Cover Photo: Biji-Biji Initiative

Could this be Malaysia’s first ever decentralised factory line? Social enterprise Biji-Biji Initiative and its innovative educational makerspace Me.reka have mobilised various groups to create DIY protective face shields for the nation's Covid-19 frontliners

What we’ve witnessed in the past 2 weeks under the Movement Control Order has been a remarkable display of generosity from Malaysians everywhere.

Some kicked off crowdfunding campaigns and some delivered meals to the homeless. Others literally took matters into their own hands – like the community of makers at the Me.reka educational centre in Publika. 

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The educational centre-cum-makerspace is part of Biji-Biji Initiative, which champions sustainability in the most practical way possible: by empowering people with the skills to design, build and up-cycle.   

In recent weeks, this youth-driven social enterprise has demonstrated just how crucial these skills are today in light of the Covid-19 crisis. 

After speaking with hospital directors and healthcare professionals from Damansara Specialist Centre, Universiti Malaya Medical Centre and Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM, the Biji-Biji and Me.reka teams identified a shortage of protective face shields at the front-lines, among other things.

Immediately, the community of makers got to work. Social media channels, Me.reka's website and partner networks were engaged to announce a call for donations and volunteers to help with the supply, logistics and production of urgently needed medical equipment. 

The goal was to produce protective face shields that were both durable and reusable, complete with their replaceable parts.

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It seemed an impossible task. Yet, the team had organised multiple production sites in less than a week.

More than 30 industry partners committed to contribute materials, logistics solutions and machinery needed to kick-start production. A public call was even made for certified auditors to come on board for transparency in the reporting of collected funds. Currently, nearly RM129k has been raised via crowdfunding efforts to help power this homegrown medical supplies production line.

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Within 5 days, more than 1,500 face shields were produced and successfully delivered to grateful front-liners and hospitals across Malaysia.  

The Biji-Biji comms team signed off Instagram posts with a mixture of gratitude and further appeals for support, “We know the impact when a few people come together, but an entire country? That would be unparalleled.”⁣⁣⁣

As more orders for protective gear poured in from all directions, Biji-Biji teams across the nation worked tirelessly to assemble the protective face shields. Others tested prototypes for ventilators and isolation boxes, also items which were high in demand.   

“Witnessing the solidarity of Malaysians acting quick, foregoing bureaucracy, going out of their way to mobilise people and resources, taking risks and putting the cause first: it was a profound experience,” says Ambika Sangaran, CEO of Biji-Biji Ethical Fashion.

On 31 March, a total of 3,700 face shields were produced and delivered, together with 7,970 replacements – approximately 3-5 replacement parts per face shield. 

At this very moment, efforts are still ongoing to produce more. If you know a hospital in need, click here and fill in the ‘I'm A COVID-19 Frontliner’ section.

Donations are still encouraged “in every way, shape or form” via Me.reka’s website. Patrons can also stay updated on the list of required materials such as boxes, wax paper, rubber bands and others via the social enterprise’s Instagram or Facebook channels.    

“We’re going to return to a very different world after this,” muses Biji-Biji Initiative’s group CEO and Gen.T 2019 honouree, Rashvin Pal Singh. “Our appreciation and respect for public health, the fragility of life, collaborative working methods, value-creating jobs, digital solutions, digital careers, and critical response times will be much higher.” 

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“It's now imperative that every organisation re-imagines its relevance in this new world, and that we continue to nurture and protect it with the utmost care and deeper unity.”

For more information, call 017-3312695​⁣. Deliveries can be made to ME.REKA Publika, ​⁣Lot 1C, Level G1 (A4 Entrance),​⁣ Publika Shopping Gallery, ​⁣Solaris Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur. (Call ahead and inform the Me.reka team on your intended delivery dates and times)