KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 ― Malaysians have continued to show their neighbourly spirit and generosity to those who are hungry and in need due to financial hardship such as through loss of income and jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the #BenderaPutih and #RakyatJagaRakyat slogans further fueling such acts of kindness.
Since last year when movement control orders was first introduced, Malaysians were quick to rally to help one another without waiting for official help, particularly with the grassroots-driven #KitaJagaKita slogan ― which was later co-opted by the government ― and subsequently the #RakyatJagaRakyat slogan.
Just on Monday or a few days ago, the new #BenderaPutih movement was initiated spontaneously by the public, where those who need help were asked to put up white flags as a way to subtly signal their cry for aid without needing to feel humiliated.
The new slogan appeared on the back of increased reports of suicide or attempted suicides amid mental and economic challenges during the total lockdown or Phase One of the National Recovery Plan which has gone on for about a month now and which remains in place.
Here are some of the #RakyatJagaRakyat or #BenderaPutih or #KitaJagaKita initiatives by the community, individuals and non-governmental organisations that Malay Mail found, with some started just hours after the #BenderaPutih slogan became a trending topic on social media:
1. Food packs and food banks
Minimarket chain 99 Speedmart yesterday launched the Bendera Putih campaign for those in need that will run from July 1 to July 14, where it offered to prepare 1,000 packages of basic food supplies every day to be sent out within 24 hours upon being alerted of needy families staying nearby its outlets.
The minimarket chain said that those in the neighbourhood near 99 Speedmart outlets can provide alerts of houses spotted with a white flag by sending the house picture and the housing address either by Whatsapp to 010-500 0099 or through a private message to 99 Speedmart’s Facebook account.
Non-governmental organisation Happy Bank Crew has a long-running and ongoing #TengokJiranKita campaign to provide food aid for those affected by Covid-19, and transparently documents the work it has done through updates on social media by posting up photos of recipients with their faces blurred out and the number of food packages given at locations such as in Kuala Lumpur, Perlis, Sarawak, Johor, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Sabah, Perak, Pahang, Kelantan, Kedah, as seen in this Twitter thread of work done since May 26.
Happy Bank Crew on June 14 also launched the Minda Over Matter campaign in partnership with mental health organisations to provide counselling and even financial support if required.
Non-governmental organisation We Listen Malaysia has been running a campaign to deliver packages worth between RM50 to RM100 each to affected B40 and M40 families and individuals according to their needs with aid items including diapers and milk formula apart from food supplies.
In the #WeListenPack campaign for the month of June, the organisation had as of June 27 received applications from 1,190 families, and had distributed the packages to 890 families nationwide with a total cost of RM57,850 from June 2 to June 25, with the remaining 300 families’ applications being processed.
Like Happy Bank Crew, We Listen Malaysia provides social media updates of aid given along with photos of recipients with their faces blurred out.
Non-governmental organisation HungerHurts Malaysia has also offered to help to address any needs including for food, funds, laptops, mobile data once alerted. The NGO also gives out food aid, and has been carrying out its latest initiative called #OneMeal over the past few months where it helps small food businesses survive by buying meals from them to be given free to underprivileged communities.
In a collaboration with 8to8.my, grocery store runchit.kl in Section 10, Wangsa Maju has set up a food bank a few days ago offering rice, eggs, cooking oil and milk to 50 persons.
The beauty, cosmetic and personal care company 8to8 said it had recently distributed aid in the form of food and female sanitary pads to 1,200 households in the Ampang, Gombak, Shah Alam area from June 25 to June 27, with its distribution done with the approval of the Selangor state disaster management committee and district health offices, adding that it hoped to provide more aid in the future.
Youth-run charity organisation Cheka Movement had been giving out packages of basic food supplies for free to those within 10km of the food banks at volunteers’ locations, but on June 27 announced that it has closed applications for food packages after the movement channelled food aid to more than 1,000 families in 11 locations in Selangor, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Johor and Sabah.
The latest updates by Cheka Movement on Facebook however indicated that food aid was still available at Kuala Ketil and Tunjang in Kedah, Melaka, Gombak in Selangor, Tampin in Negri Sembilan and Johor.
Perhaps most heartwarming were the small-scale initiatives by online users who could not afford to give much but still offered a few food packs, which in some cases inspired their family and friends to chip in to increase the number of packs offered.
Others shared tips on how to safely deliver food aid to needy families, by simply making online purchases for family food packs as sold by vendors such as Mydin hypermarket and other individual vendors to be sent to those in need.
Restaurant Kenny’s Food Cart in Aman Suria, Petaling Jaya shared that a Food Aid box had been set up with the help of Good Samaritans and asked those who need help to take what they need, while restaurant Temerloh Catering’s Section 15 Shah Alam branch has a food bank for the public to take what they need and give what they can.and its Temerloh Catering Signature outlet in Taman Tun Dr Ismail also has a similar food bank.
Indian apparel retailer Yuva Pret-A-Porter yesterday also joined the #BenderaPutih initiative by offering to use GrabMart to deliver baby supplies or groceries to those who need them once alerted in private messages with details such as the full address and list of items urgently needed, adding that this applies nationwide.
2. Free meals
Kedai Makan Abang Tukang Masak, which is located at Plaza Suria, Jalan PJU 10/4c, Damansara Damai, has been giving out free food parcels via its foodbank. The restaurant operator yesterday said almost 2,000 households had registered to receive such aid.
On Tuesday, Kedai Makan Abang Tukang Masak’s operator by the name of Shahrul Nizam on Facebook said anyone who is hungry can just come to take the prepacked meals outside the restaurant without having to wear a white shirt or to wave a white flag. He had also on Monday said the free meals were open to all regardless of their religion, income bracket, nationality and that it would be available daily.
Flypod restaurant in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah yesterday launched a self-funded initiative to give out 100 packed meals daily within Kota Kinabalu from July 1 to July 10 (totalling 1,000 packs for 10 days) and said donors can choose to pay it forward by purchasing a meal for the needy to be added on to the 1,000 packs, while a food bank will be set up at its restaurant for nearby residents to collect the items.
On Tuesday, a roadside stall known as Nasi Bajet Shima in front of the Surau Al-Falah in Section 6, Kota Damansara said anyone without money for food can collect free meals at the stall that is open on Monday to Friday from 5.30pm onwards, adding that those who are shy to ask for the free aid can just show a piece of white cloth or white paper.
On Tuesday, the Tanah Aina Cafe in Batu Tiga, Shah Alam under the #BenderaPutih initiative launched the giving of free takeaway meals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday under the two slots of 11am to 1pm and 6pm to 8pm for those who are struggling.
On Tuesday, Jane's Nem Hanoi Authentic Spring Roll in Section 17, Petaling Jaya said it will be offering free meals daily to be reserved a day ahead and to be collected between 3pm to 6pm from the restaurant, saying the food is free for anyone ― both local and foreigners ― having financial struggles including those who lost their jobs or have pay cuts.
On Tuesday, 151 Hugh Low Kopitiam at Nu Sentral mall in Kuala Lumpur on Facebook shared its support for the #BenderaPutih initiative by offering free meals until July 1 from 10am to 8pm to those who need it when they walk in, and also offered to arrange food delivery within 10km for those who cannot physically visit the restaurant.
On Monday, 9Lakes Garden Restaurant in Taman Desajaya, Negri Sembilan said it was saddened to see frequent news of suicide attempts and offered 20 free lunch meals daily for those who truly need it.
3. Free tuition
There is also the latest non-profit initiative Projek Didik by the three-year-old independent youth organisation Hands for Education, where free online tuition classes are provided weekly to B40 SPM students who register for the subjects Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, History, English and Bahasa Melayu, while M40 and T20 SPM students who sign up have to pay an affordable rate of RM25 and RM50 respectively per subject to cover costs such as the monthly Zoom Pro costs. Mathematics classes will be free of charge to all students, regardless of their income category.
This initiative is seeking to raise RM27,000 by July 17, with those who wish to contribute as qualified teachers or experienced tutors for the online tuition classes to also sign up on the Projek Didik website.
The initiative was started to help the 2021 batch of SPM students prepare for the SPM examination which has now been postponed to March 2022, and as they have had almost two years of online classes and a new syllabus.
It had previously in February held the #SaveSPM2020 online workshop on selected subjects provided for free to B40 SPM students.
4. Other resources
The #KitaJagaKita website which is maintained by volunteers also lists Covid-19 efforts that have been verified to enable those who wish to help to make donations.
The #KitaJagaKita website also keeps a list of aid that can be sought such as free Covid-19 tests for disabled persons, free transport for Covid-19 vaccination for senior citizens and disabled persons, as well as helplines for counselling, emotional support and advice for children, women, refugees, migrants, domestic workers and other vulnerable communities and for suicide prevention.
A Reddit user has also compiled a list of food banks in various states in the country.
Syed Azmi Alhabshi, co-founder of the NGO PUAKPayong, has been compiling locations of foodbanks and other food-related initiatives in a photo album titled “Di mana ada bantuan makanan runcit?” on his Facebook page.
He has also compiled in a Facebook post a list of 44 organisations along with their helplines and contact details for anyone who needs counselling or advice.
Religious Affairs Minister Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad had also yesterday posted on Facebook a list of locations for food banks and takeaway lunch giveaways at mosques and suraus in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.