Heidy Quah, the co-founder and director of Refuge For The Refugees (RFTR), recently took to Facebook to share the heartbreaking truth about families in need amid this pandemic
She wrote, "Broke down for the first time today in a long time."
"Just over the past week, we've received pleas for help from over 1,500 families. Despite providing grocery packs to over 400 families this week and last, calls are still rolling in."
She says that the RFTR hotline has been buzzing over the past week with calls every 10 minutes and over 100 text messages in a day
"The voice notes being sent to us are absolutely heartbreaking.
"Probably some of the hardest things to listen to and digest. Pictures of empty milk tins. Empty rice tongs. Small children. I cannot imagine having to beg and plead in such a way," Quah elaborated in her post.
During a call with SAYS, Quah illustrated these struggles much further. She said, "Refugees and migrant workers who have lost their jobs and have zero income would reach out to RFTR. There are communication problems in terms of a language barrier, so we would receive photos of empty rice tongs, empty milk tins, just so they can really show how they have no food at all."
She shared that in a recent case, a father of a sick child reached out to them, saying that he only had RM17 left. His child had been hospitalised since January after experiencing fits and high fever, but he had to pull the child out of the hospital after accumulating a RM6,000 bill.
"He didn't know what to do, he cannot go even go buy medicine with only RM17. Families are literally watching their children die because they cannot go to the hospital," Quah said.
She then added that this was a common situation among those who reach out to RFTR for aid.
Quah also said that although their NGO is focused on helping migrants and refugees, lately, they have also received calls from people in the B40 community.
"People are desperate and are trying to find absolutely anyone who is willing to help. We try to cater to them too," she noted.
The 19-person RFTR team is facing great challenges in trying to help these families in need
Quah elaborated and said that it has been very overwhelming for her and other volunteers.
"The team isn't dealing with it very well," she admitted to SAYS when asked about how RFTR has been managing in these trying times.
"As first contact point for these people, when they reach out, it is often a lot to process, especially for those who feel very deeply. Besides that, time is short. How do we tell people to delay hunger? How do we tell people to wait for help? Usually, they only ask for food. They're just asking for rice, not even something like chicken because that's a privilege for most. The team is just trying really hard."
She then explained that they usually send out aid in the form of grocery packs on Saturdays as they spend other days of the week compiling a list of beneficiaries, run background checks on the families, and respond to messages and calls.
However, lately, there's been an increase in more urgent situations where families are left with no food at all and the team is forced to send out help on weekdays as well.
Quah then added that the team they have now is much smaller than the team they usually work with prior to the Movement Control Order (MCO). She revealed that there aren't issues in getting volunteers, but getting permits for them and keeping their team safe while COVID-19 cases remain high are two of the biggest challenges RFTR are currently facing.
After her recent Facebook post, more donations have been rolling in and Quah expressed that her team is very grateful
The post has garnered over 700 shares and she said that more people have been reaching out to them, with some offering food and supplies as an alternative to monetary donations.
She noted that they also meet challenges when accepting donations that are not in the form of money as the small team will have to manage logistics, and more often than not, these donations do not come in bulk. Therefore, monetary donations are the best form of help the team can receive.
In her post, she highlighted that RM60 will be able to cover the cost of a pack of groceries for these families in need. Nonetheless, any little amount matters and will be put to good use.
To donate, you can transfer money to their account:
PERSATUAN KEBAJIKAN PERLINDUNGAN KANAK-KANAK PELARIAN
8000499285 (CIMB Bank)