Impact Stories | Civic Engagement

Celebrating Malaysia Day and Concluding Protecting Our Frontliners

Sanidhya Mathur
April 30, 2021
Malaysia Day celebrations this year carry the theme of ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ (Malaysia Cares) in recognition of the patient and determined nature of fellow Malaysians facing the trials and tribulations posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a challenging journey, no doubt, but it has also been an opportunity to bring out the best in us

On that note, we would like to take this opportunity to thank and celebrate everyone who supported our decentralised PPE production initiative. As Malaysia fought COVID-19, many doctors, nurses, police officers and other critical service staff were left short-handed due to the global shortage of PPE. The frontliners lacked the medical essentials needed to ensure their safety. We quickly mobilised our network of suppliers, producers and logistics providers to help meet this ever-growing demand for PPE equipment. In March we kickstarted Phase 1 of the “Protecting Our Frontliners'' campaign, which saw us utilise an NGO model of production. By engaging with the public to secure donations, we fulfilled an overwhelming amount of requests for face shields, aero chambers and patient isolation boxes. This was not an individual effort, but rather a community-driven initiative whereby numerous partners worked in tandem to leverage from collective resources as a means to support those at the frontlines. This initiative was powered through our COVID-19 Relief Platform, through which hospitals and other frontline organizations were able to make requests for the PPE that they urgently required. Producers, suppliers, and logistics providers were also able to join our platform and share their resources and capacities to ensure that PPE requests were met.

Phase 1 was able to raise RM 129,473 and deliver 24,670 faceshields, 1,505 aerochambers, and 58 patient isolation boxes to 75 frontline organizations. Through phase 1 alone, this collaborative effort successfully impacted over 47 hospitals and 24,670 frontliners. As months passed, other medical necessities such as PPE Scrub Sets became apparent — in total, our community of partners received 62,222 requests for PPE Scrubs. We realised that our individual efforts, while still working towards a positive change, would be unparalleled if consolidated into an entire community of suppliers, producers, and logistics, whereby partners could leverage from each other’s capacity and resources to ensure the greatest collective impact. And thus brought upon this decentralised model of production, capacity building, and impact creation. Also taking into consideration financial sustainability, we collaborated with our network of creative hubs, makers and tailors to form the Social Textiles Initiative and initiate Phase 2 of our PPE relief. This movement incorporated a Social Enterprise Model, which prioritised the people and planet whilst also ensuring business longevity — the earnings in a social enterprise allow the organisation to provide for its stakeholders and also maintain the longevity of its primary goal, social impact.

The Social Textiles Initiative consisted of 9 local, impact-based organisations, comprising of sew X dignity, Suri Lifestyle, Tanoti Crafts, Batik Boutique, Earth Heir, MyFund Action, Setia, Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace and Biji Biji Ethical Fashion coming together to create a meaningful and inclusive solution for the PPE Scrubs shortages within Malaysia, with the help of local Malaysian craftsmen. On top of delivering PPE’s to frontline organisations, the production initiative successfully empowered local communities by creating livelihood opportunities and engaged local organisations and social enterprises to ensure business sustainability in such volatile times.

In total, The Social Textiles Collective was able to deliver 36,324 PPE Scrub Hoods, 35,764 Boots, 1,270 Gowns, and 16,267 complete Scrub Sets to 56 frontline organizations across Malaysia.

COVID-19 hit our organisation in the midst of our digital transformation, just as we were in the development phase of our Me.reka Digital Platform that aims to bridge the gap between innovators (changemakers, scientists, entrepreneurs, SMEs, NGOs, universities and government agencies) and innovation hubs (research and development labs, design and prototyping studios, rapid (digital) manufacturing facilities, engineering studios, makerspaces and universities) to create an innovation-friendly, collaborative environment, allowing for a community-centric approach towards innovation and impact creation through the leveraging of shared resources. Upon noticing the overwhelming necessity for PPE, we saw an opportunity to create a beta platform that served to connect key resources and partners for the means to supply PPEs for the frontliners in need. The COVID-19 Beta Platform acted as a catalyst for community and capacity building through a collaborative spirit. Again, this was not an individual effort. Trauma has a way of uniting us, and this pandemic that we continue to face as a family, community and country has brought us together.

This experience was a clear indication that it was no longer about what we each could do by ourselves, but rather how we could communicate effectively with others to ensure that impact is optimised. Collectively, through phases one and two of our PPE Initiative, RM 720,417 was channelled into our community of creative hubs, logistics and supply partners, and Malaysian craftsmen. This community-driven initiative actualized the notion of “Global Problems, Local Solutions”. The decentralized effort allowed everybody to tackle the same issue, communal and locally, through collective effort. Indeed, in such unpredictable times, it is innovation and collaboration that propel society forward and keep our heads above water. Watching the communities, organizations and individuals across the nation band together to solve a communal problem was incredibly heartening. Our spirits were lifted knowing that the people of Malaysia had each other’s backs and were ready to stride hand in hand towards positive social impact.

As we close phases one and two of our PPE initiative, as a social enterprise, we stand strong in our conviction that transparently sharing our initiatives finances is necessary. We strive to champion social entrepreneurship and, in doing so, believe it is necessary to remain fully transparent with our stakeholders. This work is not about profitability, but rather maintaining a social obligation. Throughout the initiative, our platforms consistently updated financial information regarding total donations, product costing and delivery fulfilment as a means of practising self-governance and accountability. In such times of crisis, especially when public funds and donations are involved, we believe it is our duty to uphold certain guidelines and standards to ensure accountability of our actions. Phase 1 of our PPE initiative was audited by an external auditor, Kishen Jasani (CA). The relevant reports and supporting documents for both phases will be attached below.

Throughout these months of being at the forefront of such an impactful and meaningful campaign that included various partners and stakeholders, we gained valuable industry insight on how to appropriately activate such an initiative under the social enterprise model. We are therefore compiling a document of our experiences and will be sharing what we found to be the best practices in organizing such an initiative. Through this, we hope to further the conversation of socially conscious businesses in Malaysia. While the fight against COVID-19 is far from over, we are certain of one thing: together with the collective support of Malaysians nationwide, we are able to triumph through any adversity that comes our way! We hope this day serves as a reminder of the powerful things we can do as a united nation.

On behalf of everyone at the Biji-biji Initiative, BBEF, Me.reka, Taylors Me.reka Makerspace team, we wish you a Selamat Hari Malaysia and hope you stay safe in your celebrations!

Sanidhya Mathur

Sanidhya Mathur is a content writer at Me.reka with a passion for producing content that reflects and communicates diverse experiences through a shared vision of social innovation.