Wanderlust + Co spreads joy through Project Happy Bags to benefit children in need
After reading the news about Afghanistan and living in a society still grappling with the brutality of Covid-19, with political instability thrown into the equation, adults could be forgiven for feeling sad and overwhelmed, not to mention children. But it’s also heartwarming that many Malaysians have courageously stepped up to do their part to improve the lives of their compatriots. From the many innovative food aid programs to the layman who make a point of getting things done, countless stories abound of how the rakyat really kiss the “kita jaga kitaMantra, one of the most recent initiatives being Project Happy Bags.
Inspired by the many food bank fundraising campaigns, mother and entrepreneur Jenn Low, founder and CEO of the jewelry brand Wanderlust + Co, also wanted to play a meaningful role. âThe Happy Bags Project started as a personal project with my four year old daughter Olivia and myself as a way to give back to children from families struggling with foreclosure. The idea is that these Happy Bags would be a complement to the food aid already distributed to families in need.
A few occasional social media posts about what the mother-daughter duo were doing instantly sparked a flood of requests from friends and followers around the world eager to help, with RM 10,000 pledged in less than 24 hours. .
For those wondering what exactly a Happy Bag can be, it is basically a colorful paper bag filled with useful and fun items that would delight a child, bring happiness, and alleviate mental stress. For example, a Happy Bag would consist of an assortment of items including butter cookies, a reusable cutlery kit and water cup, children’s dental care items, a reusable woven face mask, a multilingual dictionary and toys. . âWe also made sure to add play slime so the kids could relax,â Low smiles.
What gives this project a lot of heart are the Happy Notes that accompany it. âA lot of children’s learning relies on discovery and joyful experiences,â Low explains. âUnfortunately, during this pandemic, many Malaysian children could not feel the joy. The idea for Happy Notes started with the template messages we use [at Wanderlust + Co], such as “The world is a better place for you”, “Remember to smile today” and “You are loved, no matter how you feel”.
In addition to pledges of monetary donations, members of the public can also donate Happy Bags or Happy Notes. âThe messages are in both English and Bahasa and are meant to impart good energy. Happy Notes allow anyone to show love, from one Malaysian home to another, as it simply requires a pen, paper, time, and good intentions. Those who donated Happy Notes shared that their creation was both an educational and therapeutic exercise to do with their children during the lockdown. I now have hundreds of photos of these notes, which really show how nice and creative Malaysians are.
This is a feeling shared by the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) partners. âAlthough we donated rice and basic necessities to survive, which impacted my team were the Happy Notes that came with each Happy Bag. We have received messages from families who send us pictures of the notes, âexplains Heidy Quah, founder of Refuge for the Refugees. âThe children stick the notes on their walls as a sign of encouragement. There’s something about it that says, ‘I see you. I am okay. I hear you. And you are important to me ‘to the receiver.
Shen-tel Lee, Founder of Kuching Food Aid, says, âWhen we were contacted, we saw how beautiful the Hope Notes were and how they added a human touch to our aid bags. Our volunteers loved them so much that they insisted that we plastic them so that they could be kept as a pledge forever. The project shows that our nation, while stuck at home, is capable of doing more than we think we can. “
While it is the instinct of parents to protect children from the most difficult aspects of life, Low emphasizes the importance of not shying away from it. “If we want to raise our children to be good citizens of the world, then [we need to teach them about showing] kindness, compassion, and understanding that life is not without its problemsâ¦ and that we should, as much as possible, do our part to help. It is important to educate them on how problems should be viewed and what can be done.
âSooner or later kids will see the real world for themselves. All we can do as parents is help frame the narrative for them. I’m very motivated to help my kids learn about it. more about themselves and their place in the world Sharing these experiences with them early on will hopefully lead to a growing mindset in the years to come.
Of her four-year-old’s reaction to the project (her son, Oscar, is still a toddler), Low says, âOlivia was super excited! It was a little difficult for her to conceptually understand that while all parents want the best for their children, some may struggle to provide that right now. But she understands how a little joy like this can lift your spirits and she was very quick and efficient at wrapping the Happy Bagsâ¦ oh, and sticking a Happy Note on each one!
Each happy bag is set at a cost of RM25, with Noko Malaysia on board as a project partner. Low says, âWe are fortunate to have found a partner supermarket that believes in our goals and works tirelessly with us to make the magic happen every week. We also wanted to make sure we were getting the most out of each ringgit given, and we did. We immediately got going, buying the best items at the lowest possible prices. We have also secured sponsorship for some of the items in the bag.
The first set of Happy Bags, along with the Happy Notes, was sent to NGO partners on July 17th and deliveries continued until Merdeka Day, for a total of 6.5 weeks. Partner NGOs include, but are not limited to, the Somali Refugee Community, Faith Works Enterprise and Hunger Hurts, as well as beneficiaries of Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh in Segambut Dalam, Segambut Masjid, Kgambut Tengah, Segambut Bahagia Tambahan and Sri Sinar, all in Kuala Lumpur.
As of August 16, the team behind Project Happy Bags were pleased to announce that RM69,000 had been collected, with 2,400 Happy Bags delivered, along with 120 stationery bags, over 1,000 infant formula packets, 13 580 baby diapers, 400 Covid- 19 home test kits and much more.
This article first appeared on August 23, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.