One for the unsung heroes

Radhika and Charis

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended life as we know it, leaving half the planet on lockdown.

An increasing number of companies have announced pay and job cuts, not only paralysing the economy but fuelling anxiety for many over the impact of the pandemic on their livelihoods during these unprecedented times.

But not one to be apathetic to the plight of others, two Monash University Malaysia alumnae are helping those in need while creating an avenue that is bringing out the best side in people during this challenging period.

Kindness is a catalyst for change

Radhika Divya Chelliah and Charis Wong, graduates of Monash’s School of Business, kicked off #MYDeliveryHeroes, a kindness movement for Malaysians to support delivery riders and local food and beverage (F&B) businesses during the global health crisis.

Through the movement, Malaysians can purchase meals for food delivery riders by choosing a food delivery service on their respective apps along with a halal restaurant, before selecting a meal of their choice and setting the restaurant’s location as the delivery address. They can then add a thank you note informing the rider that the meal is for him or her.

Alternatively, individuals can pass a care pack to their delivery rider upon receiving their meal.

With riders tirelessly delivering food to customers during the Movement Control Order (MCO) at the expense of their own health, Radhika and Charis felt a palpable need to help these frontliners in the country and created the movement after seeing similar initiatives taking place abroad.

One story that stood out for them was from the daughter of a Grab Food rider who shared on Instagram that her father is among the individuals whose main source of income was from Grab.

When the MCO began, he was nervous and wary about the risks associated in contracting COVID-19 as a rider, while his age also placed him in a high risk group. But as the breadwinner of the family, he had little option but to continue working.

“One day, someone ordered a meal for him and he was really happy and touched by the gesture,” said Charis.

His daughter shared that it not only meant he was collecting a delivery fee, but also a free meal to boot.

“That was something that inspired another friend of hers and many others who saw the Instagram post and story to do the same,” she said.

Since their initiative began last month, the 27-year-olds have seen a flurry of messages from friends, family members as well as strangers who shared their experiences via Instagram, while riders themselves have been moved by the initiative.

Restaurants have also stepped up, buying drinks and meals for delivery heroes.

At the crux of their kindness movement is the underlying message that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day and that small acts of kindness can keep these delivery heroes going.

Riders work, come rain or shine, to ensure customers can enjoy their meals during a period when no one can make non-essential trips out of their house.

Their work can involve climbing up flights of stairs to deliver food to customers in high-rise buildings, while with the MCO in place, they also have a shorter period to earn an income, with deliveries restricted between 8am and 8pm.

Charis hopes the movement will help Malaysians realise how easy it is to make an impact in the lives of others.

“There's a sense of empathy and community from the public to reflect on what the bigger picture is and how helping delivery riders also helps local F&B providers, in addition to the economy in a small way,” she explained, adding that kindness is very important and “serves as a catalyst for change”.

Supporting B40 groups

Both Radhika and Charis are no strangers to being agents of change.

The duo co-founded the Monash Malaysia Business Alumni Chapter (MMBAC) in 2016 - a group for the university’s School of Business alumni to contribute to the continuous advancement of the university and its alumni.

The MMBAC also provides professional development opportunities, as well as promotes the Monash spirit of impacting the community to its members.

In leading the MMBAC, they’ve worked with refugees, students as well as with local and international Monash alumni.

Since stepping down as co-Presidents, they’ve continued to collaborate with the group to impact the community.

According to Radhika, their close friend from the MMBAC was involved with Little Helpers KL, a group of like-minded friends who come together, identify a good cause and do volunteer work. During the MCO period, they were providing grocery supplies to the B40 community.

They formed a partnership with Little Helpers KL, got individuals to nominate B40 families to receive aid before proceeding to check the eligibility of the nominees.

“We wanted to assess how many people were in the household, what was the household income, what was their source of income as well as the occupation of the breadwinners, and etcetera,” explained Radhika, who is currently pursuing her masters in the UK.

Together, they raised RM4,000 for their grocery relief program that was used to provide basic grocery supplies for 30 B40 families in Klang Valley. Many of these families had breadwinners who worked as nasi lemak sellers, odd-job workers, or as security guards or cleaners.

“The families were completely unaware that this initiative was going on, but they were very grateful,” said Radhika.

“We've completed that project, but we intend to work with the community and the families that have been identified from the database in the future towards something more sustainable.”

Galvanised into action

So, what are the duo’s message to others who want to be change agents themselves?

“What's key is that recognising that every one of us has the potential to make a difference - that in itself is extremely powerful,” said Charis.

She added that it’s also important to be aware that people are often paralysed by the magnitude of events happening around them, which can lead to inaction.

“If you see an issue, you need to step up and make a change or make a difference, because change starts with you,” she said.

Radhika also chimed in that many of their MMBAC members have also started initiatives of their own during MCO, and that it has been extremely heartwarming to see.

“A key takeaway for the both of us is that sometimes the impact of the work you do is much larger than the people that started it, and much larger than what you think it can be,” she said.

“I think that by getting started with the right intention and sticking to it and growing it, you'll be able to see something that is beyond what you expect in the first place.”