A chance to start over

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Family - – By S. Indramalar

WHEN they started The Mak Mi­nah Project three years ago, Sara and Ayu chose the re­cip­i­ents of their loans based on their own as­sess­ments.

“We in­ter­viewed the fam­i­lies and iden­ti­fied those which we thought had the most po­ten­tial to change and move them­selves up. But we didn’t re­alise the com­plex is­sues that these fam­i­lies have.

“The first fam­ily we housed stopped re­pay­ing their loan af­ter three months. We re­alised that they were prob­a­bly not ready for such a move or needed more sup­port.

“We then re­alised that there are two types of peo­ple we are deal­ing with – fam­i­lies like Su­raya who have been self suf­fi­cient but ended up on the streets due to un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stances and fam­i­lies who have be­come ac­cus­tomed to re­ceiv­ing hand­outs and are not ready to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own lives. These fam­i­lies need a lot more sup­port which we ini­tially were not pre­pared for. It’s def­i­nitely been a learn­ing curve for us,” says Sara. Mak Mi­nah now works with An­jung Sing­gah to help them iden­tify the re­cip­i­ents for their loans.

Their con­tact per­son is Amir Rudin Ab­dul Rah­man, the op­er­a­tions man­ager of a shel­ter for the home­less, Pusat Tran­sit Ge­lan­dan­gan Kuala Lumpur.

Amir was man­ag­ing An­jung Sing­gah when Su­raya turned up at the doorstep of the refuge.

Al­though An­jung Sing­gah caters mainly to in­di­vid­u­als, the so­cial worker housed Su­raya and her fam­ily. “I didn’t want to sep­a­rate the fam­ily. In cases like this, the Wel­fare De­part­ment would take tem­po­rary cus­tody of the child un­til the par­ent has a job and finds a sta­ble home,” he said.

There are more of the home­less who need the fi­nan­cial aid that the Mak Mi­nah Project of­fers, but Sara and her col­leagues only have lim­ited re­sources.

As the ini­tia­tive is still in its in­fancy, their aim now is to help four fam­i­lies find homes in a year. They are, how­ever, on the look out for grants that will en­able them to de­velop their ini­tia­tive fur­ther. They are also in search of part­ners to strengthen the sup­port ser­vices they of­fer clients.

“When we started out, we had the am­bi­tious plan of re-hom­ing eight fam­i­lies a year. But the task is more chal­leng­ing than we an­tic­i­pated as we are a small team do­ing this on a part-time ba­sis. Hope­fully, we can get more peo­ple on­board who can part­ner with us,” says Ayu.

The prob­lems re­lated to ur­ban poverty, she feels, can only be re­solved with so­ci­ety’s sup­port; the gov­ern­ment and NGOs can­not work alone.

“We first need to cre­ate aware­ness among the pub­lic that ur­ban poverty is real and some­thing we all need to ad­dress. So far, we have re­ceived a lot or sup­port but it would be nice to see more peo­ple in­volved – not nec­es­sar­ily in our project. We also need to con­vince the home­less fam­i­lies that we help that they have to give back to so­ci­ety too. It’s a two-way process,” says Ayu.

Amir agrees with Ayu, but his ex­pec­ta­tions are a lit­tle more con­tained.

“The most im­por­tant thing the pub­lic needs to do is to with­hold judge­ment about the dis­placed and home­less. Many brush them off as be­ing use­less or a men­ace to so­ci­ety. You don’t know their cir­cum­stances.

“Ev­ery­one de­serves a sec­ond chance and as long as they are able and healthy, they can re­build them­selves. If you can sup­port them ... even if it’s just one per­son, that’s al­ready a good thing. If you can’t, then just don’t judge them,” says Amir who has been work­ing with the dis­placed for al­most 20 years.

Home­less fam­i­lies, like those in this file photo, can de­pend on do-good­ers who feed them, but the Mak Mi­nah Project is more am­bi­tious and aims to get them back on their feet.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.