WHEN single mother Susilla’s dilapidated house was threatening to collapse on herself and her extended family, it took a motley group of people from all walks of life to come to her rescue and rebuild her home.
Forget about the slew of disheartening headlines we’re confronted with these days — if there’s anything to learn from the volunteer group We Love, We Care, We Share (WLWCWS), it’s that the spirit of caring and giving is still very much alive and well in Malaysia.
“The house was practically falling apart,” recalls founder and coordinator of WLWCWS, Ivan Zuzartee. “The roof had multiple leaks and the rear wall had detached itself from the rest of the structure. It was only a matter of time before it collapsed, potentially bringing down with it the entire roof as well.”
Learning about Susilla’s plight through his group member Kopplai Krishnan, Zuzartee decided to mobilise his volunteers.
“Initial consultation with contractors put the cost of repairing her house at RM10,000. I put it up on Facebook and within two days, we raised close to RM20,000. Subsequent checks however revealed that major remedial works needed to be carried out, including rewiring and plumbing. The second quotation we obtained came up to almost double the amount we raised,” recalls Zuzartee wryly.
Undeterred, he tapped on the various backgrounds of his members to get the job done. “One of our members, Jimmy Seah, was an ex-contractor and he volunteered to do the job. A friend of another member, Shamini Nair, who runs a company dealing with prefabricated roofing donated the entire roof,” he reveals, before adding with a smile: “It initially took a while to source the right contractor and workers who could fit the time schedule and budget but it got done. A month later, we had a beautiful house for her.”
PLATFORM TO HELP
Getting things done seems to be Zuzartee’s forte. The thread on the WLWCWS Facebook page reveals his tenacity and ability to match resources and voluntary work according to the projects that they take on. “Some members have the resources but not the time, while some have the time but not necessarily the resources. We need both to get things done.
“Here, we have a symbiosis of both — the manpower and the resources. It’s all about coordinating and putting it together to make a difference,” explains Zuzartee, before conceding that it’s not easy but it’s something that he takes in his stride.
“We create a conduit for people who like to do charity but don’t know how,” he says of his volunteer group. “We bring together resources, people and know-how to get things done and it has worked well for the many projects we’ve taken on as a team.”
From feeding the homeless, running food banks for the poor, providing school uniforms for orphans, organising parties in old folks’ homes, and in the case of Susilla and her family, building a secure home —it seems that the formula of gathering resources and mobilising volunteers has been the right mix for Zuzartee and his band of good samaritans.
“Getting things done” is a phrase he uses often. And that clearly defines the no-nonsense approach Zuzartee applies to running the volunteer group. “There are no side benches reserved for onlookers. We’re here for one reason only — to help alleviate the suffering of the underprivileged. We have a wonderful pool of people of all races
Emphatically, he says: “We started running many projects and soon it just made sense to put it under one banner. One of our members came up with ‘We Love, We Care, We Share’ and that struck a chord with us. It described in a nutshell what we were doing. We love what we do, we care about what we do and we share whatever little resources we have.”
His face softens as he recalls the many occasions he’s been touched by the people he has reached out to help. “There’s nothing like seeing the smiles on the faces of people whose lives you’ve touched. It certainly keeps me going,” confides Zuzartee.
He recalls a time when he organised and from all walks of life who do so much to make a difference.”
His stoic demeanour belies the fact that charity is something that’s close to his heart. On his motivation, the pragmatic 58-year-old shrugs his shoulders, before replying, simply: “I do it because I’m happy to do it.” There’s no long impassioned speech that follows his short answer. It simply is what it is.
He’s almost reluctant to say more despite being pressed further. A brief pause ensues before he confides: “I came from a poor family. It’s easy to relate to the hardships people face when you’ve walked in their shoes. Many of our members have also known hardship and come from poor backgrounds. We’re grateful to have come this far in life. So where an opportunity presents itself, we’re more than happy to give back.”
And Zuzartee has been giving back for many years prior to the birth of WLWCWS. However, the idea of combining forces was first mooted when a group of musicians came together to run a Christmas project in Jalan Gasing about seven years ago. “I was a musician back then and I rounded up several bands to do a Christmas show at an orphanage run by the parents of some friends,” he recalls.
Being able to make a difference for the better in someone’s life is a compelling emotion — Zuzartee and his friends were touched by the reaction of the children who begged them to come again and perform. This motivated them to organise more shows for charity organisations in conjunction with other festivities, including Hari Raya and Deepavali. an event at an old folks’ home long before the formation of WLWCWS. The event had just ended and he was about to leave when something made him turn around. And as he did so, he caught sight of a wheelchair-bound old lady smiling and waving at him. “It brought tears to my eyes and I promised myself I’d do this every year.” It’s a promise he’s upheld to this day.
The minutes tick and he continues to enthusiastically regale me with stories of the many projects that his team of volunteers have carried out in the past and are currently involved in. The list is long and impressive but he concedes that there’s still so much out there that needs to be done.
“The economy being what it is has led to many people, families especially, slipping below the poverty line. While there are so many cases out there deserving of charity, the ability for the average Malaysian to donate is also diminishing,” he says, soberly attributing this to the shrinking ringgit and growing inflation which have hit the pockets of the majority of Malaysians.
Nevertheless, he and his band of volunteers are willing to help. “We’re just a group of like-minded friends who want to help the underprivileged, and we’ll continue to leverage on our combined strength to do what we can to achieve that objective,” he says, before concluding with a smile: “As our motto goes. alone we can’t do much, but together we can do wonders!”