During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to share their blessings with those less fortunate.

Giving back can include giving sadaqah (charity) or making an obligatory donation, which Muslims refer to as zakat.

If you’re thinking of ways to make a contribution that can effect change, social enterprises are a good place to start.

Whether it is to help the environment or improve the socio-economic development of a disadvantaged community, these do-gooders are all about making a sustainable difference.

Take a page from these Malaysian social enterprises and find out how you, as a consumer, can make a positive impact.

Sometimes, buying something as basic as a bag of rice could mean doing something extraordinary, like preserving ancient traditions and sustaining indigenous communities.

This Ramadan, give smallholder farmers the gift of hope when you make a purchase from Langit Collective.

For Langit Collective’s founders – Chan Zi Xiang, Melissa Lim, Lilian Chen and Chia Yong Ling – inspiration to give back struck when the group was working on a community project in Sarawak’s Long Semadoh Valley.

While living with the Lun Bawang – an indigenous highland community of mostly farmers – they learnt about the highlanders’ traditional agricultural methods that are attuned to nature and emphasise respect for the land.

The AirAsia Foundation grantee also realised that beyond the highlands, few valued the produce the community was farming such as their heirloom black glutinous rice.

Inspired by the Lun Bawang, Langit Collective embarked on a mission to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in rural communities through increased market and economic opportunities.

Today, the collective has 69 farmer partners in East Malaysia who are committed to sustainable and chemical-free farming, which is better for their communities and the environment.

Langit Collective source their unique heirloom products directly from farmers at a fair price and help promote these treasured finds to a wider market.

Langit Collective’s range of products includes Beras Sia’ (heirloom red rice), Lada Mupoh (single variety Sarawak white pepper), and Tucu (Sarawak highland salt) – unique ingredients for every pantry.

In addition, 30 percent of profits are plowed back into these indigenous communities for capacity building.

PichaEats

Imagine feasting on diverse cuisines from Afghanistan, Myanmar or Syria – all from the comfort of home.

For a foodie adventure without stepping out the door, order a meal from PichaEats, a social enterprise that gives refugee home cooks a lifeline.

You can sample delicious offerings that range from snacks such as bolani (Afghan flatbread filled with mashed potatoes and chives) to exotic spreads like Heba’s Palestian Set which features the flavours of the Middle East.

The idea for the social enterprise was born when founders Kim Lim, Suzanne Ling and Lee Swee Lin were teaching refugee children in Kuala Lumpur almost a decade ago.

The trio noticed that many students were dropping out of school because they had to work or care for younger siblings.

To enable refugee families to supplement their income and keep their children in school, Lim, Ling and Lee hatched a business plan.

Tapping on the cooking skills of their students’ mothers, the young women launched The Picha Project (now rebranded as PichaEats) in 2016 to provide sustainable employment to the community and shine a light on the challenges faced by refugees.

Since its founding, the social enterprise, which works with refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine and Syria, has served home-cooked meals to more than 135,000 happy customers in Klang Valley.

Thanks to positive feedback from customers, the meal delivery service has expanded to include meal subscription plans with options for three, six or nine ready-to-heat frozen meals per month, and group meals ranging from snacks to family feasts.

PichaEats split their profits evenly with the chefs, and your contribution will also help ensure that all Picha kids have the opportunity to continue their education.

Komuniti Tukang Jahit

If you’re scouting for corporate gift ideas like totes, make-up pouches and sling bags for an event, Komuniti Tukang Jahit (KTJ) might just have what you’re looking for.

This Eid, they’ve even come up with a special collection called Rayartisan 2021, which showcases cool accessories paired with edible gifts in collaboration with two other social enterprises – Masala Wheels and GOLD (Generating Opportunities for Learning Disables).

And the best part about purchasing from KTJ? Your orders will help KTJ’s community of seamstresses put food on the table.

Established in 2018, KTJ came about by chance.

Its co-founder Yap Sue Yii, who had conceptualised a start-up for aspiring fashion designers, was on the hunt for tailors when she stumbled upon a group of home-based seamstresses.

The group largely comprised single mothers and housewives who, due to their circumstances, were unable to pursue full-time employment.

It was a eureka moment for Yap, who launched KTJ to enable such women to empower themselves and earn an income from the comfort of their homes.

KTJ helps the women find sewing jobs that match their skillset and provides them with the necessary raw materials.

To date, 70 seamstresses in Klang Valley have benefitted from jobs secured via KTJ.

Free training is also conducted to upskill the women so they are better prepared to handle requests from a wider customer base, including corporate clients.

KTJ focuses on bulk orders (a minimum of 100 units) as their goal is to ensure a steady stream of business for the home-based tailors.

Earth Heir

Want to make a conscious fashion statement? For ethically sourced fashionable pieces that will make heads turn, browse Earth Heir’s selections.

The social enterprise’s offerings range from bracelets and bags woven with mengkuang (pandanus leaves) by the indigenous Mah Meri of peninsular Malaysia, to intricate jewellery handcrafted by Malaysia’s refugee community.

Weaving is at the heart of Earth Heir’s products, as it was the plight of weavers in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom that planted the seed for this set-up.

From conversations with weavers during a two-month sojourn in villages in Kampong Thom, Earth Heir founder Sasibai Kimis discovered that it was the middlemen who profited from the weavers’ toil.

Finding this a great injustice, particularly in impoverished rural communities where young girls are often victims of trafficking, Sasibai launched Earth Heir as a means to support traditional artisans in underserved communities.

Through collaborative design partnerships and fair trade commercial practices, Earth Heir works with artisans in Malaysia to upskill them and give their products greater market access.

The fair trade-certified brand has also partnered with the United Nations Refugee Agency via the MADE51 initiative to support displaced refugee artisans in Malaysia.

Masala Wheels

Make your calories count by eating for a good cause at Masala Wheels.

Whether you choose to dine-in at the restaurant, rent a Masala Wheels Food Truck for an event, or have a meal delivered to your home, all proceeds are reinvested into the social development of marginalised communities via Masala Wheels’ Food for Impact initiative.

Masala Wheels kicked off in 2015 with a social enterprise food truck – Malaysia’s first – to empower marginalised communities through sustainable entrepreneurial initiatives.

The idea to transform lives through a social enterprise was born when co-founder Kuhan Pathy was looking for a way to help a friend down on his luck.

Having grown up near areas with many at-risk youth, Kuhan and three of his friends realised that this segment of society lacked a social safety net.

Masala Wheels was launched to provide this marginalised community with employment opportunities and capacity building.

Pooling together their resources, the friends purchased a used truck and began selling rice and curry lunches from their mobile enterprise in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

Word spread and before long, youths with troubled backgrounds, at risk of being lured into a life of crime or drugs, began asking for jobs.

Today, Masala Wheels employs 30 youths from marginalised communities and has expanded to include a restaurant serving up sumptuous Sri Lankan cuisine and banana leaf meals, as well as home and corporate catering.

Operations are currently halal-friendly and Masala Wheels is in the midst of obtaining halal certification.

The social enterprise also has a dedicated training arm that runs free digital transformation and micro-entrepreneurship programs to equip marginalised communities with the necessary skills.

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