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Building on the year that was, the initiatives lined up for 2021 signify our continued dedication to pandemic-related causes and alleviating the devastation brought by it. Encompassing multiple focus areas, we are thrilled to play a small part in the rebuilding of lives and livelihoods affected by COVID-19 while staying true to our core role as an impact-based, grant-making foundation.
CERDIK, a pilot initiative driven by Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) and Government-Linked Investment Companies (GLICs) in partnership with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Finance (MOF), offers a solution. Acting as a bridge to quickly enable digital learning, devices (laptops/tablets) and data connectivity are provided to students from lower-income families.
It is, however, not a one-off device donation drive, but a long-term effort to decrease the learning gap between those who can and cannot afford devices. This move is also expected to give students access to other educational digital experiences when schools reopen.
The initiative, announced under Budget 2021, was realised through contribution worth RM150 million by 22 GLCs/GLICs, representing companies under Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, Yayasan Petronas, Employees Provident Fund and Lembaga Tabung Haji.
Hasanah, as the Secretariat, is the focal point for programme communications, the overall programme design, coordination, governance of contribution, monitoring implementation, and ensuring learnings are captured.
Devices and data connectivity packages are donated to selected schools that then distribute them to eligible students from marginalised backgrounds (B40, Orang Asal, single parent, and special needs), with monthly household income below RM4,849 and currently without access to remote learning. The first tranche of handovers was in February 2021 and distribution will continue throughout the year till completion.
Adding to Yayasan Khazanah’s (YK) arsenal of existing education assistance, the newly established Khazanah ACE2 Programme covers scholarships, fellowships and executive short courses related to Hasanah’s five focus areas.
Some non-exhaustive examples of the wide scope of possible fields of study are natural resource law and management, social justice, migration, gender studies, climate change, food security, renewable energy, urbanisation, human rights, conflict resolution and international relations.
By providing a slew of academic and executive enrichment opportunities relating to sustainability development, ACE2 aims to further fulfil the talent gap in Malaysia in a more holistic manner while anticipating future work needs. This comprises solutions concerning communities, social inclusivity and the environment such as eradicating child poverty through education and preserving our majestic forests to celebrating the arts and our unique cultural heritage, just to name a few.
Prospective awardees will undergo structured assessment and interviews in order to qualify for funding that includes tuition fee, living allowance, medical insurance and return fare. While the award varies by category, over and beyond the monetary support, recipients will also benefit from networking and being part of YK’s scholarship alumni.
In addition to requirements such as Malaysian nationality and an age limit capped at 60, other general criterion involves being committed to society — for instance, active participation in the student council or appropriate associations and NGO, or youth-related work — and displaying a strong interest in development-related issues, prior work experience and involvement in voluntary activities. The application process will commence in Q2 this year.
Despite there being no bond obligation, successful applicants must return to the country upon course completion where Hasanah may on a need-basis retain talent, in furtherance of Khazanah ACE2 Programme’s intent and purpose.
The government of Malaysia, in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, has provided ways and means to allow targeted beneficiaries to start and benefit from economic livelihood programmes. Under the PRIHATIN Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package, a matching grant of RM25 million was set aside under Hasanah Special Grant (HSG) to improve the quality of life of poor families and the B40 community due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a total of 110 projects worth RM 17,551,476.70 approved, estimating to impact a total of 48,772 beneficiaries in the areas of education, economic livelihood, food aid, health and wellbeing, animal welfare and arts.
The HSG was made possible through the collaboration of Ministry of the Finance (MOF) and Hasanah, with the support of local NGOs, CSO and Social Enterprises, benefiting local communities on the ground. It has shown that there is potential and momentum of “helping people to fish rather than be given fish” and that it can be done, potentially expanded or scaled up to reach more beneficiaries and bring sustenance and dignity to the people in Malaysia. The learnings from this on-going collaboration between the MOF and Hasanah on HSG have demonstrated the role of the private sector as a partner for progressive development, i.e. providing speed of deployment of funds and accountability, cost efficiency and incorporating elements of tracking and monitoring of deliverables by partners.
Thus, another grant of RM25 million has been set aside by the MOF for Hasanah Special Grant 2 (HSG2), which will be launched in July 2021. The HSG2 will be all about creating real and lasting socio-economic changes for Malaysia through solutions that empower communities, encourage social inclusivity, and improve the environment. This will be based on scaling up of existing HSG partners initiative that has shown potential to be scalable, expandable, and reaching to benefit more targeted beneficiaries. HSG2 will be managed end to end by Hasanah, utilising its well-established existing governance, processes and procedures.
In early 2021, the Prime Minister of Malaysia rolled out Pakej Bantuan Perlindungan Ekonomi & Rakyat Malaysia (PERMAI)—which entails a total of 22 initiatives, valued at RM 15 billion—in furtherance of its three main objectives, which are combating the COVID-19 outbreak, safeguarding the welfare of the people, and supporting business continuity.
To realise one of the initiatives under PERMAI, the government allocated RM25 million towards the Government-Linked Companies (GLC) and Government-Linked Investment Companies (GLIC) Disaster Response Network (GDRN) that Hasanah coordinates together with TM as a joint-secretariat. The said amount was allotted in the form of matching grants to GLC and GLIC companies, which have also been active GDRN partners, in relation to the funding they had dedicated and spent for humanitarian causes.
The GDRN was created in 2013 through the Putrajaya Committee for GLC High Performance (PCG) with Khazanah Nasional Berhad as its Secretariat. The network was successfully deployed between 2013 and 2016 in various relief and reconstruction works, especially concerning the major floods that occurred in Kelantan, Pahang, and Johor, amongst others. Since 2014, the GDRN Secretariat is led by Telekom Malaysia Berhad as the Successor Entity to the PCG.
The funds allocated to the GDRN under PERMAI aims to amplify the support rendered to those adversely impacted by COVID-19 and floods. To date, eight GLCs are part of this assistance programme that involves aid in the form of food, sanitary items, infant and childcare items, masks, PPEs and disinfectants, household support and kitchen equipment, and cleaning services for areas impacted by the floods in the East Coast.
As the nation continues to battle COVID-19, the far-reaching socio-economic repercussions of the pandemic are being endured by vulnerable communities more than ever. As part of the recovery process, Malaysia’s Prime Minister launched the People and Economic Strategic Empowerment Programme (PEMERKASA) worth RM20 billion in March 2021, along with a new fiscal injection by the government amounting to RM11 billion.
One of the 20 PEMERKASA initiatives, which Yayasan Hasanah is assisting to manage, is Initiative 16: Menambahbaik Program Bantuan Rentan Bandar which, among others, includes an RM100 million allocation to provide basic food needs to 300,000 households identified by the Ministry of Finance. This pilot cash aid programme targets to benefit poor families and families living in extreme poverty from urban areas nationwide and will run from June 2021 until completion in December 2021.
Implemented end-to-end by the non-profit organisation MyKasih using its cashless payment system that leverages on the innovative MyKad technology, beneficiaries will receive RM100 per month for three months in their respective MyKads and will then be able to purchase necessary rations from MyKasih partner grocery stores.
The Hasanah Forum in 2021 will revolve around advancing the justice narrative in philanthropy alongside the call for greater collaboration within civil society in order to effectively contribute to nation-building. Throughout 2020, initiatives such as GDRN and MATCH revealed the far-reaching benefits of collaborative effort, which this foundation has long advocated and aspired for the sector.
Themed Vision For An Equal And Just Malaysia, the two day forum will have three sessions exploring the relationship between people and society, institutions, as well as leadership, respectively. Its purpose is to learn best practices for a justice-oriented framework and ways to bring about long term system-level change from sector leaders, plus the challenges and opportunities that come with them.
Battling the pandemic has once again shone a spotlight on the notion that economic disparities exacerbate other social inequalities. In the past year, we witnessed economic impact spiral into issues of access to digital resources and poor educational outcomes for disadvantaged groups, increased family violence, and poor mental and physical well-being, amongst others.
On the matter of livelihood alone, research indicates that the pandemic could cause a whopping 1 million to 2.4 million workers in Malaysia to fall into unemployment resulting in losses of around RM95 billion in household income. Lower-income households are also more vulnerable and face a higher risk of infection, further perpetuating or even worsening the cycle of poverty and inequality. This local context will set the tone for what is slated to be the first hybrid Hasanah Forum — conducted face-to-face and virtually — with local and international speakers and audience.
Arts for All Seasons (ArtsFAS) was the brainchild of Arts and Public Spaces Lead Zainariah Johari at the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic that unleashed a plethora of unforeseen trials and tribulations onto arts practitioners.
At a time when live performances weren’t possible, it offered an avenue to showcase and honour artists and the local arts by making them accessible.
It is now set to be an annual affair, taking place in the final quarter.
The working theme for 2021 is Socially Distanced Artistically Connected – Arts Matters for The Masters and his Students. Performances will represent the richness of Malaysian heritage with a touch of contemporary to appeal to a multi-generational audience. The smorgasbord of performances will range from authentic and pure to innovation and fusion. Content for the four-month-long festival is envisioned to include heritage elements like food such as those featured in one of our partners’ Kwih Project.
In the spirit of continuity and education. established performers will perform alongside their younger contemporaries— school-going children and youth—all of whom will become part of the ArtsFAS family and movement.
We hope this will be an initiator of sorts as far as national cultural identity is concerned by demonstrating and celebrating a shared heritage that is the pride of the nation.
Having witnessed the reach of virtual performances when social distancing rendered it the only kind feasible, we realise technology is important to future art appreciation and Hasanah sees the value in supporting digital consumption. Other forms of assistance will include matching funds, facilitating collaboration and Hasanah-curated shows.
Also in the pipeline is a weekend Arts Summit in December, bringing together practitioners, art councils, and policymakers across the region to discuss the significance and role of arts in nation-building. The hybrid summit will accommodate in-person and virtual attendance, depending on limitations at that time (if any). A special session of “Diaspora Malaysiana” is being planned involving Malaysians working in the arts space abroad to explore how things are approached in those places and possibly gain inspiration.
Besides the encouraging dialogue, it is hoped that such knowledge-sharing will influence policymakers to recognise the crucial role of the arts. In this regard, ArtsFAS aims to provide a space for imperative and intellectual discourse to take place and is hoped that, in the long run, will make all the difference.
Completed field testing of indicators
Developed communications plan
With the pilot rollout of the Alternate Assessment for Children with Learning Difficulties, (PASM – Pentaksiran Alternat Sekolah Menengah) expected in a dozen secondary schools nationwide in 2021, this year has been all about conceptualisation, design and realisation of instruments for that purpose. The partner is creating a tool to measure students’ abilities within their disabilities, an objective that traditional pen and paper examinations cannot satisfy.
Selected schools in Perlis were first introduced to embedded systems, coding, electronics, mobile apps, AI and various soft skills, after which students showcased their newly gained knowledge in innovation competitions with the ultimate goal of applying technology platforms to identify and solve real life problems in their community.
Economic devastation is possibly one of the most severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, second only to medical-related ones. And for the beneficiaries of Pertubuhan Kesihatan dan Kebajikan Umum Malaysia (PKKUM) comprising of urban poor, jobless, B40, single mothers, senior citizens, the differently-abled and other marginalised communities around Chow Kit, this is a very real problem. So much so that for some, putting food on the table daily was a huge challenge.
In response to this, PKKUM Pusat Bantuan Khidmat Sosial (PBKS) commenced its Food for All street feeding project during the very first MCO. On top of providing daily meals, its second objective was to assist those from B40 communities and whose earnings had been affected by COVID-19.
In July, PKKUM received the Hasanah Special Grant enabling it to provide 330 packs of food—guaranteed nutritious and comes with clean drinking water— for 110 beneficiaries on a daily basis.
“We heard and understood the day-to-day struggles of our beneficiaries when they came reaching out to us. The Food for All project plays a vital role in providing sustenance to the less fortunate, serving as a lifeline for communities in need that would otherwise starve,” explains PKKUM programme manager Myra Hashim on what led to the birth of this initiative.
With HSG assistance also, the organisation was able to expand the types of capacity building classes it offered, which at that time, covered topics such as how to conduct an online business, business registration, marketing and accounting. The organisation’s PBKS Project 2020 saw 20 beneficiaries benefit from monthly workshops and classes on basic business knowledge and management. The aim was to expose them to and equip them with skills suited for new job opportunities.
From an operations perspective, social distancing requirements have had a tremendous effect on the people-centric organisation that PKKUM is, limiting face-to-face interactions with its beneficiaries. But in time, everyday tasks were customised to comply with standard operating procedures and above all, keep everyone safe during a time when adapting is the only way forward.
A huge part of the Global Environment Centre’s (GEC) conservation efforts in the Upper Kinta River Basin (UKB) involves interacting with nearby communities and during the pandemic, they noticed an urgent need for alternative livelihood options. This led to an initiative to empower targeted Orang Asal and peri-urban communities living near the 25,000 hectare UKB—a crucial part of the Central Forest Spine and the primary watershed providing potable water to Ipoh.
Movement Control Orders posed a challenge to those who would typically venture out to sell their products while others employed by nearby quarries and development projects were adversely impacted when work was put on hold. Assistance from HSG was put to good use in response to this situation.
On key takeaways for the year, the GEC cites face-to-face meeting restrictions and lengthy feedback time of government agencies as hurdles that delayed implementation during already uncertain times.
“However, we quickly adapted to the situation and continued capacity building by conducting all meetings virtually, communicating via WhatsApp and mobilising local leaders to action. As many Orang Asal lack phone and internet access, an officer from the Department of Orang Asal Development facilitated communications during the early MCO phase,”
senior programme officer Sathis Venkitasamy explains.
Having overcome all that, the results speak for themselves. 35 families or 139 people in Kampung Makmur recorded increased income from the programme, an indication of GEC’s step in the right direction.
When pandemic-driven movement restrictions orders were enforced, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) was faced with a predicament. Its main source of income—ticketing sales—was lost.
Dr Wong Siew Te, the founder and Chief Executive Officer, explains that said revenue would normally go to cover husbandry cost for 43 rescued ex-captive sun bears that call it home, including an average of RM26,000 per month for their food.
The smallest of its kind and only found in Southeast Asia, the Malayan sun bears are unfortunately threatened by forest degradation, illegal hunting for body parts and poaching of their young for pet trade.
Owing to HSG, the rescue and rehabilitation centre in Sepilok, Sandakan was able to feed 40 bears and three cubs, without further depleting financial reserves that had been dipped into during challenging times.
Not only has the aid been helpful but also echoed the spirit of conservation as Dr Wong explains. “Besides, conservation is not the sole responsibility of the organisation,” he begins by saying. “Collaborations with the government and private agencies are essential to financial sustainability and growth of conservation efforts.”
Indeed, as we share this world with other living beings, we are all custodians in some regard, with organisations such as BSBCC leading the way. In 2008, the wildlife biologist, tropical forest ecologist and sun bear expert, who has been fascinated with animals all his life, founded BSBCC. Six years later, the large forest enclosures that provide a natural environment, facilitating their rehabilitation into the wild, opened its doors to visitors.
Though at the moment, BSBCC’s on-site visits may be temporarily replaced by virtual tours, the spirit and objectives of the centre—the only sun bear conservation facility in the world—is resounding as ever, as they tackle old problems threatening the lives of the species in new, no less challenging times.
One afternoon, Ayu (not her real name) and her three children walked two hours in the scorching heat to the nearest police station. With only RM20 in her pocket, the beatings she endured the night before in the hands of her husband was the final straw. Searching online led her to being referred to the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) and a social worker stayed in touch with her via phone right up to her lodging a police report, undergoing medical check-up and approved for interstate travel so that she and her children no longer had to be at the mercy of an abusive husband and father.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident.
Between March and May 2020, the WCC saw a near doubling of child sexual abuse (CSA) cases. Instances of domestic violence (DV) recorded an alarming increase too, making up 80 out of the 238 new cases handled.
The World Health Organisation attributed an increased likelihood of physical, psychological and sexual abuse at home (particularly children already living in violent or dysfunctional family situations) to ‘movement restrictions, loss of income, isolation, overcrowding and high levels of stress and anxiety’.
While dealing with escalating instances of CSA and DV, social distancing meant cancelling WCC’s major 35th anniversary fundraiser and budget reviews alongside a steep learning curve of operating remotely, all at once. As an organisation dependent on public donations to sustain work, it was badly affected monetarily and HSG assistance couldn’t have come at a better time.
According to WCC Executive Director Loh Cheng Kooi, the funding was well-utilised for a wide range of efforts, namely providing critical counselling for women and children, launching two online storybooks (Lisa and her Secret and Yusri and his Secret) aimed at children and teachers, ten awareness-driven webinars and 40 e-posters in BM, English, Chinese and Tamil as well as capacitating staff in handling and advocating cases in line with the new norm that included working from home with extended hotline hours.
That said, the organisation has reinvented itself and emerged stronger. “In every crisis, lies an opportunity. HSG enabled us to transform our physical work seamlessly into the virtual world; and the results were resounding, way beyond our expectations,” says Loh summing up the key takeaway from 2020.
For 32 years, Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation National Centre (KDSF-NC) has provided its Early Intervention Programme for children with Down syndrome, from the age of two months to six years. It involves therapy, exercises and activities designed to address developmental delays. Students pay a heavily subsidised, minimal-fee and further deductions are available for those from low-income families.
When COVID-19 hit, the centre had to close and its 34 students could no longer benefit from the sessions. Teachers and therapists had to upskill almost as quickly as decisions were being made. Hence, the KDSF Re-adapted Early Intervention Programme was born.
Concerning funding, public donations dwindled tremendously and all fundraising events came to a halt as most—such as the Annual Charity Funfair—involved large crowd attendance. Seeing that it depended solely on public donations to sustain operations and programmes, Heng says that HSG helped maintain the full teaching team, upgrade internet infrastructure and technology equipment.
“As a non-profit, we have always been prudent in our spending and preferred traditional teaching materials over investing in technology,”
KDSF–NC Executive Director Angie Heng explains, citing realising the importance of the latter as one of the organisations key learnings for 2020. Luckily, some of the teachers utilised their personal laptops, reducing the cost of procuring more devices.
Some other challenges were parents struggling to guide children through classes, giving up easily or lacking computer savviness. Teaching tools had to be improvised to suit what parents could find at home and therapists shouldered an additional role of guiding parents during activities.
“Some parents are receptive to this new way of education but do not have enough gadgets to utilise among their school-going children. It would usually be our students that have to give way to (for example) their older siblings who attend typical schools or require it for exams,” Heng observes.
Besides insufficient gadgets and poor internet connection, having parents watch over their shoulders throughout lessons and being unable to access teaching resources at the centre during restricted movement orders were but some of the hurdles. This experience brought to light the need to pay attention to the mental health of the facilitators.
On the bright side, having to convert to e-learning revealed the possibility of reaching students outside urban areas, rendering it a year of learning and re-learning for the organisation and its students alike.