Some students in Kota Kinabalu are so poor that it’s quite normal to hear of one who typically survives on only a bowl of instant noodles a day.
This is according to Mary Anne K Baltazar, the Manager of Pusat Belia’s Alamesra Youth-PREP Centre in the Sabah capital. She was explaining to FMT why the centre recently started a food programme called BAH Makan, which stands for “Belia Ada Hak (Youths Have Rights)”.
Baltazar asserted that youth rights included the right to regular and balanced meals.
BAH Makan was initiated in July and is aimed at helping out students at private colleges around the area where the Alamesra Centre has its offices.
“The lack of financial resources has been a key issue faced by youths, particularly students from rural communities who are studying at private institutions in KK,” Baltazar said.
She noted that the cost of living in Kota Kinabalu was high. It costs an average of RM10 for meals each day.
The BAH Makan programme involves a dinner session held once every fortnight at the Alamesra Centre and the distribution of dry food supplies from a food bank.
At the dinner sessions, students are served a simple but balanced meal. “These sessions also provide them an avenue to meet and form a youth-for-youth support group,” Baltazar said, adding that some 30 to 35 students were appearing on a regular basis, with more expected each fortnight.
The food bank, she explained, enabled students to have some food when they were financially stretched.
The bank is located at the Almesra Centre and is open every day. At any one time, each student is allowed to take five food items and five drink packets. There is no limit as to the number of times the students can replenish their provisions.
Baltazar said about 80 students were accessing the bank regularly.
She credited the Good Shepherd Services, an NGO, with the seed fund for the food bank, which has since been supplemented by donations from individuals and organisations.
She said members of the public and organisations who wished to help with the food programme can contact the centre at 088 485 371.
“Because most of these students don’t have access to cooking facilities at their hostels, the types of food we require are 3-in-1 coffee, tea or Milo; cereals, biscuits, canned food such as sardines, tuna and chicken curry; instant noodles and rice,” she said.
The centre plans to go mobile to reach out to students from other colleges around the city. It also plans to set up more food banks.
“We also hope to be able to conduct budgeting and income generating programmes for the students,” she said.
Robin Augustin@FMT Reporters Online