Malaysia is home and host to more than 182,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered under UNHCR, as of April 2022. The majority, 156,200 people are from Myanmar comprising of 103,770 Rohingyas, 22,810 Chins and 29,610 people from other ethnic groups. The rest are those who fled their home countries to seek refuge from war and persecution. These refugees have left everything behind in their home country with a desire and hope to build a new life in Malaysia.
In an effort to help refugees find their footing, social enterprises have mushroomed over the years with an aim to empower, educate and employ refugees during their stay in Malaysia. These social enterprises serve as an avenue for refugees to learn new skills and earn an income to sustain themselves in the long run.
Here are eight social enterprises directly helping refugees living in Malaysia:
#1: Dream Village Cricket Academy (DVCA)
Established in 2018, DVCA aims to build a sustainable community through the sport of cricket. The organisation’s coach, Chandreshan, struggled through a life of poverty and sought cricket as a gateway to turn his life around. The organisation encourages trainees to find new meaning in their lives, especially those from harsh backgrounds. DCVA opens its doors to empower refugee youth in shaping their skills, the Orang Asli, marginalised children and children from all walks of life by cultivating a love for sports.
Fugeelah is a women-led jewellery brand established in 2017 by Deborah Henry. It is a social enterprise that seeks to employ, empower and encourage refugees. The jewellery pieces are crafted with precision, inspired by the communities Fugeelah works with. There is also a collection specifically handmade by refugee women. Profits from the brand are also channelled towards Fugee School, a school providing education for refugee children since 2009.
#3: Kneading Peace
Kneading Peace is a social enterprise, an effort of Same Skies, an international non-profit organisation comprising humanitarian professionals supporting refugees and asylum seekers. Kneading Peace is a bakery and training ground that supports refugees through the sale of baked goods. Their six-month training programme is a chance for refugees and marginalised groups to practice baking religiously and learn the ins and outs of running a business.
#4: Picha Eats
With education at its forefront, Picha Eats has been impacting the lives of refugees since 2016 through the sale and catering of scrumptious food. The organisation looks out for refugee families who have a knack for cooking, provides training and equips them with skills to be professional chefs, and eventually sells their food to make a living. Picha Eats successfully generated RM2.5 million in sales, providing a stable income for the refugee chefs. By doing so, these refugee families are able to put their children through school.
#5: Parastoo Theater
Parastoo Theater is a theatre troupe of Afghan refugees in Kuala Lumpur, with its aim to spread awareness of the state of refugees in Malaysia through public performances. The Theatre Of The Oppressed technique which allows spectators to become actors to express the oppression of refugees makes the organisation like no other. Funds to support the community are generated by interactive talks, workshops and art initiatives held.
#6: Earth Heir
Earth Heir is a Malaysian social enterprise serving traditional artisans. Founded in 2013 by Sasibai Kimis, the organisation is a product of curiosity and eagerness to help struggling artisans earn a living. The organisation has since stepped in and worked with craftsmen throughout the country be it from indigenous tribes, the refugee community or rural women. Today, the social enterprise sells a varied collection of accessories and bags. Earth Heir aims to be the bridge to support these artisans in pursuing a sustainable livelihood through ethical business operations.
#7: Tanma Federation
Tanma Federation was formed in 2010 by and for Burmese refugee women in Malaysia. With the support of Tenaganita, Tanma Federation has come up with several programs for the sustainable livelihood of Burmese refugee women in the country. The income-generating programmes include consistent training on livelihood skills, continuous English language lessons, business & marketing skills development, financial literacy training and livelihoods project management. Leadership development and self-empowerment are other aspects the group focuses on, often relying on their peers within Tanma for support.
#8: Yellow House KL
Launched in 2011, Yellow House KL is a non-profit organisation seeking to improve and uplift the livelihoods of the refugees, the homeless community and the urban poor in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. The organisation has also launched a social enterprise – Unseen Tours, giving the underprivileged employment opportunities as tour guides.
#9: Greater Action
Greater Action is a non-profit social organisation and is 100% volunteer-driven. The mission to improve the lives of refugees is done through several sustainable efforts. Greater Action is also determined in supporting the education, healthcare and livelihoods of the refugees. This is done through projects – cooking and tailoring, and home-based jobs for refugees to earn a living. Give the organisation a call or drop them an email to see how you can further support them!
#10: ElShaddai Centre
ElShaddai Centre has been reaching out to the marginalised communities in the country – refugees, stateless people, and migrant communities, since 2008. Through various initiatives, ElShaddai is an empowerment force that provides income opportunities for refugees. Life2Life is the organisation’s social enterprise providing services such as cleaning, repairing, and tailoring and has branched out by selling household goods and fashion items. ElShaddai is a strong advocate for social work. They believe that marginalised communities find a sense of purpose through social work. Over the years, these social works included Emergency Relief Fund, Community Outreach & Case Management, Shelter Safe Placement, and many more efforts that have contributed greatly to society.
Explore Our Sources:
- UNHCR. (2022). Figures at a glance in Malaysia. Link.
- DVCA. (2022). Link.
- Fugeelah. (2022). Link.
- Kneading Peace. (2022). Link.
- Picha Eats. (2022). Link.
- Parastoo Theater. (2022). Link.
- Earth Heir. (2022). Link.
- Tanma Foundation. (2022). Link.
- Yellow House KL. (2021). Link.
- Greater Action. (2022). Link.
- ElShaddai Centre. (2022). Link.