Making Time to Give Something Back

This month we celebrated the gift of giving back. Discover the wonderful women who have dedicated their lives to helping the communities that welcomed them and how you could help through volunteering.

by / Published: 2 Nov 2015

Making Time to Give Something Back

Most of us have the desire to do something charitable, but how many of us actually turn those thoughts into actions? Meet the ladies who find time in their busy schedules to give something back to the country they currently call home.

Jane Sullivan – Books for Benefit
After chatting with Jane for just a few short minutes, it’s clear that she is one of those women who throws themselves head first into expat life.

When she first touched down in KL 10 years ago, Jane put herself forward to edit the magazine of a local mother’s group and hosted a number of playgroups. In addition she got involved in the British women’s association and their charitable work with The Lighthouse.

“I’ve always tried to do find the time to do bits and pieces here and there to support local charities and groups that need volunteers, but it soon occurred to me that perhaps the support needed to be more specific to the needs of the recipients.”

So Jane decided to take matters into her own hands and came up with a way to attempt to support women, children and the underprivileged to get what they need and not what we think they need. And that’s how Books for Benefit came about.

“I had a bookcase loaded with books and it made sense to sell them with a view to collecting money to donate to charity.”

You can find out more about Books for Benefit by visiting their Facebook Page.

Priya Wignesvaran – Finn & Anny
Like many other women who find themselves living in a foreign country when their husband accepts a job abroad, Priya took the opportunity to start doing what she loves instead of what she trained to do.

The added bonus is that what she does now supports the Burmese Chins, a group of refugees who remain particularly vulnerable in Malaysia.

“I am an engineer by trade, but I also fulfilled my passion for design by attending a number of short courses at the London School of Fashion and Central St Martins. I loved the design aspect of fashion in particular so when we moved to KL four years ago, I realised it was a lot more viable for me to be able to design clothes and get someone else to make them.”

“One of my very good friends, Linzi, and I were chatting over coffee one day around three years ago and decided to start up our own fashion business. The idea was that we design the clothes and then use the talents of the Burmese Chin refugees to sew and make our designs.”

Priya and Linzi taught the girls that sewed for them how to work out how much money they should be earning for their work.

“If I design a particular item, such as a top, then we will tell them to let us know how much time they put into it. The basic rate is RM4 per hour, but we don’t think that reflects the amount of work they put into something. So we have an arrangement and pay them more.”

For more information on Finn and Anny clothing see their Facebook Page.

Armelle, Céline V, Emeline, Magali, Rohella, Céline C, Dalel, Shadya, Clémence – Coup de Pouce
What happens when a group of like-minded French-speaking women get together? They create a group that tirelessly comes up with idea after idea to raise money to help those living in Malaysia who are less fortunate than they are.

Armelle, the founding member of Coup de Pouce, which literally translated means “from little seeds mighty trees do grow”, has done an impressive job of rallying ladies from the local French community to get behind her charitable ideas since she moved to KL six years ago.

“After living in Malaysia for a couple of years I soon spotted the huge and obvious gaps in the standards of living. It made me realise how very lucky I am and so in turn I wanted to contribute to Malaysia given it’s the country that welcomed me and provided me with the opportunity to have such a good life.”

Coup de Pouce has nine regular ladies who make up the fund raising team. While they didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do, they knew they wanted to work together to help the underprivileged to have a better life.

“We never give money, we always give our time or we buy things that the recipients specifically need. One of our biggest projects was that we made a cookery book, which we called Cook Me. One of the ladies in the group was able to design the book and we came up with a total of 54 international recipes between us, in both French and English.”

For more information on Coup de Puce you can visit their Facebook Page  or their Blog.

Joanna Wachowiak-Finlaison – SPCA
Joanna is originally from Poland, but has been an expat in the Middle East, America and now Malaysia for a total of around fifteen years. Earlier this year, Joanna’s love of animals led her to sign up for a volunteer dog walking programme at the SPCA and she has been going back ever since.

“I’ve always been one of those people who stops to pet a random animal on the street. I grew up with dogs and cats when I was small. Then when we were living in Dubai, our friends were walking their dogs on the beach and the dogs found a kitten sitting in a sand pit so we ended up taking it home.

"We moved the cats from Dubai to Houston and then from Houston here. When we moved to our new house, there was a cat already living there and he decided that as we were moving into his house we had to adopt him."

Before she moved to KL, despite loving animals, Joanna had never actually worked with them before, but as the SPCA ended up being so close to her house, it seemed like the obvious, though not easy, choice.

“I knew it wouldn’t be an easy decision to volunteer at the SPCA as it’s hard not to get emotionally attached to the animals, but I felt like I needed to do something. I saw all the homeless dogs on the streets here and knew I wanted to do something, but obviously I can’t take them all home.

"I thought it was a good way to make myself feel a little better and do something for the homeless pets.”

For further information about the SPCA you can visit their website