405,551. Four hundred thousand, five hundred fifty-one. Seems like a mouthful? That’s how many poor households there are in Malaysia as of 2020 (Jaafar, 2020).
Poor households in Malaysia are defined as citizens who live with a monthly income of RM2,208 or less. These are individuals who live from paycheck to paycheck, working diligently to ensure food on the table and a roof over their heads. From laborious work to various mundane tasks, the underprivileged are truly a Jack of all trades as they are able to swiftly adapt to new situations and pick up various skills to keep themselves relevant in the job market. While we should not romanticise the lack of accessibility this community has when it comes to resources, their assiduity in persevering through life is admirable. Imagine having to count your pennies every day just to get by, and in comes a full-blown pandemic! When Covid-19 hit the globe, no one saw it coming. The whole world halted to a standstill with quarantine regulations issued for everyone’s safety, inviting a ripple effect that forced an economic downturn. The unemployment rate in Malaysia rose by a whopping 169% upon the commencement of the two Movement Control Orders (Surendran, 2020). As people started getting laid off resulting in changes of lifestyle so as to adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), life became rough for everyone, what more for those impoverished.
Given all this, one may wonder who helps the underprivileged communities. Apart from government aid, the impactors of Malaysia are the unsung heroes in the face of adversity. These impactors include Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Social Enterprises (SEs) or passionate individuals who prioritise the interest of the communities. Most of these impactors operate on a small scale and lack the resources and manpower to tackle long-term goals for the betterment of everyone (British Council, 2018). The primary aim of many organisations is simply to address the immediate problems at hand, which provides a temporary fix. In the larger picture, this lack of resources disrupts plans for sustainable change.
On one hand, we have the B40 group who lack job opportunities and need the help of impactors; on the other, we have impactors who seek resources and manpower to enhance their initiatives. Putting two and two together, Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (YIM), SME Corp Malaysia, Biji-biji Initiative, and Me.reka came up with Rumah Rakyat to bridge this evident gap! The Rumah Rakyat platform is a centralised directory for the People’s Housing Programme or Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) communities nationwide. PPR is a Malaysian government initiative to provide affordable housing for low-income communities. With Rumah Rakyat, changemakers, impact organisations, and entrepreneurs can get connected with PPR residents and relevant stakeholders. The platform is designed with accessibility in mind, to raise awareness on the availability and underutilisation of hardworking, persistent individuals in PPR communities who are ready to bring change to their lives. By shining a spotlight upon these communities, Rumah Rakyat aims to kickstart an ecosystem that allows the public to understand and empathise with them, and normalise efforts to collaborate with needy communities and community leaders to increase efficiency when crafting solutions for community-centric issues. Being able to engage directly with the people impacted can truly change the game of these impactors.
On the Rumah Rakyat website, there are three distinct groups - impactors, interventions and PPR Communities. The ‘Impactors’ refer to changemakers or passionate individuals who want to make a difference. ‘PPR Communities’ are the residents of PPR housing. As the glue that binds the two, ‘Interventions’ are projects, programmes or efforts between the Impactors and PPR Communities to improve their livelihoods. In NGO@Makerthon, a programme that engages PPR communities and NGOs, Rumah Rakyat is the official platform that connects the participating NGOs to the PPR communities. Through the programme, participants undergo training to develop and adopt STIE (Science, Technology, Innovation and Engineering) and entrepreneurship skills. Following that is the development, mentorship and guidance of product and service innovations to be implemented in PPR communities. A nationwide competition will be held at the end to select the best PPR community solutions, which will then conclude with a Finale at the end of the programme..
Keen to participate or learn more about Rumah Rakyat, NGO@Makerthon and other similar initiatives? Be sure to check out the website for news and updates!
British Council. (2018). The state of social enterprise in Malaysia. British Council. https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/the_state_of_social_enterprise_in_malaysia_british_council_low_res.pdf
Jaafar, S. S. (2020, July 10). Malaysia’s absolute poverty rate at 5.6% — chief statistician. The Edge Markets. theedgemarkets.com/article/malaysias-poverty-rate-rises-56-—-chief-statistician
Surendran, S. (2021, January 11). Surviving The Impact of Covid-19: A trying year for job holders. The Edge Markets. https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/surviving-impact-covid19-trying-year-job-holders