The pandemic brought along immense social, mental health and economic dislocation in its wake; and while we have been highlighting extensively the many businesses that have taken a hit from Covid-19, are we doing enough to help the marginalised groups?
In 2020, we have seen how different organisations and individuals have risen to the occasion to extend a helping hand to frontliners, the poor and foreign workers. #KitaJagaKita. Enough said.
Shen-Tel Lee is no stranger to efforts to combat poverty, she has been helping her husband Bobby Ting manage the KitKotak unit together with the late environmental designer and educator David Mackay from Australia. KitKotak has a unique approach to provide affordable homes for the poor – by using repurposed shipping containers.
In October last year, while in the mourning period following the passing of her father-in-law Tan Sri Ting Pek Khing, Shen-Tel received a message from a total stranger who asked if she could help some folks in his area, who were all badly affected from the lockdown due to rising community transmitted cases.
She just couldn’t ignore the request. She raised about RM7,000 within 10 hours and that simple act of buying and donating snowballed into a steady stream of donations for months. “In many ways, diving head on into this helped to get over some of the darkest days, not just for me but also for my family. The call for aid was so high, and we were in a position to help, so we did and by doing so, it healed us and brought our family even closer together,” she recalls the origination of Kuching Food Aid in this interview with Prestige from Sydney.
For 3 months straight, 22 Tings packed aid 7 days week. It is a time she will always treasure. She counts herself blessed to have met so many volunteers who were willing to risk it all to deliver aid to help families who were in need.
“I think the timing, and the realisation that so many people were suffering from the effects of the pandemic made people want to help in droves. In many ways it is the kindness of total strangers that is keeping Kuching Food Aid alive,” she says. Recently, Kuching Food Aid also stepped up to help flood victims in the city while efforts to distribute needful things to the less fortunate continues in other districts in Sarawak.
Milo Malaysia picked Kuching Food Aid for its #SkuadKebaikanMilo campaign during this Ramadan, find out how you can contribute here.
Shen-Tel takes 7 questions from Prestige on how she uses social media to help those in need and what this experience has taught her.
The association is handled by two accounts staff who go over our daily expenses and help us pay for aid. We are constantly checking the fund to see if we are able to assist more families. My role is to keep sharing what we are doing daily and showing donors their food aid from the supermarkets, to the volunteers who deliver and then finally to the families themselves. Right now the calls for aid are coming in fast and large from Sibu, Miri and Bintulu.
We also have aid that is bought directly at local supermarkets and it’s something I am very proud of. It’s an initiative that donors love because they know their donations are going directly into food aid. The best thing about this is that we have aid credit sitting at supermarkets and when a call for 10 families come in, we are able to get the supermarkets to pack the aid quickly and get it out within 48 hours. It is a much more efficient and sustainable way to connect aid moving forward. Right now we only have this system in place in Kuching at five supermarkets – Online at Degrocery, Choice Supermarkets, Everrise at Green Heights Mall, The Gourmand and Fresh & Pay.
We are in talks to partner with supermarkets in Sibu, Miri and Bintulu. Hopefully in days to come our talks with the supermarkets will be the solution we are looking for.
Do it! Show transparency, be truthful about the setbacks and ask questions. I made a lot of rookie mistakes along the way, but it was the kindness of total strangers who took the time to reply me and help!
(Photos: Shen-Tel Lee)