Community Development

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Mak Andak: Rising above adversity

Behind her friendly demeanour, the mother of four is a patient and hard worker trying to earn a living amidst difficult circumstances.

Siti Zuriah Omar, or Mak Andak, is well known among the residents of the People’s Housing Project (PPR) Sungai Bonus as a savvy entrepreneur running a catering business.

“My youngest daughter is bedridden due to an accident in 2004 and I spend over RM2,000 a month on her alone for various fees. Yayasan Sejahtera’s (Sejahtera) programmes taught me how to manage my business and finances better while providing me with the support I needed to take on larger orders”

Mak Andak


Residents of the PPR Sungai Bonus

Mak Andak is one of the beneficiaries of Sejahtera’s capacity-building and livelihood programmes which equipped her with the right tools and equipment to grow her business.

“Having been in the food and beverage business for many years, there is still so much for a 60-year-old like me to learn!”

Aside from up-skilling courses, Sejahtera also provided her with industrial utensils such as a chiller and serving dome sets used for buffet catering. The added boost enabled her to secure regular customers such as government agencies for their various catering needs.

Today, she has a contract to provide daily breakfast for 40 people at Radio Television Malaysia (RTM), among her many regular customers.

Addressing multidimensional poverty

Sejahtera has found that the low-income communities they work with tend to face multiple and complex challenges that can hinder improvements to their socio-economic wellbeing. These challenges can include an individual or members of the family having low-paying jobs, low education attainment, lack of access to social services, and fragmented social and communal relationships.

As such, Sejahtera has been supporting the community in PPR Sungai Bonus in multiple ways since 2016 under their ‘Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) for Urban Communities’ which helps drive Hasanah’s Community-Based Approach (CBA) of poverty alleviation by empowering communities to be economically, socially and environmentally resilient.

Apart from supporting individuals like Mak Andak to increase her income, Sejahtera also helps the children of PPR Sungai Bonus, most of whom attend Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Seri Bonus, to improve their educational attainment.

According to the headmaster of SK Seri Bonus Muhammad Fuad bin Omar, much of the funding the school receives from the government is insufficient to run extra-curricular activities as most of the funds are formerly channelled towards academic programmes.

Parents too find it difficult to contribute extra funds to their children’s education owing to stretched budgets.

In recognising this, Sejahtera stepped in to support SK Seri Bonus teachers to provide the children with additional classes in Maths and English, as well as motivational camps.

Our school is known as one of the poorest schools in Kuala Lumpur as close to 80% of students are from low-income families living in PPR Sungai Bonus and PPR Seri Semarak.

Muhamad Fuad Omar


Principal, Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Bonus

“Although some teachers were already offering extra classes to students for free, funding from Sejahtera helped compensate the teacher’s time and effort,” 

Funding provided by Sejahtera allowed teachers to implement various academic and extra-curricular activities for students.

Strengthening social and communal Relationships

Sejahtera also found that its work with the community of PPR Sungai Bonus revealed many gaps that funding or Sejahtera alone could not address.

Some of the key things it found was that the community faced challenges accessing services that would support or enhance their social and mental wellbeing. In addition, they often lacked opportunities to bond with or depend on one another as a community.

Sejahtera also discovered that understanding the actual needs and gaining the community’s trust is important. For Sejahtera to be able to work with the community over a longer period of time, it has to engage with the community over several types of activities.

Hence, 2018 saw the organisation focusing on strengthening the bond among Sejahtera, the PPR Sungai Bonus residents and key stakeholders, said Sejahtera Chief Operating Officer Suheilah Abu Bakar.

One of the activities held to do so was the Hari Sejahtera Seri Bonus 2018. The event, held on 1 September 2018 at SK Seri Bonus, saw an attendance of over 1,500 participants from both PPR Sungai Bonus and PPR Seri Semarak.

Not only did the event provide Sejahtera the opportunity to get to know the residents better, it was also a platform for the residents from both PPRs to have fun through activities such as Zumba and Flying Fox while the children held a drum performance and played in a ‘Soopa Doopa’ bouncing castle and slides.

More significantly, the residents were able to get health checks and attend talks on mental and reproductive health through partner NGOs IMAM Response & Relief Team, SPOT and SOLS Health.

Improving the Wellbeing of the Community

Sejahtera and Hasanah also saw the need for the community’s longer-term wellbeing to be addressed. Hence, SOLS Health and Smart Parents Network (SPN) came on board as partners to support the residents of PPR Sungai Bonus.

Through their engagement and needs assessment interviews, SOLS Health clinical psychologist Chin Xiu Li said they found a low awareness towards mental health among the community members of PPR Sungai Bonus. SOLS Health is a community service provider of accessible and affordable mental healthcare.

Those interviewed were found to be facing financial distress, relationship distress, substance abuse, communication issues in families, and uncertainty of employment for youths.

“These issues are worsened for families who need support and fear to open up because there is also a general lack of social cohesiveness or trust amongst the community.”

“Many shared that they were keen to improve their family and family members’ well-being, and thus we hope to bring even more benefits to the community once we start the implementation of the family-based intervention programme,”
Chin Xiu Li
SOLS Health Clinical Psychologist

Moreover parents at PPR Sungai Bonus work two to three jobs to make ends meet. Juggling between work and family, it is no wonder many residents of PPR Sungai Bonus feel overwhelmed with life.

Hence, the programme implemented by SPN proved to be a hit among PPR Sungai Bonus parents.

SPN founder Zaid Mohamad said it was important to impart parents with the right skills to create a happy and healthy home by enhancing family ties.

“Our collaboration with Sejahtera came about as they realised the need for social and family development programmes while they were running economic development programmes with the PPR Sungai Bonus community.”

“Our approach was never to be a one-off talk type of programme but involves participation from the whole family on a regular basis,”
Zaid Mohamad
Smart Parents Network Founder

The programme for parents from PPR Sungai Bonus was held on a fortnightly to monthly basis at the library of SK Seri Bonus and saw an encouraging response from the community members.

Topics revolved around what Zaid coins as the ‘7L’s of Parenting’, which are Love, Limits, Learning Smartly, Leadership, Leisure, Lend a Hand, and Leave it to God.

SK Seri Bonus student, *Maslina encouraged her mother Samiyar binti Saini to join the programme as she felt it opened up a platform for her to communicate with her mother.

In one of the programmes by SPN, the children were asked to share their likes and dislikes. “As a mother who has raised my four older daughters before this, I would assume that I know what is best for my youngest daughter,” Samiyar said.

* not her real name

In one of the programmes by Smart Parents Network, the children were asked to share their likes and dislikes.

However, Maslina revealed to her mother during one of the SPN sessions that she hated taking afternoon naps. Upon learning this, Samiyar took the effort to find out what would give the most joy to her daughter.

“Despite suffering from injuries during Ramadan last year, I made it a point to pick my daughter up from school every day as to her that is the highlight of her day. We have been much closer since then,” recalled Samiyar on how the smallest gestures can create the biggest impact in her daughter’s life.

Such frank and candid conversations allowed both parents and children to understand one another better while paving the way for self-improvement.

“With the introduction of relevant partners such as Smart Parents Network to organise parenting skills workshops and SOLS Health to provide family-based intervention programme, the community now has access to services that they might not have been exposed to or able to afford before,”
Suheilah Abu Bakar
Chief Operating Officer Yayasan Sejahtera

That said, the work is far from over for Sejahtera as community engagement extends beyond an event or programme.

“The real work comes after in following up with the potential beneficiaries and continuously engaging with them,” explained Suheilah.

She added Sejahtera is keen to explore similar programmes with those from PPR Seri Semarak in the near future owing to the close proximity of both communities.

“In the earlier phase of Yayasan Sejahtera’s engagement with the community in PPR Sungai
Bonus, we realise that the influence of any community activities is not restricted to the specific
community. “

“We are also keen to explore whether neighbouring communities will respond differently to
similar programmes and to further examine the different aspects of the urban poor communities, apart from extending the benefits to more beneficiaries,” Suheilah said.


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