| Fadley Faisal |
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 and a group of officers from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) visited the Brunei Council on Social Welfare’s (MKM) office in Jalan Sungai Hanching recently.
The minister held talks with MKM President Mohd Yusof bin Halim, discussing the activities conducted by the MKM and other related issues.
During the talks, the MKM President noted that all of its activities are funded by donors, while its monthly operating costs of around BND1,500 are funded by pledges from its members and contributions from members of the public.
The MKM, Mohd Yusof added, feeds around 330 needy schoolchildren from 15 primary schools in the Brunei-Muara and Temburong districts daily. Students from nine schools in the Brunei-Muara District are provided breakfast, while those in the Temburong District are given lunch. Each meal costs BND1.
“MKM spends BND330 every school day for this school feeding scheme. This is more than BND70,000 a year. All the money for this project comes from a Fidyah payment scheme and donations from the public,” said the MKM President.
Fidyah is a penalty that a Muslim must pay if he or she does not fast during Ramadhan and fails to make up for the missed fasting during the next Ramadhan.
The school feeding scheme has been a success, with the MKM receiving feedback that students attendance at the participating schools has improved significantly since they introduced the scheme.
Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd was so impressed by the project that they are now funding the programme for six other schools identified by MKM in Seria and the Belait District for a year.
The MKM also provides free staple food on a monthly basis to around 19 to 30 families.
“The number of families that MKM can assist in any particular month is dependent on the donations we receive for this purpose on that month,” Mohd Yusof said.
Some 500 individuals are also provided food to break their fast for 14 days every Ramadhan, distributed by volunteers. The MKM would also bring around 500 needy people to break the fast with them at a restaurant every Ramadhan.
At the end of every year, the MKM runs a ‘Back to School’ project where schoolchildren in need of assistance are supported.
MKM Vice President Hajah Johana binti Haji Jaya shared with the minister that the MKM spent around BND200 per student for this year’s ‘Back to School’ project – providing them with not only school uniforms, shoes and books, but also school fees for some of them and transportation for others.
The MKM also carries out repairs for houses of the needy that are in poor conditions with assistance from the private sector.
For needy individuals requiring legal services, the MKM conducts a free legal advisory clinic once a week.
Mohd Yusof said the clinic has been running since 2013, but for this year, the MKM was only able to hold it fortnightly.
“Most of those who attend this clinic are there to seek social and welfare assistance, while a small number are seeking legal advice and assistance,” he said.
“Since 2013, the MKM had attended to more than 600 cases – almost 70 of these cases involve people seeking legal advice. Currently we only have legal advisors from two law firms: Yusof Halim and Partners, and Ibrahim Al Haj and Company.”
“We need more lawyers and law firms to provide pro bono (free) work. Serious attention and focus must be directed to this,” the MKM President added, citing examples of other jurisdictions where lawyers have to carry out a minimum number of hours of recognised pro bono work to get their annual licences renewed.
The MKM had also provided community assistance beyond the country’s borders, notably helping out the needy in Limbang, Miri, Kota Kinabalu, Surabaya and Bangladesh.
“We have built more than 600 tubewells in Bangladesh including in the refugee camps, distributed more than 20,000 food packs to the refugees, with each food pack able to feed a family of four for more than two weeks,” Hajah Johana said.
“We are also running a school with 500 students. Alhamdulillah, three of our students are now Hafiz as they are certified to have memorised Al-Quran.
“The school is the biggest run by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the 34 Rohingya refugee camps. Many people are impressed that Brunei, a small country, is able to do this.”
The minister, meanwhile, praised the MKM for the extent and continuity of its charity work in Brunei and around the region.
“This is impressive, especially considering they are operating on only BND1,500 a month,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to continuing the relationship between the MCYS and MKM in assisting the needy.