COVID-19 Global Diaries: ‘Why I’m helping the hardest hit – the homeless and low-income families’

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Elisa Khong is a Malaysian philanthropist and she’s determined to fight back with incredible acts of giving

Just like millions of Malaysian families, when the government brought in the Movement Control Order (MCO), we had to reorganise our lives overnight. However, from my experience working with the homeless and low-income families, I couldn’t help but look out from my apartment window at the empty streets, knowing these people will be the hardest hit.

Soup kitchens and food banks keep many people from starving in Malaysia but the MCO imposed a blanket halt on many kinds of operations, including theirs. Rather than waiting for centralized power to pay attention to their plight, I decided to lean on fellow citizens, so I picked up my phone and got to work.

Elisa Khong pictured with her husband and dogs

I connected a local soup kitchen, Kechara Soup Kitchen, plus donors, a delivery and dispatch startup to pick up and deliver hot food directly to the homeless community. This resulted in 393 people receiving their first meal in three days of MCO. We got the grocery lists of many recipient families via the Kechara Food Bank and encouraged our friends to send groceries to each family in need, these ranged from many living alone, to a family of nine.

Tesco donated their surplus fruits and vegetables and, after testing negative for Covid-19, I joined the five-man team to help pack and distribute these. The recipient would point to their desired vegetable, I’d place it onto a weighing scale, after which, another volunteer would bag the item and pass it to them from a distance.

Elisa wearing a mask on one of her volunteering shifts

But I also heard from friends that many hospitals and clinics weren’t getting supplies, such as masks, quickly enough. I contacted suppliers with these resources to the clinics and hospitals in need of equipment. It was so heartening to see help pouring in, especially from people I didn’t know and who contacted me through social media. One of the hospitals at the epicentre of Covid-19 was in urgent need of supplies for their pediatric ward. I managed to secure donations and supplies from a mum and baby goods startup.

Governments are faced with new challenges every day, however I believe that every citizen can do their part – no matter how big or small. Every phone call to a friend and every social media post is an opportunity, a connection point between someone in need and someone who can give. And in times like this, each and every one of these actions matter.

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