Mohd Alaihuddin Ahmad was just 30 when he lost his job in a private firm as customer support. 

Just like that, his borderline middling life of just barely making ends meet took a sudden turn into something that was filled with uncertainty.

Adding to that, a wife and three kids in tow as well as a personal bankruptcy to contend with, Mohd Alaihuddin described the years of unemployment he went through as tumultuous and filled with “desperation”. 

“I was unemployed for three years, and in those three years, I was faced with rejection after rejection. 

“We were living on $200 a month and had no one to turn to, and there were things that needed to get settled urgently, like the car, or the electricity,” explained the now 33-year-old in an interview with The Bruneian. 

He felt that his life was heading towards a bleak direction, which is unfortunately something to be expected by Mohd Alaihuddin, who grew up and matured through adulthood estranged from his family. 

“At your lowest, it’s difficult to ask for help, but when you don’t have that kind of support, when you couldn’t even get help from family, it just makes things a little bit harder,” he added.

Thankfully, however, the husband and father of three crossed paths with the social enterprise Family Employment Economic Development, better known as FEED whose focus is on helping economically challenged families in Brunei. 

The enterprise’s main aim is to help these families generate their own income through skills training as well as the establishment of their own home businesses, providing mentoring, business monitoring, and assistance so they can eventually earn a profitable income. 

With the help of FEED, Mohd Alaihuddin managed to start a business building custom pet cages out of PVC, a business that has helped him and his family stay afloat in recent months. 

Since establishing ‘Qis PVC Cages’ on Facebook, he has received more than 20 custom orders in just the past few months. 

“I never thought I would ever start a business honestly, I felt that I never had the means, not just in terms of money for capital, but also moral support, to make me believe in myself, to make this business happen,” he continued. 

He went on to say how the mentoring sessions and mentors provided by the social enterprise have been invaluable in giving him the motivation to keep progressing his business forward despite whatever setbacks.

According to FEED’s Chief Marketing Officer, Nur Diyana Sulaiman, FEED’s mission is to regenerate the livelihoods of economically challenged families, focusing more on sustainability and providing mentorship that goes beyond just business technicalities.

Through the FEED’s Mentoring Programme, participants will be mentored by volunteers, most of which comprising of business owners themselves for six months, through sessions that incorporate a variety of content from business planning to communication skills with customers. 

Once the six-month period is over, the participants are equipped with the necessary materials and knowledge to fully immerse themselves and grow their home-based business. 

However, the new entrepreneurs will not be on this journey alone, at least in the first year. 

“Once the six months of mentoring is over, the participants are encouraged to build their venture using all the knowledge they have been taught (by the mentors), that is what we want to see.  

“We of course will help whenever necessary, until these participants reach to a point where they can earn enough to no longer require our help or even rely on government welfare,” she explained. 

Currently, the social enterprise has 15 participants, excluding seven which have already gained the independence to stand on their own two feet. 

Though it seems like a heavy undertaking for the small enterprise, FEED has actively engaged with significant players in the country’s private sector such as D’Sunlit and Imagine, to support their social endeavour.  

This is by establishing the Businesses Creating Impact Initiative (BCI). 

The vision of the BCI was for FEED to create a network of businesses and companies who are motivated to do good by helping economically challenged families, and for these companies to become role models and inspire other businesses to do the same. 

“The BCI acts as a CSR platform. As an enterprise ourselves this is our core business, offering CSR facilitation for companies who wish to fulfill a CSR demand but are unable to execute it for various reasons,” added Nur Diyana. 

Ultimately, however, each and every effort conducted by FEED will be channeled towards their main impetus of helping economically challenged families in the sultanate. 

This includes the establishment of its new subsidiary company, Bakamas, a home maintenance service which includes grass cutting. 

Employees under this new subsidiary also involve participants of the FEED Mentoring Programme, as a means to provide financial support in the form of employment, whilst the participants build the foundation of their future ventures. 

Twenty-eight-year-old Mohd Khairul Adziym Mohd Said is one of the employees under Bakamas, who expressed his sincere appreciation towards the social enterprise for giving him the opportunity to earn an income. 

Having never gone past a primary school education, to support two physically ailing parents, Khairul admitted how difficult it was for him, as well as his siblings to find and maintain jobs due to the circumstances they were brought up in. 

“We were meant to believe that we didn’t amount to much, without the experience, without the education, we were rarely considered when it comes to seeking for jobs,” explained Khairul, the fifth child out of seven siblings. 

With his father now gone, leaving only his mother of 60-years-old, Khairul came across FEED through a referral, after receiving aid from a local NGO, a gesture he described as “filled with kindness”. 

“I was offered a job as a grasscutter initially, but it also included being a participant of the FEED programme, which has not only offered me employment but also has helped me with my self-esteem through the mentoring sessions,” he continued. 

“FEED gives people like us a chance, an attempt towards creating a new life, a better one,” he added. 

For those interested in the efforts conducted by FEED, visit their Instagram @projekfeedbn and @bakamasbn.

This article was first published on October 10, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 110

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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