LUXURY was an alien concept to a woman in Kampung Pulutan, Sabah, who previously earned a meager income from her ginger farm.
Life took a turn for the better after she participated in a community development programme organised by Yayasan Sejahtera.
After nine months, she boosted her income tenfold from RM300 to RM3,000.
The success of the woman brought smiles to Tan Sri Faizah Mohd Tahir and her team at Yayasan Sejahtera.
“There is a sense of satisfaction when you see the progress achieved by people who benefited from the programmes organised by the foundation.
“I am happy to see our beneficiaries earning a good living,” Faizah, who is Yayasan Sejahtera’s Board of Trustees chairman, told the New Straits Times.
Yayasan Sejahtera is a non-profit and non-governmental organisation established by Khazanah Nasional Bhd on Aug 7, 2009.
It was set up to carry out corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives with regard to poverty eradication for government-linked companies (GLCs).
The foundation, she said, believes that poverty is not only about the lack of economic opportunities but also involved unfulfilled basic food needs, as well as inadequate access to water supply, electricity, sanitation, healthcare and education.
The foundation has been conducting community-based programmes.
The programmes have benefited 12,986 people in Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak, as well as families in Kuala Lumpur.
“When the foundation was established, our mission was to eradicate hardcore poverty among rural folk.
“We worked with government departments and provided skills training to men and women, who were breadwinners in their families, to increase their income.
“As the foundation progressed, we found that there was a need to address the woes faced by the community and ensure children’s access to education since they are the country’s future human capital.
“None of our beneficiaries received cash.
“Apart from skills training, beneficiaries were provided with basic necessities to have an acceptable standard of living.”
The growth achieved by the country brought about another issue, which is urban poverty. This compelled the foundation to launch its plan on urban poverty alleviation.
“Our programmes on urban poverty eradication focus on people in the B40 (bottom 40) category and families in people’s housing schemes (PPRs) in Kuala Lumpur.
“An example is our community enhancement programme for PPR Sungai Bonus, aimed at increasing the income of families through skill and educational enrichment for the community.
“In 2017, the foundation had identified 20 local kiosk operators and conducted entrepre-neurial training sessions on bookkeeping, income monitoring and the demand of the market, as well as on how they could leverage social media to market their products.
“In addressing concerns related to education development among children at the PPR, the foundation collaborated with a school and provided tuition classes for English and Mathematics.”
As poverty eradication became challenging, the programmes to improve their beneficiaries were conducted over one to three years.
“The projects conducted by the foundation are not on a one-off basis. They will last for at least 12 months or a maximum of 36 months.
“For every project, the foundation will appoint a project assistant to guide and monitor the participants’ progress.
“If there are any problems faced by the participants, they will report to us and we will come up with a solution.
“This is because our priority is to improve the livelihood of our participants.
“The foundation is sincere in helping them earn a better living.”
INCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT AND YAYASAN SEJAHTERA IN THE NEW MALAYSIA
In conjunction with its 10th anniversary celebration, the foundation will host the “Yayasan Sejahtera’s 2019 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty Forum” at the Research and Innovation Complex in Universiti Malaya on Oct 16.
Themed “Inclusive Development and Sejahtera In The New Malaysia”, the half-day forum, held to mark the International Day For The Eradication of Poverty, will be officiated by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“We believe in a community-based approach. Hence, the government’s ‘Shared Prosperity Vision’ goes well with our goals of building sustainable communities by helping the poor.
“At the same time, the foundation believes that eradicating poverty is a shared responsibility.
“It is not only the responsibility of the government. The private sector can also play a role in helping B40 households and the poor.”
Faizah said experts and researchers will discuss trends, implications and possible actions to help the poor.
The foundation, she said, will launch a Community Development Fund (CDF), which will serve as a platform for the private sector to help the government address poverty issues .
“We understand that there are companies that have allocations to conduct CSR programmes, but lack the manpower and time to do so.
“That is why the foundation has introduced CDF to encourage the involvement of the private sector.
“Companies can contribute to the fund. Through our 10 years of experience, we have the expertise and skills to carry out poverty-eradication programmes.
“The foundation will formulate a proposal based on the companies’ aspirations. We will provide contributors with reports on the progress of the programmes organised using funds they had contributed to CDF.
“The foundation is transparent and responsible for every sen spent on the programmes,” she said, adding that the foundation is audited by external auditors, including the Inland Revenue Board.
HARDCORE POVERTY IN MALAYSIA
Malaysia has made significant strides to reduce hardcore poverty. While extreme poverty is considered to have been addressed, relative poverty in urban and rural areas remains a challenge.
Faizah, who retired as Women, Family and Community Development Ministry secretary-general in 2009, said the rising cost of living due to global economic uncertainties and urban growth had impacted low-income households.
“If you were to compare the situation when the government started to establish the poverty index line in 1970, there is massive improvement with regard to our efforts to reduce hardcore poverty.
“However, poverty is a relative concept. There are developed countries also dealing with issues related to poverty.
“It is a daunting task for a country to eliminate problems related to poverty.
“However, we should stop at nothing to reduce the problem,” said Faizah, who had served as the Economic Planning Unit’s Commerce and Industry Section director.
She, however, said it is important for the government to simultaneously address issues related to urban poor and poverty in the rural areas as the country prepares to become a developed nation.
“Both are critical issues. Urban poverty is related to housing, transportation and household income.
“Poverty among rural folks is related to basic amenities.
“And there is a need for a concerted effort involving the government and the private sector to address these problems.
“Yayasan Sejahtera hopes the private sector will help us by contributing to CDF for the county to address problems related to poverty in urban and rural areas.”