As of March 18th, the government had ordered school and all non-essential businesses to close
we were very concerned because we started out especially in the work that we do as an NGO, there's a lot of face-to-face. So for us that means that we would have to stop all our programs.
My name is Melissa. I'm the CEO of Yayasan Generasi Gemilang in Malaysia.I would translate it in English as “A glorious or brilliant generation”, which I think comes back to our vision and mission. Very focused on raising an exemplary next generation and Empowering Families. So we've been very happy to be part of the THSN family since 2018 to help us in building stronger families in Malaysia.
How are you facing the COVID-19 outbreak?
They do a lot of odd jobs: they drive taxis and lorries and they get paid by the day. A good number of them are also self-employed, so they run your own small businesses, selling food by the side of the road that, sort of thing. So definitely we knew that not being able to work would severely impact the families and also because of the work we've done, we also know that they have very little savings.
How have you reacted?
What we did was something that we've never done before: it was doing food distribution. We normally work with families in terms of communication and activating Family Programs. But we've never done food distribution on a large scale, nor in a restricted movement time where we are not allowed to go outside the house. We started out in the first week wanting to reach out to a 150 families for the first two weeks and we calculated we need something like 6,000 Euros to do that. We didn't realize that everyone was so keen to help the Malaysian public, you know, corporations and even the global Community like THSN. So over the last weeks, we have more and more funds flow in. So we went from wanting to hit 150 families to now support in 400 families. When we were first choosing the family to be on the program, it was quite dire for some of them. Some of them were eating just plain rice. What is really worrying is about some of the younger children because the family had run out of money, they couldn't afford to buy milk powder. So they were just feeding very young children from the age of 1-3 with just plain tea. So this was quite heartbreaking for us to hear.
What are the most important needs of the people you are helping?
One of the needs that we are starting to see is the need for connectivity. They do have access to the internet. However, you're looking at situation where one family shares one device. So it's very common to see a mother having four children and the work school that comes through.
What happens then for the mothers that you've got four children and you've got multiple chat groups and all four children have to share that one phone that she’s got. We are trying to supplement the schoolwork with some of the work that we normally give every week to the children because a lot of them are actually struggling to keep up with the normal schoolwork. We've also move towards getting those materials online so that the children have a different type of activity to do besides school and that's worked out really well.
What is important now for you and for families?
It's very important for an NGO to be able to listen and to adapt but also having I think partners and people who trust us to allow us the flexibility to do that knowing that we do want to be accountable at the end of the day for where the money has all gone to. From a beneficiary perspective, the limitations of technology, access to the internet, are some key problems that we really hope to try and solve, but I think the second bit of all is just listening to them. I think that makes a big difference.