Soprano Tan Soo Suan makes a comeback for a fundraising concert with Dama Asia

The show titled 'Delicate Dreams & Desires' is hoping to raise RM200,000.

From left: Dr Low Pek See, Dr Toh Cheng Teik and Datin Susan Lai (Photo: Patrick Goh/The Edge Malaysia)

Established in 2015, Medical Awareness Camp Outreach (Maco) has been helping individuals and institutions in need of refurbished computers for learning purposes since it started its computer empowerment programme under The School Project umbrella at the height of the pandemic four years ago.

When Maco launched the initiative, it relied on individual donations of personal computers, 70% of which had to be disposed of because they could not be fixed or updated for present-day needs. Over time, big companies such as United Overseas Bank, Great Eastern and Mr DIY stepped in to give away their unused computers as the companies went through significant change to adapt to the new normal.

“The pandemic initiated the initiative, but it also became our saviour because a lot of businesses had to upgrade from desktops to laptops as the work-from-home model kicked in. They did not know where to discard the computers, so they gave them to us,” says Dr Low Pek See, founding president of Maco.

For the longest time, the organisation was dependent on funding from its 10 core members and their close friends as well as entities that got to know them by word of mouth. This year, Maco decided to put together a charity concert, Delicate Dreams & Desires, featuring Tan Soo Suan and Dama Asia, on Feb 28 and 29 in the hope of spreading knowledge about the work it does to help underprivileged communities.

“We never actually went public on such a scale. So we thought we’d do a fundraising in this manner. Susan [Lai] and I are great fans of Soo Suan and Dama. It would be good to bring together those three interests — Soo Suan as the singer, Dama as the producer and Maco as the organiser,” says Low.

“This event will hopefully bring awareness to people we have not been able to reach before. And if it corresponds to and aligns with their CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives, it will be fantastic.”


Tan returns from a hiatus to participate in the charity concert (Photo: Tan Soo Suan)

Lai, a long-time supporter of Maco and a dear friend of Low, has collaborated with Dama for a number of years. “I’ve known the group for 30 years. I believe in their music and dedication. I’ve worked with them before for charity and they are ever so supportive. This will be the fourth time I’m using them for fundraising. They are not doing charity, they are paid because they themselves rely on charity,” she says.

“I’ve been a small supporter of Maco in my little ways, but I felt they weren’t doing something big enough to bring awareness and raise more money. So, I put forward the idea to Pek See to hold a charity concert.”

The discussion to organise a show was rather smooth and easy. “We sat and said, ‘Let’s dive in’. As long as we put in effort together with Dr Toh [Cheng Teik], we can make it work,” says Lai.

“Maybe I agreed at first for my own selfish reasons because I haven’t heard Soo Suan sing for a long time. I have been an ardent fan of hers and Dama since they started their musical journey. So when Susan brought up the idea, I jumped at it,” says Low.

She ran the plan by Toh, a civil engineer and current Maco president, as well as the committee and everybody said, “Okay, let’s try it out.” Given that this is the first time Maco is holding such an event, the partners cannot help but feel nervous. “We are not sure we’re able to sell tickets. But we are optimistic that we can push it through to the end.”

As  “godmum” to Tan, a soprano and Western opera-trained singer, Lai pulled the latter out of her long hiatus to participate in this meaningful project. Tan, who has not performed solo in the last 17 years, was elated when informed about the fundraising concert.

“I did not even hesitate before saying yes! I am a strong believer in affinity. Some things happen for a cause and others for a reason,” she says.


SJK (C) Peay Min in Teluk Ramunia, Johor, received four laptops, six desktops and one printer to cater to its eight pupils

“Although I have not been singing on stage for the past few years, the singer is still very much within me, waiting for the right time and place and reason. This performance with Dama in aid of Maco’s noble cause is exactly what I have been waiting for, so I feel very blessed indeed to be given this honour.”

Guests can look forward to classics such as Love Without End, Lover’s Tears, Fisherman’s Song and Waiting for Your Return. Tan, accompanied by Dama, will also be performing Eternally, an Academy Award-winning soundtrack composed by English comic actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin.

While the organisation is hoping to raise RM200,000 from the event — the total from ticket sales and sponsorships will be used to cover the cost of staging the show as well as the group’s work in its computer empowerment programme — Maco emphasises the intangible benefits it will get from the event, which is “people being aware of what Maco is doing”, says Low.

Going by its name, Delicate Dreams & Desires reflects Tan’s singing prowess that is powerful yet ethereal, and Maco’s ambitions to reach more underprivileged students for better opportunities in education. “Our ultimate desire is simply to have more computers.”

Maco has distributed refurbished computers to 200 schools across the country to date. The average cost to repurpose a computer is about RM200 — RM120 for the hard disk and memory and RM80 for the intern’s labour as well as workshop overheads, Low says.

A thousand more computers will be allocated to over 70 schools. “If there are 1,000 computers, we will need RM200,000 to fix them. If we can get RM100,000 from the concert, it can last us for four to five months as we spend about RM20,000 per month,” says Toh.

The quantity of devices installed in each institution depends on the number of students in the biggest class. “We fit for the largest so each pupil can use the machine. Some schools have 40 students, some only eight,” adds Low.


A school lab with more than 30 computers entails additional infrastructure costs

A typical school lab with 30 computers incurs infrastructure costs for cabling, modem, data, power points, a 55in smart TV, desks and chairs. To save on logistics, the Maco team personally delivers the devices to schools, including those outside the Klang Valley.

The organisation has thought of many ways to equip schools with computers, given their importance to students in learning. And the most cost-effective solution is giving out refurbished devices.

“If you buy new, it is about RM2,000 per computer. There’s no other way we can provide schools with computers cheap and fast if we don’t do it like this. We are paying only 10% of the price of a new device,” says Toh.

Maco targets to continue doing good for as many schools in Malaysia as it can. Its first fundraising concert since the programme started four years ago will be a huge stepping stone to ensure the organisation achieves its vision in the years to come.

'Delicate Dreams & Desires will be staged at Stage 1, PJPAC, on Feb 28 and 29. To purchase tickets, click here. For sponsorship or block purchases of tickets, WhatsApp (011) 3985 8968.

This article first appeared on Jan 8, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.


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