Sabrina Lai CPA fights hunger and feeds hope in Malaysia

Sabrina Lai CPA (second from right) with fellow volunteers at a Rise Against Hunger event.

Sabrina Lai CPA decided to help provide food to people in need in Malaysia, and one event has taken her into leadership roles as a volunteer.

By Katie Langmore

For organisations working to alleviate hunger, the question of how to get food to people in need can be a tricky one. International non-profit organisation Rise Against Hunger has an extremely effective method, which relies on the support of “meal-packing champions” around the globe.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) financial analyst Sabrina Lai CPA first stepped up to being a Rise Against Hunger “champion” in 2014, and hasn’t looked back.

“After hearing about HPE Singapore’s meal-packing event, a colleague and I got inspired and decided to propose the same for Malaysia. It was a long shot, as our corporate social responsibility [CSR] budgets were pretty much locked in at that point. To our amazement, we got the green light,” explains Lai. 

“On event day, we had almost 500 employees dedicating their time, and we packed 200,000 meals – that’s 900+ boxes – in a day. We hosted three more meal-packing events over the next two years and packed a further 660,000 meals.”

Sabrina Lai CPA with her colleague and co-founder of Rise Against Hunger Malaysia.Not surprisingly, Rise Against Hunger Malaysia was delighted with their dedication and effort. The president invited Lai and her colleague to extend their voluntary work, attending other food-packing events in a training capacity.

Lai now works as a CHEF – Certified Hunger Event Facilitator – four to five times a year. She also helps manage the Rise Against Hunger Malaysia Facebook page, doing short write-ups of events and providing updates to followers.

“I feel so lucky I’m supported by HPE’s CSR policy, which enables employees to use up to 60 hours of their paid time on voluntary work each year,” says Lai.

“They also give us US$5 an hour during our voluntary work to donate to an organisation of our choice.” 

A meal-packing event involves assembly lines of volunteers, weighing uncooked rice, lentils or soy and dehydrated vegetables, and packing them in a plastic bag, along with a vitamin sachet. Each bag is then vacuum-sealed and placed in a box.

Rise Against Hunger sources the ingredients locally at about 30 US cents per meal and the vitamin sachets are produced and sponsored by Kraft Heinz. The packed boxes are distributed by volunteer organisations such as Rotary Club and the Red Crescent.

“Before each meal-packing event, we let the volunteers know who the beneficiaries are and how the meal packs will help them,” outlines Lai.

“Sometimes they go to groups with ongoing needs – for example, one of our regular beneficiaries is the Alliance of Chin Refugees Learning Centre in Kuala Lumpur – other times they support disaster relief efforts.

“All of us can play a part in eradicating hunger by 2030, which is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to end world hunger by 2030. Together we can make it matter.”

“We recently packed 20,000 meals for the Indigenous people who live in the Belum Forest Reserve in Perak, who had their crops and village destroyed by elephants!”

Lai hadn’t volunteered for a charity until she joined Rise Against Hunger. Now, she is also on HPE Malaysia’s volunteering committee and is assistant chairperson of CPA Australia Malaysia division’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) committee.

“I think I’m a bit too busy,” says Lai, laughing, but she acknowledges that she feels very positive about being involved in helping to make a difference, and passionate about the cause she works for.

“We rise by lifting others. All of us can play a part in eradicating hunger by 2030, which is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to end world hunger by 2030. Together we can make it matter.”

CPA Australia Resource: Tools, templates and resources to support you when performing voluntary or pro bono accounting services. Access now.

Rise Against Hunger

Rise Against Hunger is an international hunger relief non-profit organisation that coordinates the packaging and distribution of food and other life-changing aid to people in developing nations through local volunteers and partner organisations.

Since 2005, Rise Against Hunger has distributed more than 315,000,000 meals to recipients in 74 countries.

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