While his own Temasek Hotel business was facing difficulties with no tourism due to the pandemic, alumnus Mr Leong Sang Khim (Class of 1986) still decided he had the resources to help others in the community. In July 2021 he started 'FoodBank4Melaka' in his hometown of Melaka, Malaysia, to help needy families.
He roped in fellow alumnus Mr Tan Puay Tong (Class of 1986) and together they approached other alumni and friends to contribute to the Food Bank. Mr Leong worked on-site at his hotel premises with a dedicated volunteer team of former schoolmates, friends and hotel staff packing and distributing the food packs, while Mr Tan focused on raising donations and spreading the word via social media platforms. “It was heartening to receive positive responses from our alumni friends," said Mr Tan. "One of them even influenced his son to collect donations from his own colleagues."
With the donations coming in from fellow alumni, former schoolmates and locals, Mr Leong and his team put together a list of seven basic food items that were then packed and given out to 200 needy families each Wednesday and Friday.
The beneficiaries ranged from low-income families, those who were retrenched during the pandemic, the elderly and the disabled, all of whom were subject to the Movement Control Order in Malaysia intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, and which had affected their livelihoods.
During the last few days of the donation drive, the team observed an increase in needy residents who rushed to queue at his hotel. "The second-last day of the distribution ended by 10.30 am, so we prepared more packs on top of our usual 200 for final distribution," said Mr Leong. After 13 weeks of distributing a total of 5,260 food packs, FoodBank4Melaka concluded on the afternoon of 1 October 2021.
"This Food Bank had made us extremely happy, and we enjoyed giving back to society in our own ways," said Mr Leong. "These three months have been a good run, and I would like to thank all those who have chipped in and encouraged others to participate, especially the Class of 1986."
On what motivated him to contribute to the Food Bank, Mr Tan said: "I grew up very poor, and my family used to stay beside a hospital. When our relatives who were sick had to put up at our place because there were no hospital beds available, my mother would borrow money to buy rice and meat to cook for them."
"Once, I asked her, 'We are already so poor, and we do not have enough for ourselves. Why do you still borrow money to help them?' She replied, 'We are healthy people and we can eat tapioca. But sick people need more nutritious food to heal.'" Those words stuck with Mr Tan for a long time, and they encouraged him to go beyond himself to help others.
Mr Leong remains appreciative of his experiences as a student in university which have helped him contribute to the success of the Food Bank. He said: "I am grateful for the curriculum and lecturers who taught us how to become practical engineers ready to face up to any challenge."
Mr Tan added in agreement: "As engineers, we applied what we’ve learnt in University by drawing out plans and standard operating procedures to ensure a systematic Food Bank that adheres to safe distancing guidelines."