A boxful of groceries packed with care can lift one’s spirits when the chips are down. The AEON Homebox, delivered to 1,200 hotel employees retrenched during the pandemic, brought smiles to all recipients. They are reminders that contributions, no matter how small, can add up to something good.
The initiative is part of the Bersama AEON programme undertaken by the Malaysian AEON Foundation, to help various hoteliers throughout the country who have lost their jobs. The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Selangor chapter is working with the foundation to deliver the food boxes, which are worth RM100 each and contain basic necessities such as rice, sugar, eggs, cooking oil and instant noodles.
“When the idea was first [mooted] to target the hard-hit industries, we thought this would just be another food-box programme during the pandemic,” says Datin Yasmin Merican, the foundation president until April. “But in inviting employees to personally deliver the boxes to the many families around Malaysia, it has touched the hearts of many, both at AEON and the families who are now connected through this people-to-people programme.”
Loose change donated by customers at AEON’s check-out counters was also channelled towards the food boxes. The foundation has lent a hand to airlines and entertainment industry staff affected by Covid-19 as well.
Furthermore, hotel employees stepped up to connect with recipients living in remote areas. MAH Selangor chapter chairman Datin Jasmine Abdullah Heng says the collaboration is one of many initiatives the association has lined up for this year. “We are always looking for avenues and partners to support us in our CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities to ensure the hotel community stays relevant and positive despite the challenges faced during the pandemic.”
Jasmine says when hotels started laying off staff, MAH wondered how it could help those badly off. “We approached a few of the big supermarkets and shopping malls but none of them was keen to do it with us. Then Yasmin said to me, ‘Give us a list of all those who really need help’.”
The programme was open to those in the B40 group and 1,206 applicants were approved. “We asked for about 2,000 boxes, 70% of which have been given out.
“The hotel industry is among the worst-hit by the pandemic — it’s really drowning. We hope the government can give us more support and continue with its various subsidies,” says Jasmine.
In a recent press release, MAH says the tourism industry has lost more than 80% of its business since March 2020 despite capturing some domestic business between June and September. Last year, the industry recorded a loss of over RM6.53 billion. As at May this year, revenue loss was estimated to be at least RM5 billion.
“The lives of 3.6 million people employed in the tourism industry, or what’s left of it by now, is at stake. [We] understand the need for restrictions but believe there is room for improvement in balancing lives versus livelihoods,” the association says.
This article first appeared on June 28, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.