KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
Indeed, great philosophers and leaders have, for centuries, suggested that happiness is found in helping others.
Care United Johor Bahru founding president Datuk Florence Goh seems to live by this maxim for she has dedicated countless hours over the past 14 years towards helping those who are deprived of basic daily needs and education.
It all started when a group of kind-hearted women threw a big birthday party for some 300 disadvantaged children.
“It was so rewarding to see the smiles on the children’s faces at the party.
“A year later, we decided to register the organisation to tackle issues related to children and the underserved community in a more systematic manner,” recalled Goh.
More than a decade later, the Johor Baru-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) has reached out to thousands through its four long-running annual projects namely Back-to-School, Food Aid, Science Carnival (formerly known as Children’s Merdeka Party) and Golden Years Celebration. It also carries out ad hoc projects to help victims of natural disasters.
Its main focus, however, revolves around programmes that help underprivileged children, senior citizens, kampung folk and the urban poor.
Recognising the importance of education, the organisation also prioritises giving school-going children aid and care via its long-term Back-to-School programme.
Over the past 13 years, the programme has provided 44,922 schoolchildren nationwide with school uniforms, school bags and stationery sets.
Goh said the items serve as motivation for the children to attend school, especially on the first day.
“Some children may feel embarrassed about turning up to school on the first day in old uniforms and torn shoes,” said Goh, a mother of three.
The number of schoolchildren who benefit from Care United’s generosity has grown significantly over the years. Last year, it helped 7,000 children, a major increase from 520 pupils in 2005.
This Saturday, Care United will launch its 14th Back-to-School programme at Kompleks Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat in Johor Baru where 10,000 underprivileged students are expected to receive aid.
Goh said the organisation has allocated RM1.4 million for this year’s project and each student will receive school necessities worth RM140.
“The children receiving the aid are those from low-income and large families, welfare homes as well as those of single parents,” she said, adding that the initiative would be held concurrently with the organisation’s annual Science Carnival organised in collaboration with the Association of Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI) for the second consecutive year.
The carnival, which is expected to host 800 children, will feature 12 booths and multiple science experiments to encourage children to explore the wonders of science in a fun and interactive way.
Some of the activities lined-up at the Superheroes-themed carnival include a flag parade and magic show. There will also be educational programmes highlighting the dangers of dengue and life-cycle of mosquitoes as well as the importance of recycling.
In line with its mission to provide care and assistance to the community, Care United has been distributing food packs to the underprivileged as part of its Food Aid initiative since 2006.
Originally an annual project, it is now held monthly and serves 200 less-fortunate families each time. This year, the NGO has allocated RM120,000 for this purpose. Goh said 1,200 families from six districts in Johor Baru have been identified for the programme.
The food items given out include rice, cooking oil, canned food, biscuits, evaporated milk and other essentials, all packed in a handy shopping tote to help the families reduce their monthly household expenses.
“The people receiving the food aid are those in the low-income bracket, single mothers and grandparents who have to provide for their grandchildren,” she said.
Goh said that the organisation is seeking assistance from the Johor state education department to identify extremely poor families so they can come under the Food Aid and Back-to-School programmes.
“We have been told there are about 3,500 families living around Johor Baru with a household income of less than RM580 a month.
“Many of their children drop out of school before secondary level due to poverty. We hope to reach out to these families though the department,” she said.
The NGO also organises the Golden Years Celebration for about 300 senior citizens annually.
When pointed out that it’s admirable how Care United has managed to sustain its programmes for over a decade, Goh said, “When you help out in education, you need continuity in order to see the impact.
“We don’t believe in flavour of the month-type projects. We have our goals and continue to increase our targets every year,” she added.
She also highlighted that the high cost of living has put much pressure on Care United when it comes to raising funds.
“We rely heavily on donations from the public and corporate organisations to fund our programmes and ensure its continuity,” she said adding that the organisation’s total expenses for this year is estimated to be over RM1.6 million.
Goh hopes more corporate bodies would lend their support and that more individuals would sign up as volunteers to help out at events.
With only a handful members when it started in 2005, Care United now has 30 members from all walks of life. “When we started out, my children and the other members’ children were the volunteers.
“They were tasked with helping the senior citizens, setting up for an event and collecting the trash after,” she said with a smile. Goh said her children still try to help out whenever they can.
Those interested in donating to Care United’s initiatives can call 07-357 6899 or visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CareUnitedJB