Incitement is the implementing agency for the Volunteering International Professionals (VIP) Fellowship Programme 2017, a National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) project monitored and overseen by the National Strategy Unit (NSU) of the Malaysian Ministry of Finance. More information about this collaboration between Incitement and the Malaysian Ministry of Finance can be found here.
The VIP Fellowship programme took place from August 19th till December 17th 2017. During these 4 months, a total of 10 social impact projects were implemented with the help of 50 international professional volunteers, touching the lives of 12,840 beneficiaries.
This is Impact Project 6: Grow Tall
This project optimised the resources of a community farm that is home to HIV/AIDS patients and recovering drug addicts, laying the groundwork for transforming it into a fully self sustaining entity.
Project location: Batu Arang, Selangor
Host organisation: Positive Living Community
Impact area: Social Integration
Key project outcomes
- 100 individuals impacted
- Residents of the community farm benefited from a 50% income increase on average
- 1 module was created
- 9 partnerships with relevant organisations were established
- The process to receive official accreditation was initiated (status: pending)
Positive Living Community (PLC) is one of the few centres in Malaysia that provides free treatment, shelter and support to HIV/AIDS patients and recovering drug addicts, including those who have developed psychiatric conditions and various forms of disabilities due to their illness. Its mission is to provide shelter, loving care, treatment and support to people who have been rejected or had become homeless due to drug and/or alcohol addiction and HIV/AIDS.
PLC is growing a sustainable community that generates its own income with little to no dependency on external parties. To lay the groundwork for achieving that, the VIP 2017 Fellows targeted the following issues within the four-month duration of the VIP Programme:
- Recovering addicts and HIV patients in Malaysia have huge dif culties to nd jobs and to be accepted in their own community.
- There are no programmes to build their capacity and plans for their future. As such, the changes of going back to drug use are high for them.
- Grow Tall lacks the manpower and expertise to optimise the resources of its community farm, which is the main source of income for its residents.
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Positive Living Community (PLC) is a community farm in Batu Arang, Selangor, which offers a home for people who became homeless through drug addiction or HIV/AIDS. Having no place to go, PLC offers its residents a place to call home, a new beginning and meaning to their lives. It is one of the only places in Malaysia that takes in drug addicts as well as HIV/AIDS patients. And, over the course of their twenty-year existence, they have never said “no” to a patient who wanted to admit himself or herself.
The residents who live in PLC, currently around sixty people, are all homeless. They have HIV/AIDS or are recovering drug addicts who feel like they do not have a purpose in life. Due to the stigma that still surrounds the topic of HIV/AIDS and drug addiction in Malaysia, they feel disregarded by society and feel as if they have nothing to contribute. “The feeling of belonging is important”, explains Seasha, who is one of the beneficiaries and has been a resident in PLC for 2.5 years. “The concept is that you come here voluntarily, nobody forces you to be here. PLC stands out because, unlike other centres and halfway houses that tell you that you are wrong, and that you need to change in order to fit into society, PLC encourages you to accept yourself and love yourself for who you are. That is one of the things that has resonated with me most – it makes me feel loved.”
PLC is growing a sustainable community that can generate its own income with little to no dependency on external parties. Currently, the PLC team has started various social enterprise projects on their farm, such as tea growing, a goat pen, a worm farm, a poultry farm and an organic farm, which all generate income for PLC and its residents. However, this income currently only accounts for 6% of PLC’s total income and as such, even though they were well on their way to becoming self-sustaining, there was still a lot more that needed to be done to achieve that goal. However, PLC was understaffed, and while there was enough manpower to ensure the centre kept running, they did not have adequate experience to increase productivity and make systems and processes more efficient.
The purpose of this VIP impact project was to lay the groundwork for transitioning PLC into a fully self-sustaining entity that can independently support the needs of its residents and build successful businesses at the same time, giving the residents a strong sense of purpose and accomplishment. To do this, the Fellows re-evaluated each of PLC’s projects and made a plan to maximise their outputs and revenue.
By giving them soft skills such as leadership skills, financial skills and English communication skills, we are empowering them to reintegrate into society. This gives them motivation and also the realisation that, even though they may have illnesses, it doesn’t mean it’s the end for them.
Fellow Sumitra Paudel from Nepal is an agriculture specialist, who saw a lot of revenue potential in the PLC farm. “I have been mostly involved in farming and my main target was to optimise and upgrade the agriculture resources with the goal of creating a sustainable source of income for PLC.” One of PLC’s sources of revenue was a Misai Kucing tea farm but, in the beginning, the supply of the tea plantation was inconsistent and not enough to provide a steady revenue stream. So the Fellows needed to expand the tea plantation to 200 plants, allowing the PLC community and its residents to gain a consistent and sustainable revenue stream by farming and selling the tea on the market.
Other than optimising and upgrading PLC’s agricultural resources, the Fellows also helped to setup a proper management structure for PLC. International Fellow Andrew Barton looked at the management and nancial makeup of PLC, and drew on his knowledge and prior experience of managing property to develop mechanisms for the future of PLC. “My task is to put PLC on a more sustainable footing so that it can survive going forward, and generate and maintain sustainable revenue streams that enable PLC to provide facilities for rehabilitation of the HIV/AIDS patients and drug addicts that are the residents of PLC.”
In order to ensure sustainability of the project once the VIP 2017 Programme ended, the Fellows trained the residents. Among the residents, team leaders were identified who had the skills, capabilities and also the interest to run the farm. They were given management and leadership training to equip them with the skills needed to run the farm independently, and prepare them for reintegration into society. Malaysian Fellow Jolyn Hong explains: “By giving them soft skills such as leadership, skills, financial skills and English communication skills, we are empowering them to reintegrate into society. This gives them motivation and also the realisation that, even though they may have illnesses, it doesn’t mean it’s the end for them. They learn to believe that they can still contribute to society, which is amazing to see.”
Gilbert, a resident of PLC who has lived there for more than ten years, talks about how happy he was that the VIP Fellows came to support his community: “After the VIP Fellows came to help PLC, I could quickly see a lot of changes. They did so many things and I wish they could stay here longer. Before, the tea plantation was just a small plot but now it is a quarter acre, which is greatly going to improve our income. Then, there’s the goat pen and the fish farm where they upgraded all of the facilities. It’s amazing. We are enjoying more facilities thanks to VIP.”
Saskia Hesselink, an International Fellow from the Netherlands, was put in charge of building the new workshop. Being an architect, she analysed and evaluated the extra land areas on the farm and made a plan for how to best utilise wasted spaces. A big space, that was being used as a garbage area, quickly became obvious to have the potential to fit a new building. She designed a multi-functional facility that houses a recreational hall, a workshop to teach handyman skills, a prayer room, a classroom, and the main office for PLC administration.
After the VIP Fellows came to help PLC, I could quickly see a lot of changes. They did so many things and I wish they could stay here longer.
Overall, the VIP 2017 Fellows succeeded in optimising the agricultural resources on the farm. They expanded the Misai Kucing tea plantation, which enabled the residents to market their product and earn a sustainable income for the community. They also trained the residents in how to manage the farm and its resources so that the residents could keep the farm operating independently once the Fellows left. However, in the duration of the VIP 2017 Programme, the Fellows were only able to increase the output of the animal farm by 25%, instead of the targeted 50%.
Learn more about the VIP 2017 Fellowship Programme: VIP.org.my