31 October 2012, by Adeline Lum CM-
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:11)
God commanded His people to help the needy and poor before they crossed over to the Promised Land. Note that God said that the poor would never cease in the land. In other words, the poor will always live among them. In other words, we will always have the poor amongst us. Who then shall care for them?
Ooi Kiah Hui responded to God’s calling upon completing her Master’s in conservation biologist to serve the poor. Touched by Rwanda’s war-torn state, she wondered how long more the people would take to restore their lives, if it takes so long to restore the landscape?
Out of Mess, God Made Something Beautiful
Ooi Kiah Hui had been working in Malaysian Care for twelve years now. As the director of the Urban and Rural Development, Kiah Hui had been struggling to find a workable model that would lift the urban poor off their poverty cycle. By the grace of God, Kiah Hui and her team developed an urban financial literacy program designed to empower the poor in managing their finances and start small business.
“The program is started for households earning less than RM1200. The families do not even have enough food, and this is pretty common among our participants,” said Kiah Hui.
She shared a story of Devi, whose husband was an alcoholic in the rehabilitation center. Earning no income to feed her children, she survived from receiving providence support in the form of groceries by MyKasih Foundation. MyKasih is a foundation of Dialogue Group, an oil and gas company, which offers RM80 worth of groceries per month to poor households. After saving her money over a few months, Devi used the money to start a fruit-cutting stall, eventually earning her a stable income.
“Devi is one of the success stories. After graduating from the financial literacy program, she became the community leader in helping other poor people to be financially stable and independent,” said Kiah Hui.
Nevertheless, not every story is smooth sailing. Another lady, Kanchana, also started a small breakfast business, whose husband was an alcoholic and abuser. She started a small curry puff store, and was beginning to gain a stable income from her loyal customers. But one day, her husband threw one his too-familiar tantrum and flung out all her pots, pans, and ingredients from the house.
“She lost hope that day and told us she wanted to die. But our staffs stayed and cleaned the mess with her. We want to encourage her to keep going,” said Kiah Hui.
Kiah Hui witnessed the daily messiness of human struggle, especially among the poor. But amidst the pain, she also sees God’s hand at work in creating beauty and turning around the messiest situation.
Scratching heads for a Solution
Malaysian Care is born from the Good Will of God in desiring the well being of people, and wanting people to have a shelter, clothes, and sufficient food. Its purpose is to make God real and visible among the poor and destitute. If the person seeks for the Lord, Malaysian Care would connect the person with its partnering churches.
Kiah Hui wished to see the community developed and changed as a whole. She believes in the power of people coming together as a group in helping each other get out from the poverty cycle.
“What I am interested to find is an alternative economy for the poor because the mainstream economy does not favor nor fit them,” said Kiah Hui.
She realized the poorest of the poor do not gain access to existing government programs because they are unaware of the program, they do not know how to use it, or they are not ready to receive assistance.
Before the financial literacy program was developed, Kiah Hui was thankful for agencies that provide welfare assistance and providence of monthly groceries to the poor. However, Kiah Hui also realized that giving food per month would not provide long term and sustainable solution.
Kiah Hui prayed to God for a solution and God sent her colleagues specializing in investments and unit trust funds. Together, they compiled materials for the financial literacy program.
“I can experience how God is so real, how He can give me solutions. It’s so important to work closely with God,” said Kiah Hui.
Stick Around When Times are Tough
The financial literacy program runs for 12 months, once per month, to stabilize the household income by giving the poor tools to start a business. Since it’s launched two years ago, the financial literacy program has reached 448 people, with 212 of them graduated. Fifteen churches, involving 70 volunteers, were trained to teach the financial literacy program in their community.
“When investing in people’s lives, I find that one must stick through the months and years to see people lives’ changed,” say Kiah Hui.
Urban Financial Literacy Program that Works!
So, to wrap it up in one big picture, the urban financial literacy program was developed for the poor staying at the low-cost flats, kampungs, and squatters. It is designed to achieve community transformation, economic development, and reducing poverty. To leave the poverty cycle, the participants will be taught financial management skills in a group, allowing them to start and run small businesses such as stores.
Malaysian Care also provides free services to the urban poor such as tuition classes, sports program and youth community programs such as protecting one from bullying.
Who then shall I send to the Poor?
As John Michael Talbot sang in “Here I am, Lord”, God asked:
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Who then shall God send? Kiah Hui responded, “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I will go, Lord, if you lead me.”
A song that remains meaningful in Kiah Hui’s heart, she was moved by God’s heart for the poor. And through Kiah Hui, God sent His Love to the poor.
I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save
Would you respond to God if He calls you? Let us show God’s Love to the poor and destitute today.
Are you interested to learn more about the financial literacy program?