moved by their plight, I took it upon myself to provide these mothers with essential food provisions to ease their immediate hardship,” said Lee. The 36-year-old said she soon realised that their children were also in need of books and toys for their emotional well-being and development, which prompted her and a friend to take further action.

“We began collecting pre-loved toys and other items to give to these families, hoping to bring them some joy and comfort.

“Seeing the happiness and gratitude on their faces was incredibly rewarding, and it inspired us to formalise our efforts into what is now known as ShareAngel,” she said.

Relying on the generosity of individuals and businesses, Lee said donations of pre-loved toys, books and essential items were collected through drop-off points and donation drives.

The items would then go through sorting and quality checks before they are matched with underprivileged children and families with the help of local communities, schools and other NGOs.

To keep the initiative going, ShareAngel also operates a social enterprise, selling carefully selected pre-loved items.

From baby’s cots, children’s books, toddler’s swimsuits and car seats to coolers, breast pumps and pregnancy pillows, Lee said all items were cleaned, sanitised, inspected and tuned to excellent condition.

It also encourages people to barter-trade – exchanging a pre-loved item for another.

However, Lee said the efforts were not easy as many still tend to perceive second-hand items as “dirty”.

“This perception is not unique to Malaysia and can be attributed to various factors.

“However, barter trading and ‘re-loving’ pre-loved items drive positive change in our society.

“When more people practise this, we collectively contribute to reducing waste, conserving resources, promoting responsible consumer behaviour, and fostering a culture of sustainability,” she added.

“Share more, waste no more. We hope to create a ripple effect of positive change, including policymakers, to adopt sustainable practices and support underprivileged communities.”

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