This International Women’s Day, we take our hats off to these female Malaysian philanthropists that go out of their way to help those in serious need.
It was the desire to give a voice to those in need, to help those who were left behind, and to give the unfortunate a way to stand on their own two feet again that gave these female Malaysian philanthropists the strength to do what they do. Below, we see these eight incredible individuals that should be applauded not just on International Women’s Day, but every other day. And if it’s in your capacity to do so, do focus your attention and generosity towards these charitable initiatives.
You may know Shen-tel Lee as half of the Sereni & Shentel accessories brand and also Bowerhaus with her sister, Elizabeth Lee. But in her recent trip back to Kuching, Lee was approached by someone who asked if she wanted to help donate items to those in need. These included essential food items for people living in Kuching who just had no access to even the most basic food and hygiene necessities.
“Food shortage is a global issue. I can’t solve it but what I can do its help those in my local community who ask for help. I can shop for them and help through volunteers get food to them fast,” said Lee in one of her Instagram posts.
One thing led to another, and after a massive donation drive, she eventually set up Kuching Food Aid as a main source to channel all funds and donations to help the needy in Kuching. Even now, as she’s back in Australia, Lee is still running the community-led initiative from where she is with the help of people based in Kuching.
YAM Tengku Zatashah binti Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah
Tengku Zatashah, the Princess of Selangor has always had a heart of gold. She has spearheaded many known charitable organisations in Malaysia including the Make-A-Wish Malaysia that grants the wishes of children with terminal health problems, Food Bank Malaysia, and more. She was also one of the earliest and most vocal people in advocating the zero-waste movement and reducing plastic use. During the Ramadan season, she was often seen in bazaars with her tiffin carrier to practise exactly what she preached.
Jennifer Friis is the founder of Charwiki, a non-profit organisation that aims to invest in education for needy and marginalised children. While she keeps a relatively low-profile, it is her work with Charwiki where she truly shines. The mother of two is no stranger to working with underprivileged children, having volunteered to teach English in a children’s home as a teenager. “I’ve always loved working with children and seeing the light of a bright future in their eyes. Every child deserves the best that society can offer,” she mentions in an interview with Prestige Malaysia.
On Charwiki, Friis also mentions in the interview that she wants the organisation to be synonymous with anything that benefits children in need, and wants to make it her personal goal to directly impact the lives of 10,000 children before she turns 40.
Puan Sri Dato’ Sandra Lee
Puan Dri Dato’ Sandra Lee was one of the four Malaysians mentioned in Forbes’ “Asia’s 2016 Heroes of Philanthropy” and with good reason. She co-founded Daybreak (Disabled Adults and Youths Being Rewarded, Encouraged and Awarded in Kinta) in 1992, an NGO and training centre to rehabilitate physically and mentally-challenged people. Daybreak does so by providing vocational training, supported employment, and working experience programmes. With initiatives such as these, it can help physically and mentally-challenged people be independent and have equal footing in society, showing that they too are just as important as anyone else.
She may be a lawyer by profession, but Hannah Kam also dabbles in many other things — she co-founded ONE (Organisation for National Empowerment) and then went on to write a book about it, titled How I Co-Founded an NGO. She’s also extremely passionate about youth empowerment and voluntary work, and she says in an Instagram post, “There is nothing more meaningful than uplifting others — whether that is through widening access to education, practical skills training, or even just taking the time to share experiences and advice.”
These days, Kam is adding another feather to her cap and breaking out the whisk with Bake For Better. This initiative is a collaboration between Kam and the Perak Women for Women Society (PWW) to help those who have been severely affected by the pandemic in the state of Perak. These include the most vulnerable communities in the society, from single mothers to children, the elderly, and victims of domestic violence. During the second MCO this year, Kam also donated profits from Bake For Better to other individuals and families that she knew were very much in need of assistance too.
How does Bake For Better work? Just head to Kam’s Instagram page to see the menu and place your order. All profits from the bake sale will be donated to PWW for the benefit of those under the care of PWW.
Sasibai Kimis is the founder and CEO of Earth Heir, a social enterprise and luxury craftsmanship brand that champions traditional artisans in underserved communities. By supporting their work alongside providing access to ethical business operations, production and supply chain training, market access, financial support, and fair trade commercial practices, Kimis hopes that her work with Earth Heir will give these artisans the chance to grow their craft and be independent. Far too many have taken advantage of these underprivileged communities and exploited their craftsmanship — with Earth Heir helping them out, we hope that their trade will flourish.
Dr Hartini Zainuddin
Chances are, you’ve heard of Yayasan Chow Kit — but have you heard of the woman spearheading it? Dr Hartini Zainuddin is the founder of the organisation, which serves as a 24-hour centre for children in need. Dr Hartini has long been a child right’s activist and a passionate voice behind stopping child trafficking. Her first experience with it came when she studied abroad in America where she worked with the non-profit organisation Publicolor, where she was in close contact with high-risk students in New York. Coming back to Malaysia, she decided to go ahead with what she does best and eventually established Yayasan Chow Kit in 2007.
Did you know that Heidy Quah founded her NGO Refuge for The Refugees (RFTR) at the young age of 18? She also happens to be the first and only Malaysian to win the Young Leaders Award from Queen Elizabeth II for her work with RFTR, which aims to raise the standard of living for refugee children and also providing an entrepreneurship programme for the students.
What propelled her into doing what she does with RFTR all started when she volunteered as an English teacher in a refugee school based in Kuala Lumpur. Disheartened by the conditions of the place and the hardships that the children had to go through just to get basic education, Quah later helped to raise funds to keep the school going after it was defunded by the United Nations Refugee Agency. She then went on to found RFTR, which thrives till today.
(Hero & featured image credit: Instagram/ @sasibai.kimis)