The last few years have shown that Malaysians can be amazingly awesome in helping their fellow human beings affected by natural disasters and the global pandemic.
But. And this is a big, big BUT. Recovery – whether it is from a natural disasters (mostly floods, where we’re concerned) or the economic effects of a global pandemic – is a long haul process.
So here are some recommendations, suggestions and do’s and don’ts when it comes to donating. Feel free to share our post with those who may want to donate. We could use more Earth Angels.
Note: While this post is mostly targeted towards individuals, corporates could pick up a pointer or two as well. But we will be posting up pointers on donations and volunteering for corporates, especially public listed companies that need to comply with Bursa Malaysia’s Silver Book Guidelines.
DO: Ask. Most homes/shelters/NGOs/CSOs (Civil Service Organisations) have a needs list and will be happy to share them when asked.
DON'T: Presume you know what they need. For instance, during a flood, disaster relief/relocation centres sometimes get flooded with cooked food. If you want to help, link up with groups already working in there and they’ll be happy to share what they need the most. Usually, this means hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, new sarongs, sanitary napkins.
DO: Be considerate. Give what you would want others to give you (we're not asking for Birkin bags or expensive timepieces, so it's all good.
This also means:
DON'T: Use this as an opportunity to dump your old clothes. NGOs and volunteers have enough in their hands without sorting through stained clothes and old underwear (my favourite was still the yellow silk Superman boxers without garters we received and one of the main reasons why we no longer accept clothes).
DO: Ask if new underwear is needed. Men and women's underwear. Children’s underwear. Disposable underwear, especially for homes for senior citizens. People don’t realise how much underwear costs, especially in a shelter or home with a large number of men, women or children.
DO: Consider who you are donating to. If you're working with an NGO, CSO or group working in food relief, do ask them what food items they might need. Groups working with refugees might have different food needs. Aid workers, on the other hand, might need other items, anything from books to stock a children’s library to office stationery to hygiene items.
DON'T: Cook and send your home cooked food anywhere, unless you're already working with a group. While your intentions are good, you might be inadvertently contributing to food waste.
DO: Work with and donate to reputable groups, groups with proven track records, groups that are effective, groups that have flood relief or relevant aid (food security and refugees come to mind) experience.
DON'T: Think it's about you. The groups you donate to may not have time to personally go collect your items or send you receipts or pictures. That's why it's best to work with reputable/established groups. So you know your stuff will be channeled to the most needed and appropriate locations.
Most of us are exhausted and bone weary and receipts or pictures are sometimes the last things on our minds. We will eventually send you receipts and photos but give us time, please?
And finally, DO please, please, remember. Holding out that helping hand, helping someone climb out of that hole, helping a group help others – that’s not a one-off thing.
Helping to make your community, your society a better place is a long haul process. And it needs a certain level of commitment and consistency.
You may not be able to commit to something long term and that’s alright. But do please think about what you can do over a longer term.
Here are some examples of what you can do over the medium or long term:
- Find an orphanage and pledge a small amount of fruits and vegetables per week/fortnight or month to them. You can just pick up some extra vegetables, or order from a market and send them over. Fruits and vegetables are a luxury for homes struggling on lower, , uncertain funding and most funds go towards overheads and not nutritious food.
- Visit a few shelters or homes and find out what their most urgent needs are. Chances are nobody has pledged to pay for their electricity bill. All you need to do is take down their TNB account number and pledge a certain amount, even RM50 will do, each month. Every single RM helps.
- If there are girls or women in a home, make a note to buy them a few large packs of sanitary pads every month or every other month, depending on your budget.
- For an old folks home, check in to see if they need adult diapers (those things are expensive), and pledge (not necessarily to them, just to yourself) to bring in a certain amount each month.
- If you can manage something once every three or four months only, have a think about maybe purchasing cooking oil each round.
Many of these organisations survive on the kindness of their fellow Malaysians, without much (if any at all) government assistance.
But. We are Malaysians.
And we don't need a government to tell us we are family.
We don't need a government to point arrows and say "Donate here".
We don't need a government to help those who need help. What we need are our fellow Rakyat helping other Rakyat, giving those who have been battered down a hand up.
We have Us. That's what we need. Us. So be an Earth Angel, and give someone a hand up if you can.
Upcoming: What to look out for – green flags and red flags – when deciding on an organisation to donate to.