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Is society doing enough to help charities in Brunei?

The joy of giving: You too can put a smile on their faces

‘Neue’ was recently invited by the International Women’s Club of Brunei Darussalam (IWCB) to attend their Hari Raya celebration for Pusat Ehsan Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam (Pusat Ehsan), a non-government charity organisation committed to providing quality education, rehabilitation and training programmes for individuals with special needs.

As I drove to Pusat Ehsan in Bengkurong last Friday afternoon (July 6), I thought to myself, “Is society doing enough to help charities in Brunei?”

It had been a couple of years since I last visited Pusat Ehsan as part of a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity.

A lot has changed since then, such as the construction of the new Pusat Ehsan Rehabilitation Block, which was built at a cost of over a million dollars.

The majority of the funding was contributed by Her Royal Highness Princess ‘Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah, Chairperson of Pusat Ehsan; Her Royal Highness Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bolkiah; and the Patron of Pusat Ehsan.

Senior Trustee of Pusat Ehsan Dato Paduka Haji Mohammad Alimin bin Haji Abdul Wahab (right) receiving a donation on behalf of Pusat Ehsan from the President of IWCB, Ungku Datin Hajah Fanzah binti Haji Osman (centre) and Supinya Suwanpradhes (left), the wife of His Excellency Biravij Suwanpradhes, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to Brunei Darussalam during the Hari Raya celebration (Photos: Lance Thoo)

It’s not just about donating money, it’s about volunteering your time

As I walked into the hall of the Rehabilitation Block, where the IWCB’s Hari Raya celebration was being held for Pusat Ehsan, I saw a cheerful elderly man playing away at the keyboards near the main stage.

“Does he work for Pusat Ehsan?” I asked a member of the IWCB.

“Most of the people you see here today are volunteers, such as people who are on their pension and ex-military officers,” said Cecilia Teo, the Treasurer of IWCB.

As she drew my attention to the energetic keyboardist who was now breaking into song and dance, she said, “You’d be surprised how young at heart the elderly can be. People like him are volunteers who wholeheartedly give their time to supporting people in need.”

Bringing joy to others is priceless

Handing over Hari Raya ‘Ang Pow’ to students of Pusat Ehsan
All smiles during last Friday’s Hari Raya gathering at Pusat Ehsan

Last week, ‘Neue’ published a story on how much people should give when handing over Hari Raya ‘Ang Pow’ (small packets containing money) .

That story came to mind as I saw Pusat Ehsan members receiving money packets during last Friday’s Hari Raya celebration.

One particular moment that was etched in my mind was when I saw a cheerful youth in a wheelchair being embraced by the President of IWCB, Ungku Datin Hajah Fanzah binti Haji Osman (see main photo at top of page).

It was this exact moment that I realised that events such as these weren’t just about “giving money away”. But rather, it’s about making time for others.

Money helps, but it’s not everything.

How can people working for the Brunei Government help?

According to the Department of Community Development (JAPEM), Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sports, alternative channels have been prepared to enable officers and government employees to donate (through payroll deductions) to Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) for People with Special Needs through holding accounts prepared by the Ministry of Finance.

NGOs for People with Special Needs that have been identified are:

(1) Association of Handicapped Children (KACA)

(2) Pusat Ehsan Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam

(3) Association for Autism in Training, Education and Resources Brunei Darussalam (SMARTER)

(4) Learning Ladders Society (LLS)

(5) Association of People Wheelchair and Disabled Persons Member (PDA)

(6) Association of the Visually Impaired Persons National Brunei Darussalam (BDNAB)

(7) Special Olympics Brunei Darussalam (SOBD)

(8) National Association of People With Hearing Loss

For more information on how to contribute to these NGOs, click here for details on payroll deduction.

I don’t work for the Brunei Government, but how can I help?

According to Naz Rashid, the Vice-President of IWCB, the community can make a donation by stocking up on food for ‘The Kitchen’ that can be found at the new Pusat Ehsan Rehabilitation Block.

She told ‘Neue’ that items and equipment that can be found in ‘The Kitchen’ were donated by the IWCB.

Students of Pusat Ehsan can pick up cooking skills at ‘The Kitchen’. Items and equipment here were donated by the IWCB

Naz Rashid, who is a lawyer by profession, explained that students of Pusat Ehsan learn how to cook here.

“The community can get in touch with us (the IWCB) and we’ll try to arrange something,” she said, adding that the IWCB is a registered club with lots of international ladies who are all volunteers committed to helping others.

When asked what she hoped to see more in future, she said “more participation from the community”.

Give your time

As mentioned before, you can give something much more valuable than money, and it won’t cost you a dime. Your time at the centre, to connect with the youths and adults there, would impact the community in a wonderful way. Whether it’s an hour a week, or two, or a weekend, your presence can make a world of difference.

Talk to them. Listen to them. Share life with them. In a community-driven society like Brunei, let’s cultivate a sense of duty to one another and build an all-inclusive community that celebrates individuality with care and understanding.

So, if you’re interested in supporting any Pusat Ehsan charity events, becoming a volunteer or making a donation, you can send an e-mail to huda.ahm@pusatehsan.org.bn

We hope this article provided some insight for people who are interested in helping out associations such as Pusat Ehsan.

Do you think society is doing enough to help charities in Brunei?
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