Syrian volunteer and friends do good by refugees in Malaysia

The team from Faith Free Market and AHVN distributing Hari Raya baskets (Pic courtesy of Faith Free Market and Al-Hassan Volunteer Network)

PETALING JAYA: Twenty-year-old Syrian refugee Hasan Al-Akraa has a lot on his plate. Besides pursuing a degree in education at Nottingham University, he runs an organisation he founded to support refugees in Malaysia.

The Al-Hasan Volunteer Network (AHVN) has just completed handing out special food packages for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri and is now focused on crowdfunding to help raise funds for the medical treatment for a pair of Rohingya twins born prematurely.

“Hasan in Arabic means goodness, so AHVN literally means the goodness volunteer network,” Hasan told FMT.

Founded by Hasan in 2016, AHVN has organised 200 to 300 projects for refugees in Malaysia, focusing mainly on education, livelihood and healthcare.

During the Movement Control Order (MCO) that began in mid-March, the network donated provisions to 1,370 refugee families.

“Before the MCO, most refugees were doing jobs that paid daily. A few were paid monthly but the wages were low as refugees are often taken advantage of.

“When businesses were forced to close because of the Covid-19 pandemic, these refugees lost their only source of income and we knew we had to help ease their burden.”

So throughout the MCO, AHVN focused on supplying groceries to these refugee families.

The provision pack that was donated to refugee families. (Pic courtesy of Faith Free Market and Al-Hassan Volunteer Network)

Each provision pack contained the essentials, such as rice, eggs, potatoes, onions, sugar, salt, cooking oil, spaghetti and vegetables. Hasan said each RM50 pack could last a family of five for about two weeks.

“Every Hari Raya, we usually organise a big open house for about 500 refugee families. There will usually be a lot of food, sweets, Raya treats, performances and music.

“Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, we were unable to organise such a large-scale event. Two weeks before Hari Raya, we came up with the idea to organise a special delivery of groceries instead containing really lovely items.”

Each basket was packed with a selection of Raya cookies, 14 apples, 14 oranges, sweets, biscuits, children’s toys, Raya clothes for the women and a Giant Hypermarket voucher worth RM50.

The team spread the joy further by handing out Duit Raya to more than 300 children.

“The special Hari Raya baskets were full of items that could liven-up their Raya. Due to limited funding however, we could provide the special baskets to only 100 families, including five single Malaysian mothers.”

Refugees receiving Duit Raya and baskets. (Pic courtesy of Faith Free Market and Al-Hassan Volunteer Network)

“I have many good memories from this initiative but one person who was particularly memorable was Yusra Ali, the community leader for Yemeni women in Gombak.”

Hasan related how Yusra donated 100 bags of dates from her own supply when she realised that the baskets of goodies going out to the refugees, contained no dates.

“She had used her own savings to purchase the dates. A single mum and struggling, yet she was willing to spend whatever she had to ensure the other refugee families had food,” Hasan said.

He told FMT he is grateful to all the organisations, such as Faithmen, Philandure, Beyond Borders, Impact Malaysia, Red Crescent Malaysia, Fave Biz and the Cheka Movement, that have helped AHVN with distribution, crowdfunding and relief aid.