By Dr. Lee J. Peter
The COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russian war have affected many Malaysians. The direct impact of these unfortunate events is the rising cost of goods and services; resulting in an increase in the cost of living. The ripple effect is that charitable organisations which depended on public support have encountered a significant drop in donations. Many of these charitable organisations may have to shut down should public support continue to decline.
Students at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM), under the EmPOWER programme, have initiated a crowdfunding project called ‘EMPOWER Crowdfunding Project 2022’ and successfully raised RM67,289 for 10 selected charitable organisations to provide help with their respective causes. This took place between February and the middle of 2022 using the Simplygiving.com online platform. The success was attributed to HWUM students’ creative and innovative activities to attract donors from around the world to the causes. HWUM Provost and CEO, Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi, who initiated the EmPOWER Programme in HWUM commented, “We are pleased our students have acquired social responsive and entrepreneurship qualities after completing their impact statements, mobilising that purpose into a positive impact on the world and making us proud through their excellent achievements.”
Amongst the notable activities was a cycling event around Malaysia’s popular iconic spot, Putrajaya Lake, a 650ha man-made lake. This was to raise funds for Mercy Malaysia and to generate an awareness campaign in support of the flood victims. After obtaining approval from all relevant authorities, this event was held on the morning of February 12, 2022, where over 20 participants cycled 14.8km around the lake, witnessing the beautifully planned landscaping and all the magnificent government buildings around Putrajaya. Through this cycling event, and other activities, they raised RM12,106 for the flood relief effort; providing medical aid, temporary shelter, reconstruction of houses and provision of food to all of those affected by the flood, regardless of race or nationality.
Another activity organised by HWUM students was a drawing contest, with the theme ‘The Underwater World’, which was held on 28th April, 2022. The purpose was to raise funds for Lang Tengah Turtle Watch, an NGO involved in saving sea turtles from extinction. Participants paid a fee of RM10 to join the contest. The funds collected were used to purchase prizes for the winners and the remaining balance would be donated to the NGO. Interestingly, the organisation received many fascinating and impressive artistic drawings of underwater sea creatures together with adorable turtles. This event also promoted awareness among the participants to be environmentally conscious, keeping rivers clean and protecting endangered turtles. With this contest and other activities, RM9,970 was raised for Lang Tengah Turtle Watch NGO (located on Lang Tengah Beach, Terengganu) and these funds will now be used for their operational costs, building more nests for turtles, and towards buying turtle eggs to be incubated and released back into the ocean. All these efforts will have helped increase the sea turtle population in Malaysia.
In addition, HWUM students have displayed exemplary social responsibility and entrepreneurial spirit through collaboration and partnership with a cosmetic company to raise funds for Ti-Ratana Welfare Society Malaysia. With this partnership arrangement, product stocks such as skincare, soaps, perfumes and candles were attained at cost price and profits from the sales of these products were channelled towards this good cause. Through marketing on social media via Facebook and Instagram, students managed online purchases and arrange delivery to customers’ addresses within two working days. This partnership arrangement with other activities raised RM9,322 for an Orphanage Home under Ti-Ratana Welfare Society Malaysia. The fund was used by the orphanage for buying nutritious meals, books and uniforms, transportation to schools, medical check-ups and so on. HWUM students’ effort brought smiles to hundreds of children in the home and a boost to their morale that might encourage them to excel in their studies for a brighter future.
Then another activity, called ‘Walk for Fugee Walkathon’, was an international collaboration between students from various Heriot-Watt University campuses in the UK and Dubai, to raise funds for Fugee School and to raise awareness amongst the public about the challenges faced by refugees who seek asylum. It was a Virtual Walkathon using Strava to track the participants walking activities. It commenced on 21st February and ran until 1st April, 2022. HWUM student Ignatius Bong won the First Prize in this contest and donated his cash prize to Fugee School as he wished to make a positive impact on the lives of many refugee children. Together with other activities, RM11,756 was raised for Fugee School, the objective of which is to give refugee children a second chance to attain education. With this support, Fugee School will be able to meet their operational costs and meet the children’s basic needs, such as meals, and books for their studies.
HWUM students raised RM67,289 in 2022 through crowdfunding projects. This was a threefold increase over last year’s efforts and shows that students’ fundraising efforts and initiatives for charities for the needy are truly amazing. I was personally involved in this crowdfunding project and feel it clearly shows the EmPOWER Programme, which has been implemented since 2018 and, headed by Associate Prof. Jasmine Low (Head of Foundation programme), is a transformative experience for students and helps to groom students, developing their desire to become responsible and empathetic citizens. The students developed creativity and entrepreneurial skills in organising crowdfunding, raising funds globally and building meaningful friendships abroad. By these activities, students had opportunities to learn beyond the classroom, to think critically, to handle complexity and to communicate effectively.
Nelson Mandela once quoted, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” Let us embrace this message. Tutor a child. Feed the hungry. Volunteer your time at a local hospital or community centre. Make the world a better place. One kind act can change someone’s life. Hence, to all caring Malaysians, it is in your hands to make a difference by giving your support to charitable organisations. Your contribution means a lot to them.
Dr. Lee J. Peter is Assistant Professor at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia.