Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Hope Place Kuching continues to help the needy.
Founder Kelvin Wan said the charitable non-governmental organisation (NGO) strove to help as many needy people as possible come rain or shine.
However, Hope Place is highly dependent on public contributions and various forms of donations to perform its core tasks.
“For that, we are very grateful the people of Kuching have been very supportive. We thank all our donors, supporters and volunteers who have been with us throughout the years.
“Regardless of the amount of help given, it is a blessing to the needy,” he said.
In an exclusive interview, Kelvin spoke about how Hope Place continued to help the needy in spite of the pandemic.
NST: What has it been like for Hope Place during this pandemic?
Kelvin: When the pandemic first struck, Hope Place could not operate like many other organisations. So, two of my staff and I decided to become volunteers at the Sarawak General Hospital. We have good ties with the hospital because we help patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB) and cancer.
There were many people who wanted to give contributions but they did not dare to deliver the items to the hospital. We assisted the hospital by collecting the items donated and other contributions from the public. We did these every day. The contributions included meals for the frontliners.
The Sarawak General Hospital was also facing a shortage of equipment like tables, chairs, thermometers as well as blood pressure monitors. We decided to provide such equipment to the hospital because we understood that the process for them to acquire the equipment by themselves would take some time. We were more than happy to help contribute these little things to help make it easier for the hospital staff to do their jobs.
Besides that, we also helped families with Covid-19 positive members who had been admitted to the hospital wards or low-risk treatment centres. The hospital would call us and notify us of families who needed food assistance. Usually, the family members who had to undergo home quarantine needed our help.
As for the enforcement of the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) and lockdowns at villages or particular locations, we concentrate on helping the frontliners who are on duty. The government does provide meals for the frontliners, but we assist in providing extra food and water supply. Among the items we often contribute are instant coffee, instant noodles, biscuits and sometimes electric kettles. For this, we work closely with the People Volunteers’ Corp (Rela) and the Civil Defence Department (APM).
Has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the contributions and donations for Hope Place?
I praise God that Kuching people are very caring. Hope Place can survive until now because of their contributions. In fact, if nobody contributes to us, we will not have items to give to the needy and we will close down. Unfortunately, the number of people coming forward with contributions has been affected by the pandemic. Before the pandemic, at least five people would stop by with their contributions daily. Now, there are only two people in a week.
This was challenging for us because we did not have enough items to give to the needy. We were also unable to deliver the items to them due to the travel restriction, especially during the first movement control order (MCO). We receive many phone calls, particularly from daily paid workers who inform us that they have run out of food at home. In one week, we can receive between 60 and 100 phone calls. We already have 200 families under our care so with the extra calls for help, we need extra items. Nonetheless, we work hard in calling people and asking for sponsors via various platforms so that we are able to help as many people as we can.
Hope Place usually interviews aid applicants thoroughly. There are many questions that we ask to see whether they really need our help. We have four main criteria, namely, people with disabilities (OKU), abandoned elderly, single parent with kids who are still in school and total income below RM500.
At the moment, we have to reduce slightly the quantity of items we provide to the families under our care. We have to readjust our stocks by dividing what we have with the number of families. Everyone still get sufficient number of items, but it is not as much as it will be under normal circumstances. We usually provide three months’ worth of items during a visit so the families must know how to manage and ensure that the items will last until the next visit.
Can you share on Hope Place’s Learning Hub endeavour?
We are looking to provide trainings for knowledge and skills with our Learning Hub at La Promenade by Hock Seng Lee (HSL) Berhad. It is still under Hope Place, but there will be a different team handling this. We hope to provide those who are looking to improve or equip themselves with knowledge and new skills through this Learning Hub which is basically a training centre.
We will look for volunteers who have the knowledge, expertise and skills to train those who come to our Learning Hub so that they can go back and contribute to the society. Hope Place is the entity in charge of the Learning Hub but we will source the people to conduct the trainings.
For example, we have a good connection with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas). We will most likely communicate and engage the lecturers to come and conduct the trainings. In fact, prior to this, we have been accommodating to students from Unimas who are from the Social Work studies for their internship. Two of my staff were previously interns from Unimas and they applied to work with us after completing their internship.
It is hoped that the Learning Hub will be able to equip our targeted group with the ability to contribute back to the society. We hope to also include those under Hope Place’s care in the programmes conducted so that they can improve their lives. This Learning Hub is another way for us to bless our community. Moreover, we would also like to thank HSL for providing us with this place.
What is the progress of Hope Place’s Budget Shop and Bundle Project?
Unfortunately, our Budget Shop cannot operate during this MCO. However, we are hoping to get five more participants for our Bundle Project. The Bundle Project enables the participants to generate some income through the selling of preloved items. Our first participant for this project, widow Rohani Wan Abdullah, she has done very well in generating sales. She is so passionate and committed that she will go from door to door to sell.
However, with the current situation, things have to be postponed and delayed. We hope the situation will improve so that more participants can undertake this project. We want them to generate their own incomes and provide for themselves.
What are your hopes for the future?
We hope that the people of Kuching will continue to support us because we are really doing our part to help the needy in our community. It is through everyone’s support and contribution that we can continue what we are doing and help those under our care.
We also hope that they will continue sharing about us and spread the words around so that we can help as many people as we can. We do not set any limit on the number of people that we want to help. It is known that the needy are often shy to reach out for help or may not know how to get help so the public can help by notifying us and we will reach out to them.
Besides that, we are looking into opening branches of Hope Place in other parts of the state. This is something that we will embark on when the pandemic has subsided but, of course, we will need the help and support from the local people in order to make it a success.