PETALING JAYA: As the impact of Covid-19 continues to deepen, and with more people seeking help, a few teenagers have come together to connect people who need assistance with those offering aid.

The initiative, led by Feed Malaysia, started out by connecting people who need food with food banks. Feed Malaysia also collaborates with OneStep Closer that helps job seekers get employment, and Care Lifeline that connects mentally-distressed people with counselling services establishments.

Feed Malaysia was founded by 19-year-olds Au Jun Wei, Himn Yau Leong, Karishma Menon, Natasha Lim and Max Chew.

Au said the strategy to connect the hungry with food banks began in July as Feed Selangor.

“Our objective was to help those in the Klang Valley who needed food, money and healthcare,” he told theSun.

He said the group focused on providing information on food banks in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, but as a result of the overwhelming response from other states, they decided to expand it nationwide, renaming it Feed Malaysia.

The initiative has expanded its reach, with a team of 14 volunteers, with some coming from Negri Sembilan and as far as Johor, and some as young as 17. Au said Feed Selangor began by raising funds to purchase food for those seeking help under the #benderaputih movement.

“However, we realised there were already many good Samaritans and businesses that had stepped up with such efforts,” he said.

Instead of doing the same thing, Au and his team decided to make it easier for the needy to find the food banks.

“We found that the information on such aid was quite dispersed on the internet. Another challenge for many was the lack of access to the internet.”

He said this resulted in food banks in certain areas experiencing a high demand for food aid while others continued to have surpluses.

“We decided that we should serve as an information hub that connects individuals who need help with those who can help. We managed to extend our services across Malaysia with the support of our state representatives, who had been spurred on by the high demand for food aid,” Au said.

Through several collaborations, Feed Malaysia added new features to its website, to make it easier for people to seek help.

“For instance, we have an improved map function that shows the food banks within a specific radius from an individual’s location. There is also a Food Aid Delivery page that enables people to ask for food to be delivered to them.”

With OneStep Closer on board, people can now also seek help to look for jobs. OneStep Closer helps by reviewing resumes for job applicants, linking them to job portals and offering help to those who have been retrenched.

The range of services was further expanded, with the addition of Care Lifeline, a hotline service that links callers with counselling services for those having trouble getting through this crisis. Those who do not have access to the internet may also call a hotline, which was initiated by a Klang Valley pastor fellowship, to ask for food or other essentials.

Au said feedback from callers also helped Feed Malaysia and its partners to improve their services.

“Through them, we received insights on how we can serve them better,” he said.

“Understandably, many are in this predicament because they have lost their jobs. That is where our collaboration with OneStep Closer helps.”

While the default language is English, Au said Malay and Chinese will also be incorporated into the system to make it more accessible.

“Our objective is to tell people that help is always there and is easily accessible. Do not be afraid to reach out. As Malaysians, we are all in this together,” he added.