With two little kids of her own, founder and managing director of Wanderlust + Co, Jenn Low knows how restless kids can feel within the pandemic. Inspired by the acts of service and community displayed by the nation, Jenn embarked on Project Happy Bags and Happy Notes as a kind gesture for children to keep their spirits lifted. These care kits are curated to encourage learning and play, and are delivered as add-ons to food aid packages for families in need.
Jenn and her four-year-old daughter, Olivia, spent a weekend putting the Happy Bags together with care for its giftees. The mother-daughter duo also made colourful handwritten notes with drawings and messages of love and encouragement. After sharing the activity on social media, Jenn received many DM’s from her Malaysian followers asking how they could help, including Malaysians living overseas in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and more. The initiative turned into public fund raising and within 24 hours, raised more than RM10,000. Through donations of all sizes and ‘Happy Notes’ by fellow Malaysians, 400 Happy Bags were distributed along with food aid to children in need.
Wanderlust + Co has partnered with lifestyle retailer NOKO Malaysia on this project. Each ‘Happy Bag’ is worth RM 25 containing a mix of 12 items: essentials like face masks and hand sanitisers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, snacks, toys, building blocks and more. Along with the items come a hand-drawn ‘Happy Note’ in both English and Bahasa Melayu with messages such as “The world is a better place because you’re in it” and “Saya berharap lukisan ini dapat mengukir senyuman di wajah anda” (I hope this drawing puts a smile on your face).
“I believe there’s still a lot of good out there and the momentum on the project has highlighted the Malaysian spirit of giving and generosity. Aside from fundraising, the Happy Notes make it easy for anyone to give, as it simply requires time, good energy, pen and paper, to show love from one Malaysian home to another. Many have shared that creating the Happy Notes have been an educational tool for their children, as well as a therapeutic way to spend time in lockdown,” Jenn says.
To date, Project Happy Bags has raised RM68,000 for 2,400 bags, 1,178 baby milk formulas, 13,580 baby diapers, 10,800 sanitary pads in aid of period poverty, and over 3,600 Happy Notes. These care packs reach families and children across the country with the help of NGO partners Refuge for the Refugees and Kuching Food Aid (KFA), to children from shelter homes and orphanages, as well as with long term illnesses in hospital paediatric wards, such as Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM).
Heidy Quah, founder of Refuge for the Refugees, shares her observation about the impact of Project Happy Bag, showing how simple gestures carry joy: “While we’ve given them rice and the essentials they need to survive, what has been recently impactful for my team, were the ‘Happy Notes’ that went along with each ‘Happy Bag’. We’ve been getting messages from families who send us photos of the notes which their children stuck on their walls as a symbol of encouragement. There’s something about it that says to the receiver ‘I see you, I’m with you, I hear you, and you’re important to me.
Meanwhile, Shen-tel Lee, founder of Kuching Food Aid (KFA), has committed to distributing 200 ‘Happy Bags’ and 1,000 Bahasa ‘Happy Notes’ attached to food aid.
“Over the last ten months KFA helped families all over Sarawak who have been suffering from food insecurity amongst other issues, due to the pandemic. When KFA was contacted about Project Happy Bags, we saw how beautiful the notes of hope were and reached out asking if our notes could be in Bahasa,” she shares.
“Jenn pivoted the project to enable us to have these painted notes of love and support that add a human touch to our aid bags. Our volunteers loved them so much, they insisted that we laminate them so that they can be kept as a forever token. The project shows us that our nation is able to do more than we think from home. A ‘happy note’ has the power to bring two strangers together and send the message that even in this time of hardship an act of kindness is still out there. How beautiful is that!”
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