Harith Iskander is a household name in Malaysia. Once nominated as one of the funniest persons in the world, he also has the distinction of being a cultural ambassador for the country.
The cherubic looking Harith is known for his quick humour and infectious smile. And in recent months, heeding the call for help from downtrodden Malaysians, Harith has put his celebrity status to good use by raising funds to help Malaysians suffering from the hardships brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The funnyman started The Hope Branch with his wife Dr Jezamine Lim in March 2020 at the beginning of the first lockdown.
“It started with my wife and I wondering how we could help friends who were facing difficulties due to the Movement Control Oder (MCO). We also considered the plight of the homeless in getting food and PPVs for front liners and Hospitals,” recalled Harith.
“At first we forked out our own money to help who we could for as long as we could. But gradually, the demand grew as more and more people reached out for help and it became bigger than we imagined.”
Realising that this journey he has taken with his wife requires greater commitment, Harith decided to officially register The Hope Branch with the Registrar of Societies (ROS), and with that done the couple started actively to raise funds with the help of friends and members of the public.
The Hope Branch first started with simple food distribution and eventually it moved to supplying groceries.
“Different communities reached out from all over the country, but the main requirement came from families who had lost all source of income and were struggling to feed themselves and their kids,” said Harith.
He added that at this moment The Hope Branch is drawing up plans to extend aid to help those who are unable to pay basic living expenses such as rent and other bills. The Hope Branch doesn’t receive aid from any government organisation and is mainly funded by the private sector.
“Some members of the private sector have been incredibly supportive, and I do believe that this is the real spirit of ‘Kita Jaga Kita’.
A generous corporate backer is AVM Cloud Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of TIME dotcom Berhad, together with its sibling company Integrated Global Solutions Sdn Bhd.
Its director Ang Poh Koon (pic) said that the company was more than happy to lend a helping hand to The Hope Branch.
“My team and I make it a point to contribute regularly in cash and kind as numerous Malaysians are undergoing trying times during the pandemic,” said Ang, before acknowledging the efforts of Harith and Dr Jezamine.
“As a corporate citizen, we should always give back to society and be mindful of others who are not as fortunate as we are,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Jezamine said that, in an ideal world, once the pandemic is over, there would be no need to assist people but since that isn’t the case, The Hope Branch hopes to shift its focus to provide more sustainable models of support in the future.
“It’s not just about feeding the needy, we need to help them turn their lives around so that they can go on to support others,” she said. She said their target was to provide food to almost 2,100 deserving individuals three times a day.
Dr Jezamine believes that the only way to help alleviate poverty is to help create an environment that provides opportunities for not only skills building but also self-improvement.
As the pandemic goes on Harith Iskander and Dr Jezamine Lim quickly discovered it is no longer just about putting food on the table. Because of rising unemployment, other issues have arisen.
Currently The Hope Branch is operating a campaign to help good, honest Malaysians who have lost their livelihood to temporarily pay their rent and other basic living expenses. You can support this cause by donating directly to ‘Petrubuhan Harapan Amal Harith Iskander’ via Maybank account number 5648 9214 0932.