Charity homes feel the squeeze as donations dry up

Ann’s Care Centre in Cheras is among the charity homes running into difficulties during the movement control order period.

PETALING JAYA: Cyinthia Shamini has been having restless nights since the movement control order brought about restrictions on public activities from March 18.

Shamini is the manager of Ann’s Care Centre, a home for the elderly in Cheras, and her mind is filled with worries about funds for daily operations.

The home’s finances are being stretched, as relatives of the patients fail to settle their bills on time. Some manage to pay only half a month’s fee. Others cannot afford to pay at all.

“It became very hard to pay the utility bills and do grocery shopping,” she told FMT. She struggles to acquire food items such as bread, eggs and basic necessities such as gloves and masks.

Patients are also affected by the restrictions especially since they cannot go for medical check-ups. Relatives would usually take them for their medical checks.

Residents at Ann’s Care Centre rest in the hall.

The health of some patients is deteriorating, she says. Lack of visits by relatives has affected them the most. “These visits are very important to them. This entire situation, the MCO and the Covid-19 pandemic, is frustrating.”

May Heah, who is in charge of One Heart Orphanage in Ipoh, similarly said the home lacks funds. “Yes, it is difficult for us because no one could come and donate. But there are people who come to give us food and basic necessities,” she said.

The home cares for 32 children, aged between two years and 18, looked after by seven staff.

Heah said a volunteer helper had sent out an appeal for public donations in March.

“After the message went out, there were people who came forward to assist us financially. We received a sum of money but it is far from our target,” she said.

Pusat Kebajikan Lao Yin Kah chairman Yap Ying Long speaks to volunteers at the home before Chinese New Year. (Yap Ying Long pic)

Yap Ying Long, the chairman of Pertubuhan Kebajikan Lao Yin Kah, an old folk’s home in Kepong, said contributions from the public had dried up as no one could visit their centre because of the travel restrictions.

He had also barred visitors to the home to ensure the senior residents are not infected with Covid-19. There are 15 people, aged between 65 and 86, living in the home.

“Our electricity and water bills cost about RM1,000 a month and without donations, I have to fork out my own money for utility bills and to pay the salary of two caretakers,” he said.

Asked if he had thought about seeking donations through social media appeals, Yap said the centre wanted to maintain a low profile.

A volunteer cuts the hair of a senior citizen at Pusat Kebajikan Lao Yin Kah in Kepong. (Yap Ying Long pic)

“My committee members agreed that we only inform people we know that the home needs funds to operate. If we publicise (seeking donation), I’m afraid people may misuse our name for their own benefit,” he said.

However, he said the home was open to anyone who sincerely wanted to help.

James Nayagam, chairman of the Suriana Welfare Society, says he is aware that some charitable homes are not receiving the usual funds. “During a lockdown, people would rather prioritise groups most in need,” he said, and it was to be expected such homes would not receive funds.

“The donors are responding, reasonably, to a situation where they contribute to those with immediate needs. Some want to give, but they’re also short of income and need to make a choice.”

He said many charitable homes had sufficient reserves to sustain themselves. If they could not hold up for two months, it would be an indictment of their managing skills.

Nayagam, who has managed children’s homes for 30 years, said there were ways to get around such problems. “These homes should also appeal to the public for food items instead of money,” he said.

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