Causes Week: Building from the ground up

Causes Week 2018: Knocking on doors to offer goodwill, aid

Project Goodwill Aid founder Siti Nurani Mohd Salim shopping for shoes with (from left) Puteri Nurinsyirah Abdullah, 11; Muhammad Sofiyan Shah Yusri, eight; Muhammad Syaffiq Yusri, 10; and Rabeeatul Adawiyah Edros, nine.
Project Goodwill Aid founder Siti Nurani Mohd Salim shopping for shoes with (from left) Puteri Nurinsyirah Abdullah, 11; Muhammad Sofiyan Shah Yusri, eight; Muhammad Syaffiq Yusri, 10; and Rabeeatul Adawiyah Edros, nine.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The tiny rental flat was crawling with bedbugs, and one young child was tied up. Another child was crying when volunteers paid a visit.

The squalor and suffering of the children shocked Ms Siti Nurani Mohd Salim, who was accompanying a friend to knock on doors at a rental block to see if there were families who needed help.

An executive who deals with club memberships, Ms Siti, a 36-year-old married mother of two, could not forget what she saw. She and other volunteers cleaned the flat and reported the abuse to the police.

She decided to do more to alleviate the suffering that goes on "behind closed doors" and started her own informal group, Project Goodwill Aid, about five years ago. Since then, she has seen all kinds of suffering, from poverty to absent parents to family violence.

The group has more than 20 volunteers now, and they regularly check on the tenants of rental flats to see how they can help.

Such aid can include food donations, taking lonely elderly residents out for meals or linking families with other help services.

The group also organises seasonal or festive activities for the needy.

For example, during the year-end school holidays, it asks donors to take children from the families they help shopping to buy school necessities, such as shoes and bags.

Madam Sharita Kamarudin, 35, a mother of seven, is thankful for the school necessities her children have received from Project Goodwill Aid.

 
 
 

Her husband works as a furniture mover and finances are tight. She now pays it forward as a volunteer, cleaning flats for elderly people and distributing food, for instance.

The housewife said: "I can't contribute money but I can contribute my time and energy to underprivileged families like ours."

Ms Siti recalled one family, whose sole breadwinner, a driver, died of a heart attack at age 40. His widow was pregnant with their sixth child and had no money to pay for the funeral expenses.

Ms Siti and her volunteers helped with that, took the children out to buy school supplies and looked in on her until she was emotionally and financially more stable.

The family thanked Ms Siti and her volunteers with a home-cooked meal. "It's priceless when they hug us and say 'thank you'," she said.

Ms Siti said she used to spend thousands of dollars on just one branded bag, but she no longer does so. She said: "I think of how many bags of rice I can buy to help these families instead of buying one $4,000 bag."

• Visit the group's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/projectgoodwillaid

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2018, with the headline 'Knocking on doors to offer goodwill, aid'. Print Edition | Subscribe