The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating, but unlikely silver linings have been found amidst challenging times like this. Some prime examples include the We Take Care of Ourselves (#KitaJagaKita) and White Flag (#BenderaPutih) movements, which spawned from the desire of kind-hearted Malaysians wanting to help one another.
For brief context, the former initiative was an idea first mooted by author Hanna Alkaf back in March 2021 and was eventually set in motion by a team of passionate Malaysians. Dubbed a ‘one-stop shop’ for Malaysian civil society Covid-19 efforts, #KitaJagaKita serves as a centralised platform that matches those who wish to help with organisations in need of assistance. The list of verified organisations can be found on their website. Riding on the momentum of #KitaJagaKita, the latter was believed to have stemmed from the act of a struggling mother hanging a scrap piece of white cloth outside her window in a desperate plea for help, which subsequently gained considerable traction on social media.
Leveraging the power of social media, these two movements are now a quintessential part of Malaysian society and have evolved into impactful hashtags, which signifies the resilience and willingness of Malaysians to go the extra mile to help each other in the face of adversity. This sentiment of ‘common humanity' is no longer merely a theoretical concept we learnt about in Tort Law, but rather, something tangible and observable through the various initiatives undertaken by young Malaysians.
Law graduates of the University of Oxford, Allyna Ng and Jesryna Patel recently passed the UK Bar examination. Ning Eka and Tam Jia Wie are graduates from Inti International College and Sunway University, respectively. Having been highschool friends and close neighbours, Ning and Jia Wie recently banded together to start the #KitaJagaBaby initiative. Lexicon had the privilege of interviewing four of them over email to bring you this piece.
Pictured above (from left to right): Allyna, Jesryna
Pictured above (from left to right): Ning Eka, Tam Jia Wie
What motivated you to fundraise?
A common thread that runs through the ignition of both fundraising efforts is the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia. When Allyna and Jesryna were asked if there was a watershed that prompted them to make a difference, they cited Projek Bangsa Malaysia’s video of anonymous doctors speaking out about the gravity of the situation in Klang Valley hospitals as a defining moment. The 15-minute video detailing the plight of frontliners was profoundly moving and tugged at their heartstrings. Seeing as how hospitals and healthcare facilities were struggling, Allyna and Jesryna were keen to support IMAM Response & Relief Team (IMARET), an NGO that mobilises volunteers and provides medical equipment to these facilities.
It seemed to us that frontliners are in desperate need of both monetary and physical support and as members of the wider community, we should do our part to support the fight against COVID-19. - Allyna and Jesryna
True to the concept of equity, help should be extended to all regardless of race, religion, age, gender and nationality. Apart from supporting frontline workers, Allyna and Jesryna also extended a helping hand to fundraise for Refuge for the Refugees and Happy Bank Crew, which provide food aid to refugees and B40 communities respectively. To them, it was incredibly important to ensure no group gets left behind. After all, food is intrinsic for survival and has been recognised as a fundamental human right under international law.
For Ning and Jia Wie, the desire to act was prompted by the sheer number of families reaching out for help on KitaJaga.co, a site that connects users with those in need of aid by pinning virtual white flags on the latter's location. Much to their dismay, they noticed that there was an overwhelming need for childcare necessities within their own community, Subang Jaya, that was not being met by existing initiatives. Ning and Jia Wie then took to Instagram to garner help from family and friends and, through this, the #KitaJagaBaby initiative was born.
As we see the rise of food banks and fundraising initiatives that aim for different target groups, we felt there was a lack of emphasis on children's needs. Knowing that families are already struggling to feed themselves and make ends meet, how are they able to support their children? –Ning and Jia Wie
Driven to address the gap in childcare initiatives, Ning and Jia Wie have since been in contact with multiple families in hopes of providing them with various childcare necessities.
What was the most challenging aspect of organising a fundraiser? Conversely, what was the most memorable moment of the fundraising experience?
Organising an online fundraiser is no easy feat. There is more than what meets the eye and a lot of meticulous planning goes on behind the scenes. In order to distinguish themselves from other similar fundraisers being held, both Allyna and Jesryna pondered on ways they could add value to the ongoing efforts through their own fundraiser. Drawing on their background in law, they decided on organising workshops specifically designed for law students.
Similar to charity bake sales and events, they took the view that more people would be encouraged to donate if they could offer something small in return. Accordingly, a minimum donation of RM10 to any of the organisations they were fundraising for was required to participate in the workshop. With consideration given by both ends, this bargain was well received.
Touted Law School Survival Guide, they offered their nuggets of wisdom to both prospective and existing law students, which covered note-taking, as well as tips on effective reading, exam revision, career planning and workload management. Pursuant to the pillars of pragmatism and relevancy which law students strive to achieve, they tailored the workshop based on their attendees’ needs and even opened the floor for questions during the Q&A session to answer any remaining questions.
The process of studying Law can be somewhat underwhelming but the response was certainly not. Law students showed up in numbers and Allyna and Jesryna were elated to have over 85 participants, far exceeding their initial target of having 20-30 participants. Impressively, they managed to raise more than RM3200 in total from workshop participants and other donors.
We were genuinely touched by the overwhelming response. The fact that so many people were willing to support the initiative was truly the most memorable part of the experience for us. – Allyna and Jesryna
Although they were able to successfully organise the event without any hiccups, Allyna and Jesryna found it difficult to draw the line between wanting to accept more participants (and as a corollary, raise more money) and ensuring that the workshop remained as engaging and interactive as possible. Eventually, they came to a resolution of opening a second session of the workshop but even then both workshops reached maximum capacity. Whether by sharing, participating and donating directly, both Allyna and Jesryna are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support shown by Malaysians.
On the other hand, Ning and Jia Wie were faced with a slightly different conundrum. The staggering number of families in need of aid left them unsure about how to best address them, and even doubtful of their capabilities in doing so.
As opposed to adopting a generalist approach, they chose a somewhat unconventional path of going down a niche route. Determined to help, Ning and Jia Wie chose to focus their efforts on fundraising for childcare products such as diapers, baby formula, and hygiene care. Although such commodities are considered daily necessities for these families, the reality amidst the pandemic is that they are now often too expensive to afford.
When we speak to different families about their situation, it’s hard to not be emotional about it - knowing that there are people in our very own community who are struggling, coming to us with simple requests as they truly could not afford to buy things for their family. – Ning and Jia Wie
This difficult reality which resonated so deeply with Ning and Jia Wie was met with a similar response by their family and friends: the #KitaJagaBaby initiative has since surpassed its initial fundraising target by 420%, which has allowed the initiative to support 21 families in Subang Jaya alone. However, despite the #KitaJagaBaby initiative having raised beyond the duo's expectations, it was not this achievement, nor the satisfaction attached to it, that Ning and Jia Wie found rewarding. Instead, the two were particularly moved by the response of their beneficiaries upon receiving their respective donations. Taking the road less travelled had indeed made all the difference.
The most memorable aspect was the huge smile from the beneficiaries when they received the goods. It brings us comfort knowing that each box of goods could make things slightly easier for the beneficiaries during this difficult time. – Ning and Jia Wie
What do you foresee for the future of this initiative? How can people help?
To Ning and Jia Wie, the spike in charity movements among Malaysians shows that we are truly living up to the meaning of #KitaJagaKita. The fact that so many Malaysians, especially the youth, have stepped up to the plate and chipped in is a testament to how collective action can pivot a movement to greater heights. From struggling hawkers who still offer free food to those in need to the setting up of initiatives to address education loss by the youth, the altruism demonstrated by ordinary Malaysians is a beautiful sight to behold.
In fact, the examples that have been given merely scratches the surface. There are many more who work tirelessly behind the scenes without coming into the limelight. Even in the most challenging times, humanity prevails.
True to their cause, Ning and Jia Wie are optimistic that the #KitaJagaBaby initiative will continue to offer support where there are still struggling families in need. While they hope that the initiative will not be a long-term fixture as families adapt to the ‘new normal’ and settle into post-pandemic life, they have not ruled out the possibility of reaching out to more families, or even extending the initiative’s reach beyond Subang Jaya.
The pandemic will definitely have a long term effect on many families. Even when the pandemic ends, some may not be able to recover from the loss but we will continue to try our very best and help as many families as possible. – Ning and Jia Wie
When asked if they had any final words to the readers, Allyna, Jesryna, Ning and Jiawie came to a mutual agreement that we should all play our part in combating the virus. We need all hands on deck to see us through these trying times.
We would certainly encourage the wider public to donate directly to the three NGOs we are supporting, or for that matter any deserving group or individuals in need. If you have the time and capacity, do consider volunteering at vaccination centres (PPVs), Covid-19 assessment centres (CACs) or helping out NGOs. – Allyna and Jesryna
There are many platforms where Malaysian youths can lend a helping hand, it really does not have to be big, it can be volunteering at your nearest food bank or helping out a family on KitaJaga.co. – Ning and Jia Wie
The Future of the #KitaJagaKita Movement
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this section belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Taylor's Education Group. Additionally, this section of the article is for informational purposes only. Please exercise your discretion before making any judgements.
As of July 2021, Covid-19 induced unemployment rates have soared. According to Channel News Asia, more than 300,000 Malaysians have lost their jobs and 30 percent of shops have closed for good. It is projected that the threat of permanent closure looms over an additional 50 percent of small businesses, should lockdowns continue to be extended.
With Malaysia reporting a record high of 20,889 Covid-19 cases on the 6th of August alone, it seems that the road towards a Covid-free society remains a distant reality. The government has attempted to mitigate the situation through a variety of initiatives that have been set in place. However, it is likely that the movement will stay as long as the needs of the rakyat are not being addressed sufficiently.
Public opinion on the movement is divided. A majority of Malaysians and politicians believe that the #KitaJagaKita and #BenderaPutih movements should be lauded and have praised continuing efforts by individuals and NGOs that have mobilised support to help marginalised members of society. However, detractors of the movement have been quick to deride it as political propaganda and have staunchly defended the government’s actions.
While the road towards a Covid-free society remains a distant reality, the efforts demonstrated by ordinary Malaysians serves as a reminder to us that there is still light at the end of the tunnel.
Lexicon hopes that this article has inspired you to contribute to your community. Remember, age is not a barrier and you have the power to make a difference. On this note, we would like to take this opportunity to thank Allyna, Jesryna, Ning and Jia Wie. Their determination, compassion and empathy have been truly inspiring and we believe our readers will be encouraged to follow in their footsteps.
No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.
If you would like to lend a helping hand, these useful links will give you an idea of where to chip in.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CR5c4KDprUQ/?utm_medium=copy_link [recommended by Ning and Jia Wie]