Extending a helping hand to the needy

Rizal Faisal

The Brunei Council on Social Welfare (MKM) was registered in December 2009 as a Charitable Society under the Societies Act of Brunei Darussalam.

The formation of MKM started on a request by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

“It was only natural that we gravitate to MKM,” said MKM’s incumbent President Mohd Yusof bin Shaikh Abdul Halim while reminiscing about his response to the ministry’s request.

Mohd Yusof and wife Datin Paduka Hajah Intan binti Haji Md Kassim have been involved in charity work since the 1980s.

“Charity is not a zero sum game in many aspects,” said Mohd Yusof. “First it is better for the country when more organisations are involved in charity work. This does not make the work of other charitable organisations any less important – we all complement each other. At the individual level, giving your time and money to the poor and needy will not impoverish anyone. It can only enrich you.”

MKM’s first president from 2009-2012 was Hajah Mordiah binti Haji Jackiah. She was the Director of the Community Development Department, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports before she retired. She was then made the Brunei Commissioner for Women to ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).

Datin Paduka Hajah Intan took over as president from 2012-2018. Prior to her retirement from the civil service she had held various senior government positions including Superintendent of Police, Deputy Director of the Narcotics Control Bureau, Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, CEO of Royal Brunei Technical Services and Senior Special Duties Officer at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. She became Brunei Commissioner on the Rights of Women from 2010-2012, then Brunei Commissioner on the Rights of Children from 2013-2017 and ASEAN Chair of ACWC from 2013-2016.

File photo shows Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin in a group photo at the Charity Walk, Run & Cycle event organised by MKM to raise awareness and funds for cancer patients in Brunei. PHOTO: MKM

MKM’s incumbent President Mohd Yusof is a practising lawyer and a partner of a law firm in Brunei, Yusof Halim & Partners. MKM’s Executive Committee consists of 11 Office Bearers and 15 Council Members, with the former president sitting in the Executive Committee as an ‘ex-officio’ member.

Their Board of Trustees consists of Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Perkasa Colonel (Rtd) Dato Paduka Haji Mahdini bin Dato Paduka Haji Basir, Datin Hajah Kamisah binti Haji Rahmat and Datin Hajah Norlinah binti Dato Haji Abu Bakar who oversee assets and accounts.

MKM is actively supported by more than 70 members comprising residents of Brunei Darussalam from all walks of life – from pensioners, lecturers, serving government officers and those in the private sectors.

MKM’s voluntary work also gets able-bodied assistance from undergraduates of local universities as well as students from international schools.

Their main objective is poverty eradication and to render whatever assistance to needy residents of Brunei. These include directing and assisting eligible families to get welfare assistance provided by the government, giving temporary assistance to eligible families who are waiting for government welfare, assisting needy students in the schooling finances, providing basic necessities to deserving families on a monthly basis and running programmes empowering the needy to break the poverty cycle.

Assistance is also rendered to those who find themselves in temporary difficulties such as the death of a breadwinner or where the breadwinner runs foul with the law and is imprisoned, fire victims and victims of natural disasters.

Although their work is concentrated in Brunei, assistance is also extended to the needy in Limbang, Miri, Surabaya and Bangladesh.

MKM is wholly self-funded and gets donations from its own members and the public. Regular fund-raising projects are organised, including charity dinners, charity runs and general outreach to the public for donations.

MKM has published a Cookbook titled Rasa & Warna (Flavours & Colours) which highlights various local dishes gathered from many Brunei residents. The cookbook won a prize in Paris, France from the Gourmand World Book Awards for being the ‘Best in the World’ in the category of ‘Best Fund-Raising Cookbook’ in 2012. This makes MKM a unique organisation to Brunei and one of the rare few in the region to have won this prize. The book is still sold today as a source of funding.

MKM has pledged that all donations will go to the needy and make no deductions for any administrative expenses for these donations.

Only donations which specifically allow them to do so are used for administrative expenses. To meet their operating costs, MKM members and supporters make pledges of varying amounts monthly.

MKM members are also sent with the needy for meetings and self-empowering programmes conducted locally, regionally and internationally, where all these are funded programmes which do not use any of the donations received.

“We had made a pledge to the public that we will not deduct from their donations to the needy any administrative cost. We are happy to report that we have honoured our pledge,” said Mohd Yusof. “We have been able to do this by having fundraising events over and above the charitable events that we hold. The events held to raise funds for our purpose include dinners, fun-runs, managing trade expos, cycling events, Zumba and many others.”

MKM’s monthly expenses include office rental, salary for one full-time staff and one part-time staff, utilities charges, Internet fees, top up charges for hotline, stationeries and more.

“It is a constant battle not only to get funding for our many projects to assist the needy, but also important to raise funds to meet our administrative costs,” he added. “We have won this battle for 10 years since being established and will soldier on in this to assist the needy.”