By now, we’re all too familiar with what came with the COVID-19 pandemic — the Movement Control Order (MCO/PKP). This pushed everyone into a new experience of working, e-Learning, and a world of other alternatives to adapt to this new way of living life from the comfort of our own homes.
But what happens to those who have no homes in the first place?
When someone mentions ‘the homeless’ or ‘the needy’, from my observation, people usually draw an imaginary line between one of us and one of them, with these people falling in the latter. This is the mindset that I’d want to change in society and you’re the best person to help me do that!
Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘the needy’ as a group of poor people not having enough food, clothes, and etc. But it’s a little bit more complex than that, isn’t it? While being needy does encompass someone requiring help when their income is insufficient to sustain themselves and their family’s basic human needs — like access to food, clean water, basic hygiene products, shelter, and basic education, the definition goes beyond that.
Under this, there are two categories of people: The homeless, who have no shelter, live on the street sometimes with their entire family, caused by different factors and circumstances, and rely heavily on the goodwill of passers-by to leave them money for their survival. The second group of people are the urban poor, who are usually low-income workers barely earning the minimum wage that, more often than not, isn’t enough to pay for their basic necessities.
While these groups of people were in this situation long before COVID-19, the effects of the pandemic made their lives much more difficult. With no one on the street due to the pandemic, the homeless had no donors, and the urban poor were the first ones whose jobs were on the line when companies went into a cost-saving frenzy.
In April 2020, when the MCO was first implemented, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) set up shelters in various locations, housing over 800 homeless people. With the effort of DBKL and other organisations, these people were provided with food, shelter, and most importantly, safety during the pandemic since they were at high risk of acquiring and transmitting the disease due to their exposure.
However, because of the high cost to house them, they were sent back to the former state of living after the MCO was lifted. This was when various Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) like Need to Feed the Need (NFN), came together to continue helping them by providing food and other basic necessities to these groups of people.
Pre-MCO, many NGOs were able to provide meals to everyone each week. And though they still work tirelessly to send meals and other necessities to these people, like many of us, they’re also struggling to carry out this old normal in the new normal. NGOs, such as NFN, have used most of their resources to support the people that need them the most, and of course, these resources are not infinite.
The organisations rely on donations in order to sustain themselves and their patrons. When MCO kicked in, everyone’s focus was naturally their own survival. Having to change from the ‘conventional’ way of doing things to adapting to the work from home life, managing studies, businesses, families, and so much more, was everyone's main focus.
The government also has had to constantly update the regulations and SOP’s of the MCO (although it may be too frequent) in order to create a balance between their economic responsibilities and the health of the public.
All these factors have led to the needy being sidelined. It’s in times like this where I implore all of you to see that we can only move forward as a society if we move together and leave no one behind. We should all do our best whenever we can to help the people even if it's a little bit at a time.
So, how can we help out during the MCO?
Now, I’m not saying that you should go out there and supply them with your donations all on your own. Instead, consider helping out through organisations like NFN, who’d manage these donations, ensuring they reach the right hands that need these items. Sending in non-perishable food, clothes, hygiene products, and blankets can also make a difference in their lives! Got some spare change or money at the end of the month? You can reach out to them to make a donation, which directly translates to a meal for someone.
Remember no amount is too small and each ringgit goes a long way.
Fun fact: According to NFN, a meal for each person costs about RM 6.00. So before you spend on a tall cup of Starbucks, maybe you’d like to keep that aside to feed two hungry mouths?
As much as I understand the importance of providing for the community in this way and how essential it is for their survival, we as a university and a community, should focus on the long-term benefit of these people and come together to provide the means for them to make a change and strive for a better independent life for themselves and their family. And what does this mean?
EDUCATION, of course!
Like the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime’. With education, we can provide them with skills necessary to go out and get a job. We’ve the ability to rehabilitate and train them in different fields so that they’ve the valued skills necessary for employment such as digital literacy, basic concepts in business studies, hands-on skills like building, and so much more.
There are also a large number of them with hidden talents such as art, music, and writing. These people can be educated on how they can use these talents to make a living for themselves and, in doing so, change their lives forever.
There are various organisations and clubs you can join at Taylor’s that are already working tireless with the aim to help these communities in different ways. You can sign up with the Taylor’s CSI club or even volunteer with the Taylor’s Community who are doing an incredible job helping out several underprivileged communities.
You can also run your own CSI programmes through your clubs and societies or even with your friends during your semester break! As we educate others to upskill themselves, let’s remember to educate ourselves to become more humane towards others, and especially so during this pandemic.
I urge all of you to join in and help because we’re not us and them...
We’re one community.
So, what can you do to change all our lives forever?
Ali Moossajee is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Quantity Surveying (Hons) at Taylor's University. He is the President of the Taylor’s SHINE Ambassadors and Taylor’s Wine & Dine Club, a senior Taylor’s Global Ambassador, a Unibuddy Ambassador, and a permanent crew member with Need to Feed the Need.
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