PETALING JAYA: Once bustling with visitors and exciting nightlife, tourism in Langkawi today is nonexistent thanks to Malaysia’s lockdowns and border closures because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most people who reside here depend on tourism jobs, and have been out of work or have turned to farming or fishing to support themselves.
Struck by the number of families requesting help on the Kita Jaga app, friends Alia Ali and Michelle Yip have launched a fund to provide essentials to those affected by the pandemic.
The women, both 36, have been residing in Langkawi for the past three years. They recently observed unfulfilled requests for baby products such as diapers and milk formula, so they decided to deliver these items to those in need.
“We started on July 24 with two families but quickly realised we had limited funds, so we posted our mission on social media and got the funding ball rolling,” Alia tells FMT.
Word spread through the families they helped, and these days Alia and Michelle receive multiple text messages daily requesting aid. They have more than 80 families on their list.
According to Michelle, the duo have so far handed out 26 care packages, but it has not come without challenges. Apart from the funding issue, “many families are scattered in different areas, and we drive a car that is only able to ferry seven to eight care packs at a time”, she says.
Alia explains that their aim is to support the work of other groups that are helping Langkawi’s needy.
“Langkawi is such a popular destination for city transplants and expatriates who have been helping out by setting up food banks. We are just one of many, and we want to complement their efforts and cover areas they are unable to reach,” she says.
The women customise their care packages according to the needs of each family. They select long-lasting vegetables – melons and gourds, long beans, cabbage, carrots, turnips and potatoes – as some do not own fridges, in addition to basic foodstuff such as rice, salt, cooking oil, tea sachets, biscuits, seasonings, chilli paste, onions, garlic and eggs.
Frozen chicken or fish are given to families that own a fridge and functional stove.
The care packs also include cleaning products and toiletries such as laundry detergent, body wash, shampoo, dish soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and sanitary pads.
And for mothers, milk formula and diapers are provided.
In addition to monetary contributions, Alia and Michelle are seeking donations of face masks as many families in Langkawi cannot afford them. “They either recycle the same masks or use really flimsy ones,” Alia says.
The duo were also heartbroken to learn that theirs was the first form of assistance some families had received since the start of the movement control order last year. They hope those who are able will donate in cash or kind, or simply spread the word about their cause to others.
“When the borders are allowed to reopen, we wish for more people – especially Malaysians – to visit Langkawi again,” Michelle says.
“Your contributions to Langkawi’s economy will mean the world to the locals.”
Make a donation or keep track of the Langkawi fund through its Instagram profile.