LET me congratulate the 10 winners of the Star Golden Hearts Award 2017 (pic) for their selfless dedication in charitable and social work to help and empower the poor, people with disabilities, the marginalised and disadvantaged group, “Rewarding Malaysians who have Golden Hearts” (The Star, Nov 10).
I also applaud the remarkable initiative undertaken by Star Media Group to honour these unsung heroes who are actually ordinary people doing extraordinary charitable and social work that have created impactful social change to uplift the lives of the less fortunate.
The selfless dedication of these unsung heroes fits the words of Woodrow Wilson: “There is no cause half so sacred as the cause of a people, there is no idea so uplifting as the idea of service to humanity.”
The act of noblesse oblige, once the preserve of the rich and powerful elite, has disseminated to the people at community level. Today, the people are now taking the lead to translate the idea of service to humanity into a plan of action for charitable and social work.
There is no call of duty so noble and honourable than to dedicate one’s leadership and talents to solve a myriad of social issues such as poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and access to basic needs that are affecting the less fortunate.
Those who have dedicated their lives to doing charitable and social work are ordinary people who are not endowed with wealth nor high public or corporate positions. Instead, what they have is an abundance of ideas, creativity and passion to make profound social change to end the hardship and sufferings of the less fortunate.
They are driven by compassion and kindness to go out of their comfort zone and walk the extra mile to ensure a better future for the downtrodden.
Through charitable and social work at grassroots level, they are able to create a meaningful change by inculcating the spirit of self-reliance and self-esteem among the poor that will overcome their sense of despair and hopelessness. Self-reliance and self-esteem are the means to take them out of the vicious cycle of poverty and hardship.
I have the opportunity to engage and work with a few NGOs and social enterprises such as Kechara Soup Kitchen and Pertiwi (who deal with the homeless), Batik Boutique (poor single mothers), OrphanCARE (baby hatch) and Tzu Chi Foundation (disaster relief). These unsung heroes support and complement the delivery system of welfare aid and service provided by government agencies. Without them, the government agencies with limited budget and manpower as well as capacity constraints would be unable to cope with the demand for the public social work and service.
In Malaysia, it is estimated that there are more than 2.6 million senior citizens, 550,500 people with disabilities registered with the Social Welfare Department (JKM), and 222,490 poor and hardcore people. The charitable and social work undertaken by NGOs and social enterprises ensure that more elderly people have access to nursing care or caregiver service, more poor single mothers are trained to be gainfully employed, and people with disabilities are imparted with independent living skills to survive or skills to be productive and financially independent, etc.
The altruistic efforts of NGOs and social enterprises are a boon that augur well for the delivery system of social and welfare service.
But running a shelter home for the elderly, managing a centre to teach independent living skills to people with disabilities, or starting a social enterprise for poor women requires funding. NGOs and social enterprises depend on donations and funding from commercial organisations, foundations and the public.
Unfortunately, some of the charitable and social work are hampered by shortage of funds. Hence, the Government could establish a framework to bring together a tripartite mode of financing that will involve funding from the Government, philanthropists and private investors or companies to support charitable and social work.
The role of Government is vital as it needs to formulate public policies and regulations to encourage this social financing, including the provision of incentives such as subsidies, matching grants and tax breaks.
The unsung heroes have contributed towards making our society a better place for the less fortunate. The Star Golden Hearts Award should be the clarion call to inspire a greater community participation in charitable and social work.
DATUK WEE BENG EE