Fri Mar 22 2024

Young Kadazan keeps hope alive for rural communities in need

Poverty Alleviation
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Originally published on Malaysiakini by Indra Sathiabalan. Published: Dec 24, 2023

Born in the Penampang district of Kota Kinabalu, proud Kadazan Aaron Bosuang is part of a six-member team that wants to do more than wring its hands in despair.

This is where Hopes Malaysia, an NGO established in 2016 comes in, focusing on changing lives through sustainable community development projects that are aimed at assisting underprivileged rural Sabah communities.

Aaron and his team are constantly finding ways to uplift the lives of rural communities.

“My direct family consists of only my mother and I. Some of my interests include singing, travelling and going on new adventures.

“I love experiencing new things like attending the recent Twice and BlackPink concerts as life is short,” said Aaron who believes in the saying, “Never try, never know.”

A former student at Jesselton College, the 25-year-old started as an intern with Hopes Malaysia just before the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc globally.

“I’ve always loved making others smile and I wanted to do something out of the box in the mass communication field… to make use of my interests and skills, like what I am doing now in public relations.”

As such, he became the first official staff member of the organisation, besides the founders. The internship was initially meant as part of his studies but he realised that he wanted more.

“I come from a single-parent background as my father passed away when I was in primary school and I understand the need for necessities and giving back – helping out others who are less fortunate while you can.

“It has mostly just been my diabetic mom and I, and the journey has not always been easy. Although we did receive help while I was growing up, there were times when we were struggling just to get by and I don’t want others to feel the same hopelessness," he shared.


While most NGOs stick to one cause, Hopes Malaysia is involved in many projects.

They include fixing bridges in rural areas, organising women empowerment campaigns and helping rural folk gain access to clean water.

“We believe in sustainable community empowerment for lasting impact – for rural families to access all their basic needs and enhance their livelihoods. Rural Sabah has a variety of issues stemming from poverty which we feel needs to be addressed properly.

“Although we are just a humble six-member team, we can do what we do because we directly involve the rural community (beneficiaries) in all stages of our project work, especially the project execution.

“We enable them with the skills, materials and knowledge to holistically improve their lives, guiding them in their work (our role) with efficient communication.

“Their efforts impact their lives directly. We have gained much experience through our sustainable work and are keen to help expand our assistance to more rural families and causes in the future,” Aaron explained.

So far, Hopes Malaysia has not encountered any problems with the local government when carrying out its work to help rural folk in Sabah.

Occasionally, they even gain information from the area’s district office, which provides them with a deeper insight into villages and their plight.


“Before conducting any work in a village, we venture to the location to assess their needs and circumstances, making sure that whatever work we do is feasible, appropriate and carried out involving the community’s commitment.

“We ultimately just want families to have a better standard of living. This has created a rapport for us in Kota Belud’s Kadamaian area, increasing trust in our work for lasting sustainable change,” Aaron said.

Critical backing

As word has spread, more families throughout the scattered rural villages have approached Hopes Malaysia for assistance. Aaron said they hope to achieve this through more impactful corporate social responsibility (CSR) collaborations.

Heineken Malaysia Berhad (Heineken Malaysia) and Sokong by Malaysiakini are working together on a project called Heineken Cares 2023.

Hopes Malaysia is one of the six NGOs and social enterprises that have been selected by Heineken Cares 2023 to implement projects in the areas of food security, community farming, as well as access to clean water and renewable electricity.

The five other organisations are Hope Place Kuching, Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia, Ferris Wheel Organisation, SOLS Energy and Yellow House KL.

Aaron said that Hopes Malaysia first worked with Heineken back in 2021 during their inaugural Heineken Cares Programme, which was then focused on providing food aid from their project farmers to the underprivileged during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

“The Heineken team reached out to us via social media after seeing our efforts in providing fresh food aid during that period. I have been communicating with Heineken since then.

"In 2022, they supported us in empowering the families in Kampung Pinolobuh, Kota Belud with clean gravity water and utilising it for long-term food security via sustainable farming.

“We are thankful that they continue to see value in our sustainable rural work and this impactful initiative. We are also glad that Sokong has us on board and is supporting us to sustainably reach out to more rural Sabah families in need. Working together has been smooth and meaningful,” he added.

Hopes Malaysia plans to raise RM50,000 to reconstruct and improve the gravity water system for the remote Kampung Kiau Taburi in Kota Belud - providing sufficient clean water access and storage to 1,050 villagers.


“We will work together with the community to execute the project. Families will finally have enough clean water at home for their daily usage, and we can further empower them through our sustainable farming initiatives in the future,” said Aaron, who believes that empowering families to achieve their basic needs will break the cycle of rural poverty.

“My Christmas wish this year is for everyone to get what they need - whether that be access to clean water, peace, happiness, etc, especially for those who feel helplessly stuck in poverty. I’ve been in those shoes and it can make you feel hopeless and alone.

“I hope this project’s success brings a glimmer of hope to rural families, reducing their mental, physical and livelihood burdens," he said.

In conjunction with the festive season, the public can contribute to enabling the amazing work of these organisations.

For every RM10 donated, Heineken Cares will match it with a further RM40, bringing the total value raised to RM50. The campaign will stop accepting funds upon reaching the total funding target of the six projects.

by malaysiakini

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