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‘Pandemic Leadership Award 2021’ for APU Volunteer Leader

April 27, 2022 | Campus News

The Pandemic Leadership Award honours volunteer leaders who demonstrated exceptional leadership commitment and contribution for the good of Penang's community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tan Wei Siang, a Software Engineering student at Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) was awarded the Pandemic Leadership Award for his efforts and contributions to youth work, society, and humanity on Penang Island during the 2020-2021 Movement Control Order (MCO).

The prestigious award was presented early this year by Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow in conjunction with the Young Excellence Award (YEA) 2021, jointly organized by the Penang State EXCO for Youth and Sports, Penang Youth Development Corporation (PYDC) and the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur Section (PCCCYES).

“Entrepreneurs who think outside the box can also significantly contribute to the country's development of technology and solutions with a positive and long-term impact, particularly in the post-pandemic world.

“Through this (event), we can see that Penang is endowed with talented young entrepreneurs who play critical roles in economic productivity during this pandemic period,” Chow Kon Yeow explained.

This year's YEA 2021 received nearly 300 submissions, with 68 of them emerging as winners across 15 award categories, including the Business Performance Award, Pandemic Business Growth Award, Technology Entrepreneur Award, Green Initiative Award, Brand Award, Social Media & Influencer Award, Woman Entrepreneur Award, Rookie Million Achievement Award, E-commerce Award, E-sports Award, Pandemic Volunteer Award, Pandemic Leadership Award, Pandemic Professional Award, University Leadership Award, and University Athlete Award.

Awakened and empowered youth

Wei Siang exemplifies an awakened and empowered youth. The 20-year-old Penangite witnessed the plight of families living in the low-cost flats at Taman Free School — Penang's third poorest area, built by the city council in the 1970s.

He is no stranger to the simple life, having witnessed what the less fortunate have to endure. He, too, lived a life of modest means. His father works at Lorong Kulit Flea Market as a food stall worker, and his mother is a housewife. They live in Penang's heritage district with their aunts and uncles.

Moved by the area's impoverished state, Wei Siang took matters into his own hands and launched a youth-led initiative called ‘Care For All’, which provided food baskets to Taman Free School residents.

Creative Ways To Raise Money In A Pandemic

When the lockdown was imposed in March 2020, Wei Siang and his team were able to raise more than RM70,000 through a series of crowdfunding and eSports tournaments, allowing them to purchase 800 food baskets, which were distributed to old folk’s homes and B40 families at Taman Free School, Penang.

Each food basket contained 5kg of rice, cooking oil, sugar, flour, salt, rice noodles, sardines, baked beans, coffee, and crackers — the bare necessities for families to survive.

When MCO was reinstated in January 2021, Wei Siang and his volunteer team decided to focus on Taman Free School residents for food basket donations. He wanted to be more strategic in his efforts to end hunger and meet people's needs. Care For All has assisted 993 families in the Taman Free School district alone.

“We went to their homes before donating the food baskets to inquire about their conditions and what they required. I couldn't help but be saddened by their living conditions. A 65-year-old aunty who lived alone had to sell all of her jewellery to pay her electricity bills. Nonetheless, it was insufficient,” said Wei Siang.

He added that many residents in the Taman Free School area are single mothers, the elderly, and the disabled who have lost their source of income as a result of the pandemic.

“It's no surprise that those with low incomes have been hit the hardest by lockdowns, unemployment, job loss, pay cuts, and movement restrictions that make it difficult for them to find work. Furthermore, having little to begin with, low-income groups have few or no assets or savings, and those working in informal jobs (e.g., cleaners, odd jobs) do not have social security safety nets to fall back on,” he said.

He admits that food basket donations are only a temporary measure to assist the needy. In the future, he hopes to empower Taman Free School hawkers to earn a sustainable living and support their families. Care for All also has plans to organise more eSports tournaments in the future to raise funds for B40 families throughout Penang.

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