PETALING JAYA: While non-profit organisations continue to play a crucial role in serving the underserved in society, adequate funding is important to keep their impactful work going.
That prompted Star Foundation to introduce the Star Social Impact Grant (SSIG) aimed at partnering with social organisations to carry out impact-driven projects to better the lives of local communities and the environment.
Presented in conjunction with The Star’s 50th anniversary, this year’s inaugural SSIG awarded a total of RM200,000 worth of grants to four NGOs, in support of their social projects.
The recipients are Vision To Transform, Hopes Malaysia, Selangor and Federal Territory Association for The Mentally Handicapped, and Pertubuhan Pembangunan Wanita Tamarai Pulau Pinang.
And the supported projects all have one theme in common – community empowerment.
They range from empowering rural farmers to adopt sustainable farming and providing vocational training to the disabled, to offering entrepreneurship training as well as skills development to the B40 and other vulnerable communities.
Each project will be carried out in various locations nationwide for a duration of up to 12 months and will be monitored to ensure smooth delivery of all agreed outputs.
Vision To Transform (V2T) consultant Eza Salwa Rohani said the RM50,000 under SSIG would go a long way towards realising V2T’s economic recovery programme to help vulnerable communities improve their livelihood.
The six-month project will involve guiding beneficiaries in identifying their skills and capabilities, followed by a series of online entrepreneurship courses besides continuous support and mentoring via a designated web-app as the participants kick-start their micro businesses.
“We are very grateful to receive this grant. It gives us the opportunity to help the B40 community, urban poor and economically-impacted individuals to generate income independently,” she said.
“The grant will enable us to use technology and our proven cost-effective methodology to improve livelihoods and create multiplier effects over wider communities in the long term.
It will also boost digital and financial inclusion for vulnerable communities, in line with the national and global agenda,” she added.
To date, V2T has managed to drive transformation and income increase for over 50,000 vulnerable people.
Eza highlighted that some of the beneficiaries recorded more than 100% income increase within two to six months of mentoring, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Believing that equal access to food contributes to better health and wellbeing, Star Foundation provided RM50,000 in grant to Hopes Malaysia in support of its “Rural Crop Diversification via Vermiculture Project”.
Hopes Malaysia co-founder Poh Kay Inn said that over 30 households in Kota Belud, Sabah, would benefit from this project.
“Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the rural issues related to food security have worsened along with continuous poverty and loss of employment.
“These villagers spend most of their irregular income on food and groceries, high transportation cost and medical cost,” she said.
As villagers turn to farming for daily consumption, they face another challenge which is soil infertility due to long-term lack of water supply and inappropriate use of chemical fertilisers.
Over the last two years, Hopes Malaysia has been educating villagers on sustainable farming and helping to market their produce in Kota Kinabalu.
“To further encourage villagers, this vermiculture project, funded by Star Foundation, will use a type of worm called African Night Crawlers to help improve soil aeration and fertility, leading to crop diversification.
“With better quality, quantity and variety of produce, the villagers will be able to earn a better income to break their cycle of poverty,” said Poh.She explained that vermiculture turned food waste into quality organic compost.
“On top of reducing food waste, farmers can also organically improve their soil quality by moving away from chemical fertilisers, which benefits their land in the long run.“This is a cost-effective and sustainable way for farmers to produce better quality varied crops and resolve the issue of soil degradation faced by many villagers in our farming projects.
“It is also an efficient solution and easily expandable to other rural communities, because these worms reproduce quickly for villagers to sustainably continue reaping the benefits of vermicomposting,” she added.
“Hopes Malaysia is incredibly honored and thankful to be awarded this grant. Together with Star Foundation, we hope to once again touch more lives in the rural Kota Belud community,” said Poh.
Another changemaker that shares Star Foundation’s stance in community development is Selangor and Federal Territory Association for The Mentally Handicapped, widely known as SAMH.
The RM50,000 grant received by SAMH will be used to support the “SAMH Agriculture Project to Empower the Mentally Handicapped through Farming Skills” project, which will primarily benefit more than 50 intellectually-disabled students at its centres in Klang, Brickfields and Jinjang.
SAMH manager Krishnaveni Vellayatham said agriculture had always been lauded for improving health as well as fine and gross motor skills which are important in childhood development.
It also enhances mood, improves concentration and develops social skills.
“At SAMH, we focus on providing education, training, employment and care to mentally handicapped children and youths. The agriculture project contains all of these key components,” she said.
The project will help uplift mentally handicapped individuals by equipping them with agricultural skills for their wellbeing and future employment in the farming sector.
At SAMH centres, the trainees will be taught to tend to, care for and harvest the planted vegetables ranging from oyster mushrooms, chillies, lettuce, spinach, brinjals and ladies’ fingers.
“The vegetables will also be used in preparing lunch for students, which indirectly introduces organic food to their daily diet,” Krishnaveni explained.
She said the NGO would sell surplus produce to the parents, teachers and school staff to help generate income for its centres.
“The timely grant from Star Foundation will help equip the trainees with the skills that will get them a job and earn a stable income,” she said.
Pertubuhan Pembangunan Wanita Tamarai Pulau Pinang (Tamarai) chairperson KS Pakyalakshmi Subramanian was overjoyed when she found out that the NGO’s grant application was successful.
“This RM50,000 will help elevate Tamarai’s efforts in providing skills development and work opportunities within our community.
“We are thrilled to empower vulnerable women both economically and socially through needlework,” she said.
Under the “Button and Hook – Learn In: Empowering Women through Tailoring Skills” project, women in B40s, school dropouts and former prisoners will be trained in the art of sewing and fashion, working towards self-sufficiency and employment through the skills learnt.
Upon completion of in-class training, the 25 soon-to-be seamstresses will be able to make a living by selling their products ranging from bags, aprons and apparel to face masks, be it through Tamarai or by themselves.
“What makes the programme different is that the trainees will be given a sewing machine each after graduation,” said Pakyalakshmi.
She said the sewing machine could help the women gain financial freedom.
So far, the eight-year-old Tamarai has provided income-generating skill courses to improve the living standards of over 1,300 people. The courses included cooking, hairdressing, henna art and accessories making.
Established in 2004, Star Foundation is the charitable arm of Star Media Group, which aims to deliver meaningful initiatives with lasting outcomes to diverse groups of beneficiaries.
For more information on Star Foundation’s work with the community, visit starfoundation.com.my.