Sokong Team
Tue Aug 15 2023

Small Donations by Many Go a Long Way: The Inspiring Story of Yayasan Suria

Disaster Relief
Youth & Children
Poverty Alleviation

In sprawling Johor Bahru, a city known for its diversity and high costs of living, an unassuming figure has been quietly championing the cause of charity for the past 18 years.

Meet James Philip Ho, affectionately known as Uncle James, a 70-year-old former plantation general manager whose life took an unexpected turn when he faced a Stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis.

Rather than succumbing to the illness, James emerged from this battle with a newfound determination to make a lasting impact through the power of collective kindness.

"It dawned on me then that all the charity work that I had done in the past would have meant nothing when I die," James reflects.

Despite his health challenges, he was unwavering in his resolve to triumph over cancer. "I will die sometime, like anybody else, but the charity work needs to continue after my death. That was the inspiration to create Yayasan Suria."

Yayasan Kebajikan Suria Kawasan Permas Johor Bahru (Yayasan Suria) was born from James's desire to ensure that his legacy would be one of compassion and assistance to those less fortunate.

"There are so many people needing help because their circumstances would not allow them to fend for themselves," James notes.

Yayasan Suria 1 Image

Leaving his position as Plantation General Manager behind, he redirected his focus toward charity work, with a determination that has only grown stronger over the years.

When Yayasan Suria started its journey in 2005, it had just two volunteers. Today, that number has grown to an impressive 47, a testament to James's unyielding and infectious spirit and dedication.

Despite this progress, James acknowledges that recruiting volunteers remains a challenge, particularly as many volunteers come from the older segment of the population—retirees, homemakers, and business owners—who can spare the time to contribute.

In an effort to cultivate a new generation of volunteers, James encourages parents to involve their children in charity events. He believes that exposing young people to the realities faced by the less fortunate can instil empathy and a sense of responsibility from an early age.

"We are well aware that it's not easy for young adults to volunteer because they are chasing examinations, careers, and whatnot," James acknowledges. "But even a little bit of time to volunteer, say over weekends, is valuable; many people need help."

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Yayasan Suria's reach extends far beyond traditional charity work. The foundation provides aid, including food, cash, and counselling, and even offers support in unique situations like helping to lay animals to rest or addressing concerns about hauntings.

The Yayasan also gives cash awards to students who do well in school and have back-to-school events at the start of each school year to help ease the burden of uniforms and books for children from underprivileged homes.

James's diverse skillset, including being a certified counsellor, was put to good use during the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, where he dedicated himself to aiding survivors and providing much-needed emotional support on the Indonesian island of Nias.

Over time, Yayasan Suria has transformed from a humble beginning marked by "begging" for assistance to a well-established force in the charitable landscape.

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The foundation's partnerships with companies like Promex, which donates New Zealand grass-fed cow milk, and Aqina Farms, which supplies chickens, have fortified its ability to make a meaningful impact.

"This is healthy milk and expensive in the stores, but they give us cartons every month to the extent that we are also able to distribute the milk to other charities and NGOs," James shares.

Despite the challenges and uncertainties, James remains steadfast in his belief that even small contributions hold immense potential.

"Malaysians are more caring and willing to donate in kind and money now, especially after the Covid pandemic that touched everyone," he affirms.

Yayasan Suria's active presence on social media, especially Facebook, plays a pivotal role in rallying support. "When we post, we receive donations; when we don't, we don't receive any," James says with a grin.

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Among the many heartwarming stories that have emerged from Yayasan Suria's efforts, one stands out as particularly poignant.

A woman who was once on the brink of suicide, having contracted HIV from her husband, found hope and support through Yayasan Suria. With James's assistance, her children graduated, secured employment, and became self-sufficient.

James recalls this as the most rewarding case he has ever handled, a testament to the profound impact that compassion and aid can have on individual lives.

Looking towards the future, James envisions a home for Yayasan Suria—a dedicated space to have an office, store donations and streamline logistical operations. This aspiration is becoming a reality with an offer of a building from a generous volunteer. The building, valued at RM930,000, was offered to Yayasan Suria for RM800,000, a testament to the goodwill and support that James's efforts have cultivated over the years.

As Yayasan Suria continues to grow and make a difference, James's journey serves as a powerful reminder that small donations, pooled together, can indeed go a long way.

With unwavering determination, he has shown that the compassion of many can create a lasting impact, turning adversity into an opportunity for positive change.

Support Yayasan Suria’s initiatives today by searching for them on the Sokong app and start donating to their cause or apply as a volunteer if you are in the region.

by malaysiakini

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