Money isn’t everything, some said. But a tight budget can also be a hindrance when it comes to accessing resources. However, Malaysians are known for their strong will to ensure no one is left behind and have gone forth to create initiatives for even the vulnerable to thrive.
We have selected eight affordable spaces suitable for those with a strict budget to thrive. The spaces range from cheap eateries to innovative learning spaces.
#1: Toy Libraries Malaysia Bringing Joy To Children Nationwide
Toys are crucial during a child’s development stage. Not only does it bring joy, but playing with toys also allow children to communicate and learn along the way. However, not all children have the privileges to accept toys for presents or grow up playing with them.
To the president of Toy Libraries Malaysia, Datin Wong Poai Hong, no child should lose out from the joy of playing during childhood owing to their social background. Wong Pong Hong had spent more than 25 years setting up 50 toy libraries in collaboration with other NGOs at low-cost flats, Orang Asli villages and kindergartens in remote areas before setting up Toy Libraries Malaysia in 2017.
Over the years, the toy library has relied on the concept of public toy donations at their recycling hub in SS3, Petaling Jaya, ensuring that toys would not end up in landfills. In 2021, Toy Libraries Malaysia established a RePlay Toy Library at Rumah Tangsi, Kuala Lumpur, providing pre-loved toys for the B40 communities.
RePlay Toy Library does not just gather pre-loved toys, but it seeks to prepare the donated toys for re-use through repair or upcycling. The toys in Rumah Tangsi can be rented by kindergartens, bought at a more affordable price and open possible employment opportunities for marginalised communities.
The RePlay Toy Library at Rumah Tangsi organises workshops for children from time to time and hopes to become a safe space not just for children from the elite group but for children from all walks of life.
Through play, there is a natural connection that happens between young children and adults, and even any age group in general. We want to see that connection again. Our hope is to see the toy library create a safe space for exploration and learning. – Datin Wong Poai Hong, Director Of Toy Libraries Malaysia 
#2: Affordable Rental Spaces In Kuala Lumpur
Over the years, we have witnessed the growth in youth from different states trying their luck to have a better livelihood in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. But the cost of living in the city centre has only grown over the years, many struggling to find a suitable place to live.
The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), noticed the need for affordable living spaces and launched two initiatives in the past year to accommodate the city’s exponential population growth.
In 2019, then Kuala Lumpur mayor, Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan announced an initiative that has surely eased the burden of low-income, unmarried individuals through the micro-housing scheme. The scheme adopts a capsule hotel concept that allows individuals who live in KL to rent rooms for as low as RM100 per month.
In 2020, DBKL announced that more low-cost housing is in the pipeline to cater for households with young couples with children given priority. The three-bedroom council homes seek to accommodate 1,000 young families in the city. The households would have to have to pay a RM300 monthly commitment. The residents will be allowed to stay at the temporary housing for up to 3 years.
#3: Mari Membaca Initiative In Johor Bahru
The love of reading is important to be nurtured at a young age. Reading allows children to enhance their literacy skills as well as creative development. However, books don’t come cheap and can be costly to low-income households.
The initiative launched in 2018 by Happy-Riders Connect is bringing books to the B40 children in the kampung and low-cost housing areas in Johor to encourage a love for reading amongst the children.
In 2020, joining hands with Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB), the Rotary Club of Johor Bahru Sentral (RCJBS), a flagship library kiosk was established in Kampung Dato Sulaiman Menteri (KDSM). The Kios Bacaan Komuniti KDSM is filled with books that children from the community can borrow and is also a weekly reading programme run by volunteers at Happy-Riders Connect.
The B40 children should not miss out on the chance of knowledge and by extending this programme to them, it is hoped that they would have an interest in education and stay in school until at least SPM level. – Stephen Ngu, founder of Happy-Riders Connect 
Happy-Riders Connect founder, Stephen Ngu, said that he hopes that there will be more library kiosks in low-income neighbourhoods soon. Stephen also invites more public book donations or even volunteers to read to the children.
It would do your favourite books’ justice when it is in the kiosk, as it could be a favourite for others as well in the long run. – Stephen Ngu, founder of Happy-Riders Connect 
#4: The Nest, Learning Spaces For B40 children
Studying and learning require a conducive environment. However, in a low-household income family, a small apartment and shared rooms with siblings is far from ideal. Understanding the importance of learning spaces, the students at Taylor’s University came together and created The Nest initiative.
The Nest initiative was established in 2018 to provide conducive spaces that allow children to study within the comfort of their own homes. Now, in the second series, the joint project by the School of Architecture, Building and Design and the School of Education of Taylor’s University has garnered the attention of local authorities, the Housing and Local Government Ministry to expand their initiatives to more families living in low-cost housing.
To date, the team behind The Nest is building an in-house learning space for 12 underprivileged families at the Lembah Subang 2 People’s Housing Project (PPR).
#5: Ronald McDonald House, Affordable Accommodation For Parents With Clinically Ill Children
The Ronald McDonald House is an affordable accommodation provided to parents with hospitalised children. The “home-away-from-home” concept implemented by the initiative eased the burden of families who had travelled far to provide their children with the necessary treatment.
The first Ronald McDonald House was established in 1999 at Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM (HCTM, UKM). The facility that has been operating for more than 20 years has benefitted more than 1,350 families whose children were on treatment at HCTM, UKM and nearby hospitals in Klang Valley. The cost of a per night stay is as low as RM 5 and the accommodation could house at least 19 families at one time.
In recent years, two more facilities of its kind have opened at Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian in 2019 to accommodate families of paediatric patients that travel from different parts of the East Coast and at Hospital Tunku Azizah, Kuala Lumpur.
I come from Kuala Lipis, Pahang. My son, Muhammad Ammar needs 2 treatments monthly. Travel and accommodation expenses were high at RM500 each trip until I discovered Ronald McDonald House (RMH) which greatly reduced my expenses.
Whilst my son is undergoing treatment at the hospital, my other 3 children enjoy the library, playroom and playground within RMH. It is a comfortable place for my whole family. Thanks for helping us, RMH. – Muhammad Ammar, a parent who benefitted from RMH 
#6: Eat X Dignity
Located at Sentul Boulevard, Eat X Dignity is one of the many social enterprises spearheaded by the Dignity Foundation run by their students. The Eat X Dignity has been operating since 2015, serving good food at an affordable price point. The initiative is also a training ground for underprivileged youths to sharpen their employable skills.
Underprivileged communities can be active contributors to society regardless of their status. All they need is a platform to work without being exploited. That’s what Eat x Dignity is all about. – Natalie Tan, Head of Enterprise At Dignity For Children Foundation 
Youths are in action at the eatery, from manning the till to brewing a cup of coffee and serving you meals made from local produce.
#7: Free PKRC For Low-Cost Housing Dwellers
Often, residents in public housing initiatives such as the People’s Housing Project (PPR) and Public Housing (PA) have been living in reportedly cramped and crowded conditions. When the pandemic hits, a solution to curb infection in a household is to allow home quarantine and isolation. However, the luxury of having their own toilet and a proper room for quarantine is out of reach for the residents of low-cost housing.
Understanding the challenges faced by the community, The Ministry of Federal Territories provided four COVID-19 Low-Risk Quarantine and Treatment Centres(PKRC), free of charge for residents infected with COVID-19 living in tight spaces.
The four private PKRCs are in Royal Chulan Hotel, International Youth Centre (IYC), Travelodge City Centre Hotel also Tamu Hotel and Suites Kampung Baru. The PKRC in the Travelodge City Centre Hotel, in particular, is fully sponsored by CREST (Crisis Relief Services and Training Bhd) Malaysia. Patients were only required to bring the Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test results, Covid-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) referral letter, identification card as well as an RM100 deposit, refundable upon departure.
#8: Friendly Neighbourhood Eco-Shop
Beyond a doubt, 2-dollar stores have been booming over the years. Now, there are plenty of brands under the segment including Eco-Shop. Eco-Shop has gained prominence and is the oldest player in the market with over 150 stores under its belt. Initially, Eco-Shop targets the B40 income group, and 2 dollar stores establish their presence in the low catchment and rural areas. Eco Shop, for example, was founded in Jementah, Segamat, Johor.
But these days, just about everyone is flocking to 2-dollar stores for its convenience and lower prices compared to supermarkets at RM2.20 in Peninsular Malaysia and RM2.40 in East Malaysia. With the increasing raw goods prices, the 2-dollar stores are here to stay to lend a helping hand to the B40 community and Malaysians looking for items at an affordable price.
Explore our sources:
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- S.S.Priya. (2021).Toy joy. The Star. Link
- C.Liaw. (2018). Learning through play with Toy Libraries Malaysia. Epic Journal. Link
- V.Babulal & F.Athirah. (2019). B40 youths can soon rent DBKL micro-homes for RM100 a month. New Straits Times. Link
- V.Babulal. (2020). DBKL to build ‘start up’ homes for 1,000 young families. New Straits Times. Link
- N.Shafeq. (2022). Encouraging ‘Mari Membaca’ to Feed the Mind and Souls of the B40 Children. The Iskandarian. Link
- FMT Lifestyle. (2019). Taylor’s students build learning spaces for underprivileged children. Free Malaysia Today. Link
- The Star. (2019). Building learning spaces for kids from B40 families. Link
- Ronald McDonald House Charities. Ronald McDonald House. Link
- Ronald McDonald House Charities. (2021). Ronald McDonald House in Hospital Tunku Azizah Officially Opens its Doors to Families. Link
- N.Tan. (2021). Eat X Dignity: good food at good prices for a good cause. Free Malaysia Today. Link
- Bernama. (2021).FT Ministry provides free PKRCs for PPR, PA residents. Astro Awani. Link
- F.Solhi. (2021). Travelodge City Centre converted into free PKRC for B40.New Straits Times. Link
- V.Ganesan. (2020). The quick and quiet rise of RM2 stores. The Edge Markets. Link