KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Two business tycoons who joined hand for a worthy squash battle have raised a whopping RM750,000 to help feed the underprivileged.

AirAsia Group founder and chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and businessman Tan Sri Mohamad Salim Fateh Din have managed to raise the sum through their corporate network in a bid to help vulnerable communities affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The match, which was initially slated to take place on October 18 at Arena Nicol David was postponed to December 5 due to the pandemic.

It has now been rescheduled to possibly next year due to the current Covid-19 situation and the extension of the conditional movement control order recently.

The initiative, titled “Battle of the Bulge,” was part of a wider Covid-19 initiative by the ECM Libra Foundation with an aim to raise enough funds to feed the needy until the Covid-19-hit economy recovers in the country.

The funds was distributed to five selected non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in a cheque handover ceremony in Kuala Lumpur today.

The five beneficiaries were Pertiwi Soup Kitchen, Kechara Soup Kitchen, Good Shepherd Services, Yayasan Chow Kit and Malaysian Relief Agency.

ECM Libra Foundation chairman Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan said the idea for the initiative came about during the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic to help out the healthcare frontliners.

“We then noticed that a lot of people lost their jobs and the vulnerable groups needed help.

“So, we started a food programme over the last nine months to help out the communities in need.”

To fund the initiative, Kalimullah said his foundation managed to have Fernandes and Mohamad Salim on board the initiative with a fundraising squash game between the two tycoons.

Fernandes, in his speech, praised the NGOs for keeping parts of the forgotten society together during these trying times.

“Homelessness has always been something in my mind and it is a serious problem that needs a permanent solution.

“I hope the government of the day and future governments put some efforts to tackle homelessness.”

Fernandes also shared his experience of going around the Chow Kit area and said he was saddened to see homeless families living in a horrific condition.

“It really is something that obviously no charity can solve by themselves; it really has to be a government approach.”

Kalimullah also echoed the similar sentiment and said the homelessness issue requires a stronger government effort as it’s difficult to always ask the public for money to fund initiatives.

The fundraising initiative drew philanthropists across the corporate sector.

Among the main donors were Proton chairman Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar, YTL Power Generation Sdn Bhd, Amcorp Group Berhad, Mohamad Salim, ECM Libra Foundation, entrepreneur Datuk Douglas Cheng, LT Industries Sdn Bhd, S & S Quest Resources Sdn Bhd, KL Kepong Berhad and Armada Baiduri Sdn Bhd.

Both Kalimullah and Fernandes thanked all the donors who made the worthy initiative possible.

Kalimullah said so far they have spent over RM3 million from the foundation to support the homeless and Orang Asli communities during the pandemic over the past nine months.

Ever since the pandemic hit Malaysia early this year, the foundation provided thousands of free hotel room nights to overworked frontliners from Hospital Kuala Lumpur at Tune Hotel PWTC.

It also donated ventilators, personal protective equipment, face mask and hand sanitisers to hospital.

The foundation also provided food aid to over 1,500 families in Sabah and Peninsula Malaysia over the past nine months.