July 22, 2011

MALAYSIA: One woman's altruism and earnestness brings shelter and care to 107 homeless and seniors

TRIANG, Pahang / Bernama / July 21, 2011

Yap Yoke Moey, 51, continues to run an electrical appliance store in the rural town of Triang. However, the altruism of this Chinese lady, who speaks in her mother tongue and broken Malay, has earned her great admiration.

Since her youth, Yap was deeply concerned about the fate of homeless people and senior citizens.

So, even as she operated her business on the ground floor, she offered rooms on the upper floor of her shop-house to the homeless and senior citizens.

As time went by, more people sought shelter at Yap''s home, and there was no longer any room left to accommodate their growing numbers.

Realising there were more people in need of help, Yap began looking for other available options.

After contemplating a charity home for a while, in 2003, with the encouragement of her husband, Chen Sik Kwong, and a long-time acquaintance, Jamil Karim, Rumah Kebajikan Warga Emas Sang Riang (RKWESR) was established.

The charity house that started with eight Chinese residents, now has 107, including the homeless and the aged. It is virtually a 1Malaysia charity house, given the various races living under the same roof.

Surmounting Challenges

Yap was well aware of the challenges in setting up the charity home, especially given that she could hardly read or write. Therefore, she enlisted Jamil''s help to complete the paperwork and correspondence with authorities and other parties. Jamil has, since, had a large part to play in establishing and running RKWESR.

Jamil’s experience working in the public and private sector has been very relevant to his work at RKWESR. Additionally, since he had known Yap for long, he helped Yap manage her shop, as well.

Transcending Racial Barriers

Jamil recalls that the biggest challenge in setting up the charity home was financing. This was made worse by the fact that people they approached did not understand their objective. There were some who dismissed their endeavour as a waste of effort.

"Some agreed to help, on the condition that the centre be reserved for a particular community, only," said Jamil, explaining the hurdles they had to face.  However, Yap's altruistic nature and perseverance led her to remain faithful to her principle of helping everyone, regardless of their origins.

Small Beginnings

Jamil said the charity home was established on Yap''s land, using a capital of RM100,000, including the RM50,000 she borrowed from her mother in-law. The first block had six rooms for residents, a room for a volunteer doctor, a kitchen and a management office.

As demand grew, more rooms and facilities such as exercise equipment, a TV room, and reflexology walk were added.

Since accommodating its first batch of residents in 2004, RKWESR has grown into the pride of the Bera district, in which the town is located.

The centre's management is headed by Yap and assisted by Jamil. Although it is located in a remote town, the centre has attracted interest and visitors from all over the country.

Among those who visited the charity home were the Tengku Puan Pahang, Tengku Azizah Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, Pahang''s State Secretary Datuk Seri Muhammad Safian Ismail, Kulai Member of Parliament Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, and Pahang Puspanita Chairperson Datin Jamaliah Zainal Abidin.

Apart from this, RKWESR also receives visits from undergraduates, students, temple committees, non-governmental organisations (NGO), and corporations from within and outside the country.

Comfort for all

The 107 residents of RKWESR include 25 Malays, 74 Chinese and 8 Indians. They come from all parts of the country. While 65 of them are men, the rest are women. Most residents are senior citizens, with the oldest aged 98. The remaining are homeless people or vagrants, often referred to the charity house by the

Social Welfare Department

As the residents’ backgrounds differ, their needs, too, differ. Other than providing basic necessities like food, clothing and a comfortable place to stay, the charity house''s management also helps the residents fulfill their spiritual obligations.

"We provide space for the residents to carry out their religious obligations. There is a worship place for Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians, here."

"Apart from that, we also invite religious group representatives to talk on their religion to their respective followers," said Jamil.

Jamil said the charity house has a separate kitchen to prepare meals for Muslim residents, and a special room for Muslim funeral arrangements.
RKWESR also ensures that residents who die there are given funerals according to their religions.

The Dialysis Centre

There seems to be no end to Yap''s selflessness.  After starting the charity house, Yap found that people here lacked the facility to undergo dialysis. With fortitude, she endeavoured to establish a dialysis centre.

The Sang Riang Haemodialysis Centre (PRHSR) opened its doors in 2008, and now serves those needing the service in Triang. The centre, with 20 dialysis machines, including two reserved for those with Hepatitis B and C, is a welcome relief for the community in Triang.

According to Jamil, prior to the establishment of PRHSR, those needing dialysis had to go to Hospital Temerloh, an hour’s drive from here.

"We do not want to burden those who come here for treatment. The treatment is provided free of charge for the residents of RKWESR, and for the patients from outside, a minimum charge is imposed based on the patient''s ability to afford it. Government servants or retirees can use the services through a guarantee letter (GL)," she said.

One Person's Altruism

RKWESR and PRHSR are the outcome of Yap''s altruism and compassion for fellow human beings, regardless of race or creed. Despite Yap’s and Jamil’s efforts, much remains to be done, and this is where others can help.

"The cost of running the charity home is about RM21,000 per month. We also have to maintain the facilities, apart from adding more to take in more residents," said Jamil.

The management of RKWESR and PRHSR welcome cash donations, food, vehicles, support and expertise.

Those keen to help can contact RKWESR on the web site http://www.sanniang.org/.

Rumah Kebajikan Warga Emas Sang

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