FORMER president of the Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK) Datuk Ruby Khong is back doing what she loves best — preventing food wastage and helping people in need.
Khong, who retired in 2015 which subsequently saw her taking a 11-month hiatus from corporate and social work, was appointed United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) Special Adviser for Advocacy Leading to Zero Hunger, Southeast Asia in March.
“Ending hunger is a big part of my DNA. About three years ago, I was engaged to conduct a leadership training programme leading to zero hunger for the UNWFP.
“It was such a success. Participants gave me a 3.9 rating out of four, that I was invited to do it again. When UNWFP asked me whether I would be interested to contribute more to the organisation, I welcomed the opportunity”, said Khong who was named one of Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy in 2010.
Elaborating on her role, she said the work would involve identifying appropriate engagement strategies and modalities to engage with private sector entities, representing UNWFP at meetings and events and evaluating the efficiency in how food is delivered and processed.
Khong said in Third World countries, the harvesting and distribution crops were not as good as it should be, resulting in unnecessary food wastages.
“Zero Hunger is about creating frameworks that would allow the distribution of food from surplus sources to the people in need.
“This also includes introduction of affordable infrastructure that would minimise food wastage and increase the efficiency in processing raw food.
“The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and promoting food security.
“It delivers food assistance in emergencies and works with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.”
Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
WFP’s efforts focus on emergency assistance, relief and rehabilitation, development aid and special operations.
“Two-thirds of their work is in conflict-affected countries where people are three times more likely to be undernourished than those living in countries without conflict.”
Khong is also a project consultant for the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), a government-linked company under the Finance Ministry.
“MaGIC hopes to nurture a vibrant entrepreneurial hub in the region and create an ecosystem that is collaborative and provide the necessary support to the development of entrepreneurs.
“With an impact-driven enterprise you are able to address social issues yet at the same time it is also sustainable as the model can generate income.”
In her role as a project consultant, her duties include helping the impact-driven enterprises get connected with contacts in the industry.
One of the impact-driven enterprises that went through MaGIC’s programme is Green Yards, where cooking oil from halal restaurants and stalls is converted into household products, like detergent and candles.
“Here the beneficiary is the environment because the oil would have otherwise been thrown into drains, ending up in our rivers and eventually the sea.”
Another example is The Picha Project, a cooking enterprise from a group of three female graduates of UCSI University that engages Syrian, Afghan, Myanmar and Rohingya refugees to prepare meals from their respective cultures for Malaysian customers.
“Here, the beneficiaries are the refugees themselves.
“There is no minimum age to join our programme,” she said.
An exciting new project that Khong and the team at MaGIC are keen to pursue is to duplicate successful impact-driven enterprises in suburban areas outside the Klang Valley.
“We would like to duplicate the modules in the area working along the lines of a franchise concept.
“It’s a win-win situation. “We help our impact-driven enterprises expand their networks, at same time, the community benefits from it because they become entrepreneurs as well.”
Another target that Khong and the MaGIC team have set their sights on are an accreditation programme for the enterprises.
The accreditation will be done by MaGIC and all certified enterprises will be listed on its website.
“Corporations are reluctant to give procurement contracts to impact-driven enterprises because they lack confidence in their reliability and standards.
“Through the programme, they are able to see that the entreprises have already been endorsed, are able to produce quality products and deliver on time.”
She said one of the main challenges for the enterprises is lack of market access.
“A website with a directory of these enterprises will help to bridge this gap.”
Khong added that worldwide trend indicated that corporations were moving out of corporate social responsibility projects in favour of corporate entrepreneurship responsibility.