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Malaysians take volunteerism to new heights despite COVID-19

Kuala Lumpur – Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world earlier this year, Malaysian volunteers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have proven that there is no obstacle in their pursuit to continue to serve the needy.

The needy who are assisted are not limited to those in the country, but also refugees and affected groups abroad as well as in conflict and disaster zones.

 

They are willing to face various risks, including the threat of COVID-19, to ensure that those in need were given attention, especially in providing basic food, medical and other assistance.

“As a Muslim it is our responsibility to help those in need. Whatever obstacles (including the COVID-19 challenge), we will try to overcome and continue to serve,” Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisation (MAPIM) honorary treasurer, Faris Hussain told Bernama in conjunction with the International Volunteer Day celebration today.

Perhaps many do not know that as many as 10 MAPIM volunteers, including its chief executive officer, Dr Ahmad Sani Araby Al Kahery are currently in war-torn Syria.

MAPIM volunteers who left for Turkey since last November to enter Syria, among others in a humanitarian mission, distributed 30 containers of winter aid (winter clothing, blankets and food), inaugurated MAPIM-built school in Idlib Syria, a Malaysian wakaf village for 1,000 Syrian refugees and built a bread factory.

Throughout the year, the commitment of Malaysian volunteers in the international arena was clearly evident when several Malaysian NGOs, including Malaysia For Syria (MFS), Global Peace Mission (GPM) Malaysia and Muslim Volunteer Malaysia (MVM) sent humanitarian missions abroad despite the risk of contracting COVID -19.

Last August, for example, the three NGOs sent volunteers to Lebanon for two weeks with humanitarian aid worth more than RM200,000 consisting of food, medical and home repair assistance during the massive explosion incident in Beirut Port.

“The mission to Lebanon last August was a sign of gratitude by Malaysians to the Lebanese who have been helping and providing protection to Syrian and Palestinian refugees,” said MFS chief executive officer Syahrir Azfar.

Syahrir said over the past two weeks, 50 young Malaysian volunteers had been involved in the provision of winter aid involving four containers worth RM1 million.

The winter aid comprising winter clothes, disposable diapers and food is provided in collaboration with MFS, GPM, MVM, Cinta Syria Malaysia (CSM), Peduli Ihsan Malaysia, MyFund Action, Rizk Ar-Rahman and NGO Haluan.

“These four containers will be shipped from Port Klang to Port Beirut. We will also send four volunteers to Lebanon for the winter humanitarian mission in January,” said Syahrir, who has been involved in volunteer work for more than 10 years.

Not only are they known to serve on the world stage, Malaysian volunteers have also diligently served the country, for example, volunteers of the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia Response and Relief Team (IMARET) and Mercy Malaysia who mobilised their volunteers to help the Health Ministry staff deal with COVID-19, including in the red zone.

The medical NGOs involved also donated medicines, medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks which once (around April) experienced shortage of supplies due to the sudden demand in the local and international markets.

“Uniquely for IMARET (and Mercy Malaysia), most of our volunteers are frontliners in hospitals or clinics. After office hours, they help voluntarily,” said IMARET COVID-19 Task Force Coordinator Dr Ahmad Munawwar Helmi Salim.

He said he was very proud of Malaysian volunteers because when the world was confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals came forward to volunteer and help even though their lives were also affected.

In conjunction with International Volunteer Day, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said his ministry would redouble its work on ‘volunteer communication’ to optimize the group’s role in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and also developing a digital community. – Bernama

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