IN 2012, Chrystina Ng joined 8TV as a TV host and was a supporting celebrity for World Vision’s project visit to Sabah for a special TV programme. There, she was introduced to a whole new sector of humanitarian relief work, focusing on improving human welfare in rural communities.
Today, Ng continues to render humanitarian assistance and is more passionate than ever to bring attention to suffering communities.
Sitting down with theSun in a secluded but cosy room in Media Prima, Ng shared her moving stories and experiences, as well as her efforts to help alleviate the suffering faced by children and communities in the country and worldwide.
What does being a humanitarian essentially mean?
“It shouldn’t just be about initiating passion projects and campaigns or doing charity, but we need to help improve the welfare of others who are less fortunate, through uplifting human values and championing basic rights.
“The topic of ‘humanitarian work’ stretches beyond [alleviating] poverty, it’s everything and anything that connects us as human beings that matters.”
As a supporter of philanthropic organisations yourself, how did you become a humanitarian?
“It all began eight years ago, by then I had just joined the industry. There was a project by 8TV in collaboration with World Vision Malaysia. I was given the opportunity to join their Area Development Programme at a very rural area in Sabah.
“Back then, they were building a hostel next to a school to accommodate the less fortunate students from surrounding rural areas.
“I remember we had to walk alongside the students from the school back to their homes, which took us about eight hours to go over the hill slopes with no designated pathway. As you can imagine with our Malaysian weather, it was unbearably hot, but the kids were so used to it.
“At the end of the journey, I stayed over with them at a very simple house. I got to experience what these kids have to go through every day with minimal amenities and a shortage in resources, as they depend heavily on natural sources such as the river or rainwater to shower, yet they were so content with what they had.
“I could also see the joy in their eyes as they were [feasting on] the French fries, ice cream and Milo we had provided which they [rarely got], I was so touched and moved; at that moment I felt something which no words could describe.
“It was then I realised the tiniest effort and deed can really change someone’s life. I don’t have to be loaded with money in order to be charitable, but what I can do is play the role of a Santa Claus; he pops by once a year bearing gifts and I figured, I can totally do that as well.”
Tell us about your F&B outlet, the Otherwise Cafe.
“It was a dream come true to set up a cafe, it really was about owning something I can truly call my very own, and I really enjoy [seeing the] human touches, which is perfect. The cafe also provided me with a space to carry out my self-initiated projects without the need to have someone else to back me up.
“I found out that World Vision Malaysia did not quite meet its goal last year when raising funds through its annual 30-Hour Famine campaign, hence, I suggested that I make it my beneficiary.
“[Last August], I held an event named Coffee for a Good Cause, where I raised funds by selling coffee, with 100% of the proceeds given to World Vision Malaysia.
“[And in] December, I held a flea market over the weekend. It was basically a charity sale whereby I gathered pre-loved items from my celebrity friends to raise funds for World Vision Malaysia [again].
“To my surprise, I managed to collect RM2,500 from the coffee charity and a staggering RM9,500 from the charity sale which was beyond my expectations; it was only possible because we banded together to play our roles.
“Through the events that I’ve held, friends around me have started talking about joining the bandwagon, they genuinely wanted to join in the movement to help contribute and do their part.”
Was that how the idea of The Other Love Foundation came into being?
“It’s just a humble label that I came up with and it’s not as big a deal as it sounds, but I do take immense pride in it. It’s not strictly for charity, it could also be used for other campaigns but I hope one day when people see the name, they’d know it’s safe to contribute and take part in if they wish to.”
Was it challenging to start a charity and to get the word around?
“Definitely, everyone has their schedule of activities every day and it was hard to gather everyone. A lot of time went into sorting out the logistics and also sorting out the items that would go on sale.
“I didn’t have a huge team with me when I started the project, It was just me and a few baristas and waiters in the cafe. Strictly speaking, I guess there were three of us setting up the charity sale from scratch.”
A little birdie told me you wanted to donate your hair. Is it true?
“Yes, I’ve been thinking about this for the longest time. The idea came to me when I started to grow out my hair three years ago.
“I’m still holding on to the idea, because I wanted to make it into a proper campaign with the intention of making wigs for people in need due to medical conditions that have caused them to lose their hair.
“In fact, my followers on social media for some reason already knew [about] my plan. Hopefully, I can get this done in due time, maybe by June this year because as you can see, my hair is pretty long at this point.”