Karen Tan+CrispianChan.png

ELVAYANTI (b. 1972)

NEIGHBOURHOOD LEADER

Midday at Jalan Kukoh rental estate, some residents make their way to the public footpath, each standing more than one metre apart, greeting neighbours with nods or waves, waiting patiently for their lunch packs. Elvayanti rushes towards them. She has just come from organising a delivery to a different group of flats within the estate. Neighbours greet her, calling out her name. One neighbour asks, “Elva, today, nasi lemak?” She replies, “No, today vegetables and some meat. Nasi lemak only Ramadan period, fasting month special.” The neighbour adds, her eyes squinting from a cheeky smile beneath her mask, “I like. Very nice.” Elvayanti laughs, “Ok aunty. I get for you next time.”

As a regular volunteer with Beyond Social Services, Elvayanti, also a resident in Jalan Kukoh, organises food distribution in the estate. For the lunch pack delivery, Elvayanti goes door to door, asking residents if they needed meal support and taking note of their dietary requirements. She also gathers other volunteers within the estate to help with food distribution. “I only help with the blocks here, 11, 12 and 13. The rest I get my friends to do.”

Her first involvement with volunteerism began nine years ago with Pekik Community Services. Pekik, which means “shout” in Malay, was then helmed by Tok Mat (Mr Ahmad) who began a special project to benefit the children and families of the Jalan Kukoh estate. Under Tok Mat’s leadership she learnt how to organise community events and became one of the community leaders in the Pekik Jalan Kukoh project. After Tok Mat passed, she stayed on for a bit longer, before moving on to organise her own projects.

One of the projects she began some years now is an annual Ramadan pop-up. Held under her block, she sets up a kind of pasar (market). She would decorate the void deck with water fountains and floral arrangements, and set-up displays of accessories and clothing donated to her by well-wishers. She also coordinates food distribution during Ramadan, donated by a network of organisations and individuals who got to know her through her Pekik days, as well as new contacts received through word of mouth.

“Kita duduk ka rumah buat apa? Tak da faedah.” (Translation: We stay at home for what? Not worthwhile.) Home is a one room and one living room flat she shares with her husband, six children and one four-year-old grandchild. During the circuit breaker, her husband and her children are not working. Elva who works part-time as a cleaner is unable to work too. So she gets her family involved with volunteerism, and collectively they help her set up the collection points, distribute the food as well as clean up after. “Saya suka busy, busy. Kita buat amal, tolong orang, kita pun happy. Mereka pun happy.” (Translation: I like to be busy, busy. We do good, help people, we are happy. They are also happy.”)