FORMER Miss World Malaysia 2018 Larissa Ping is doing her best to help rural communites in Sarawak that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I cannot help everyone, but I can try to help those in need. During this crucial time, I believe it is important for us to reach out to the poor, marginalised and vulnerable folk. It drives me to help more when I see people getting help,” said Ping.
“My parents involved me in charity work since I was young and I have learnt a lot from them.”
One of her cherished memories during her reign as Miss World Malaysia was when she had the opportunity to reach out to indigenous communities in the rural areas of Sarawak.
On the beauty pageant, Ping said: “My Beauty With a Purpose Project made the whole journey meaningful because it was the main reason I participated in the pageant. I am very happy that I can still continue to use this platform to do good and contribute to society in whatever way possible.”
What outreach programmes or voluntary work have you been involved in?
Since the pandemic started, I did my best to support our local businesses and I used my social media platforms in the best way possible. I have been using my Instagram account to help promote small businesses, as well as get donations for people in need. I also did a food aid distribution programme in November last year for urban poor communities in Kuching. It was a personal initiative and I managed to raise RM11,000 within 24 hours. I am now helping students from Kampung Chawan Pendam to get access to online classes as they do not have electricity in their homes. It has been a month since I started this initiative to provide a space with WiFi for students to attend classes online.
What was it like distributing aid items in Sarawak during the movement control order?
It was an eye-opening experience. It was disheartening to see parents not being able to provide for their children, especially babies. Milk and diapers are not cheap and parents have tried to find cheaper alternatives to feed their children such as substituting formula milk powder with condensed milk. Knowing that I had a platform big enough to get people together gave me the motivation to help the community. I felt that I had to use my social media platforms to keep people informed and bring them together to do good. I was just a bridge between donors and those in need of donations. Someone has to take the initiative to do something, so I did it.
What did you learn from your work?
I learned that there are many communities in Sarawak that are greatly affected by the pandemic. I also learned that many students do not have the privilege of having electricity, owning a device or have access to the internet to attend online classes. Many students are being left behind in their education. It is very worrying as some of them have given up on their studies and chose to work instead.
I have experienced the power of social media in getting help to those in need. People often denounce social media and see the negative side of it, but in fact, it has the power to bring people together to help those facing a hard time. I am happy to know that there are many good and kind people in our community.
Why do you feel it is important to raise awareness about the conditions in rural villages?
There are still communities that need help. Communities in rural areas are often forgotten and get left behind, while those in the cities are constantly progressing with modernisation. The gap between those in the cities and the villages is getting larger. There has to be constant awareness about the conditions in rural villages to ensure they are being included and not forgotten.
What are your future plans?
I am hoping to start a non-governmental organisation, and together with my team, I will continue with my voluntary work.