IT is more blessed to give than to receive, goes the age-old adage. With this in mind, Astro initiated its Astro Kasih corporate social responsibility programme back in 2009.
Since then, the top broadcast corporation in South-East Asia, with its Astro Kasih employee volunteers, have cleaned the oceans, restored and rehabilitated the corals in Sabah, and built hostels for primary schoolchildren in Sabah and Sarawak.
“Since we are so much a part of the community, we are in a unique position to help them and empower them,” said Astro’s CEO Datuk Rohana Rozhan.
“We understand the challenges facing the communities in Sabah and Sarawak. In Magandai, for instance, the kids have to walk for three to four hours just to get to school. We want to provide a conducive environment for these children to attend school. That is why we started this project.”
Rohana went on to say that what began as a trial, ended up as a huge success, and proved to be a great encouragement not only for her but also for Astro.
“The students’ performance improved and the parents were very encouraging. You realise that here is a formula that works but there is more to it.
“It is about getting the right teachers, having the right interaction with the students, training the teachers and using the right tools. It is an ongoing thing,” Rohana explained.
The Astro Kasih hostel project was carried out in collaboration with the Education Ministry, the Sabah and Sarawak local governments, the Malaysian Armed Forces, Ministry of Agriculture, and the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu).
“More parents are now convinced to send their children to the hostel,” said Rohana.
More importantly, she added, the children remained in school and did not drop out due to their dreadful circumstances.
The existence of the hostel had, to some extent, circumvented that.
“These kids are staying in school and going to secondary school, and getting good results. So, what’s the next step? We may provide scholarships for them to pursue higher education,” she said.
On top of that, Rohana said it was important to build a self-sustainable community and that was why Eco Village was put in place.
The project saw the building of a chicken coop and a multi-trophic system to rear fishes.
“The children can grow their own vegetables and rear fish or goats and be self-sustaining. You give the community the tools to improve their lifestyle. They can consume the produce and market it if there is excess,” she said.
She described the Astro Kasih hostel project as a model that could be replicated anywhere in the country.