Going above and beyond to help
18 Jun 2021 | The Star

PETALING JAYA: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This certainly rings true for past winners of Star Golden Hearts Award (SGHA).

Despite the challenging environment brought upon by the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, these unsung heroes continue to step up to deliver more innovative and impactful work by leveraging on the recognition and exposure received from winning the award.

Yunizam and his team transporting a Covid-19 deceased patient from Pulau Timbang to mainland Sandakan using a boat.

SGHA 2019 winner Yunizam Yusop and his team at Team Abam Botak have had no time to rest since the onset of the pandemic.

Starting off with providing free hearse service and transport to hospitals for poor families in Sandakan, Yunizam’s team now also handles transport and burials of patients who died from the disease.

“Every day, we receive calls to assist in Covid-19 deaths as the hospitals are short of staff with the high number of cases.

‘’We also work closely with the police, forensics department and Sandakan health authorities to bring in bodies of patients who died outside hospitals for testing before burial.

“Recently, we even used a boat to transport a deceased Covid-19 patient from Pulau Timbang to the mainland to carry out funeral rites. There are really no limitations to how we serve, ” he said.

The risk of exposure and labour-intensive tasks have not deterred Yunizam from continuing to help the needy. “Winning SGHA two years ago was a huge recognition for our work. I believe what we do is our responsibility as part of the society. ‘’We look forward to getting more vans to facilitate our tasks at hand, ” he said.

Kuan and his team are distributing chicken meat to families in Puchong, Selangor.

Popularly known as “Uncle Kentang”, SGHA 2017 winner Kuan Chee Heng is no stranger to charitable work.

Over the years, he has made a huge difference through various community initiatives to help Malaysians facing life challenges.

“The award has impacted me so much as it gave much credence to my organisation and paved the way for more collaborations with donors, ” he said.

From only two ambulances and one hearse van, Kuan now owns 11 ambulances and 10 hearse vans to cater to increasing requests for assistance.

On top of transport services, he also kickstarted a crowdfunding platform called “Kentang Fund” to raise money for his wide range of services, including providing aid packages, meal vouchers, discounted or free medicine, RM1 transit house, 10 sen library and 10 sen market.

“During the pandemic, we’re also running the ‘Mah Cher’ initiative to help hawkers who are struggling, ” he said. “Mah Cher” was a term used for domestic helpers in the past, who were renowned for their perseverance.

‘’Although our help of RM200 to deserving hawkers may be small, it carries the spirit of ‘Mah Cher’ and the message of ‘do not give up’.

“We live in challenging times and we need a solid spirit to cross the bridge together.

‘’Many will be feeling despair, which is why we need to give them hope, ” said Kuan, who was recently awarded the Commonwealth Points of Light Award by Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his charitable work.

Labour of love: Tang (in wheelchair) preparing vegetarian lunch boxes at Kantin Muzi, Kuala Lumpur, for people in the neighbourhood.

In a year since 2020 winner PWD Smart FarmAbility was recognised with the award, it has managed to expand its food security mission.

“The prestigious recognition has helped us tremendously in our advocacy, ” said founder Dr Billy Tang of his social enterprise, aimed at empowering persons with disabilities through urban farming and by making nutritious food accessible to all.

To date, more than 1, 300 of their giant organic tilapia fish and more than 500 self-sustainable organic vegetable terrariums have been adopted or given to poor families.

“Our unique food aid ensures beneficiaries get to eat fresh and healthy greens without compromising on freshness and nutrients.

‘’We’ve also shared our technology with one of our impact partners in Penang – Kairos Agriculture – to replicate the exact same advocacy of making nutritious food available to the poor, ” he said.

In April, Tang’s social enterprise entered a landmark memorandum of understanding with the 19, 000-strong Persatuan OKU Sentral, founded by Senator Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi, to empower the disabled community in Malaysia through nutritious food accessibility.

“In the past year, we’ve established connections with many more impact partners who are either interested in becoming recipients of our food system or eager to help us expand our work.

‘’We’re truly grateful for being chosen as a winner of SGHA, ’’ he said. PWD Smart FarmAbility was also one of the two Gamuda Inspiration Award winners selected from the pool of 10 winners last year.