“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
MySkills is a non profit organization started in 2011, to provide youths from single parent and dysfunctional families, unable to complete their schooling, a second chance by providing training in blue collar skills. The organization has been striving to become self-sufficient financially and not be dependent on donors. One effort to achieving this goal was to set up a subsidiary: “Primus Wellness” about one year ago. A truly Malaysian effort, Primus Wellness in partnership with Malay and Chinese entrepreneurs produces organic health products. These are then marketed to the public by Malaysians in the B40 socioeconomic group. Through fortnightly lectures, tutorials on sales techniques, role play and troubleshooting sessions these micro entrepreneurs are trained to engage with the public and sell the products. This effort has multiple benefits: 1. A steady source of income for MySkills to run its programs 2. Enable citizens in the B40 group to develop their confidence and skills and stand on their own two feet to become self-sufficient and not be depend on handouts 3. In the long term these micro entrepreneurs could set up their own businesses.
On Wednesday June 10th 2020, Mr Pasupathy, the Founder Director of MySkills Organization sent me an inspirational message. During a meeting with a group of financially challenged ladies, training to be salespersons for Primus Wellness, he had posed this question; “What would be the one wish you will ask God if He appears in front of you”. A request for material things like money, food or a house would not have been surprising, coming especially from people who were deprived of these. However one of them Mdm Maruthayi, surprised everyone present by answering “I will ask God to give me Self Confidence”. I was humbled to learn of this and asked Pasupathy to arrange for me to meet this exceptional lady.
On Sunday 26th July 2020, over brunch I met with a group of energetic and enthusiastic people – in a world currently fraught with negativism, the meeting opened my eyes to the generosity and dogged perseverance inherent in many Malaysians and created a lot of hope and joy in my heart. Leading the group was Ms Selvamalar the vocal CEO of Primus Wellness. Selvamalar has a brilliant academic resume – as a student she scored a CGPA of 4.0, holds a Ist class honours degree and a Masters in Human Resource Management from UPM where she also won the King’s Gold Medal for all round achievement. She then went onto to get a 1st class honours LLB degree from a UK University. Even as an undergraduate, she organized a team of brilliant undergraduates to undertake community projects in estates and schools. Though Selvamalar had a successful career in the corporate sector after graduation, she found something lacking ; she than found her calling in contributing to the growth of her community, so she resigned from the Genting Group and joined MySkills. Mr D(he requested to be anonymous) is involved in an NGO (www.pkam.org) – for several years his organization has been collecting funds to uplift impoverished communities in Malaysia ; this include providing cash, clothes schoolbooks and food. Members of this organization are led by the principles of Saint Ramalinggam (ThiruArutpragasa Vallalar) who preached equality for all and treating all beings as equal. Mr D realized that providing a means of becoming self-reliant would provide the best long term solution to these people’s woes – so he introduced them to Primus Wellness. Selvamalar also told me about Mr Ng Tet Wong, who played an important role in the evolution of Primus Wellness. Mr Ng had been interested in organic farming from his school days ; his own research and personal experience taught him the benefits of consuming the fruits and leaves of the Moringa Tree earning him the moniker Mr Moringa in MySkills circles. Impressed by MySkills noble efforts to transform a marginalised group of people, Mr Ng decided to teach them how to plant, harvest and commercialise the products of the Moringa tree to enhance society’s health and in the process earn money for the organisation.
The salespersons do not have to put up any cash; Primus Wellness provides them with the products to sell. Each salesperson gets to keep 25% of the profits of the product. A timeline is set – those who succeed in selling their quota before the time line stand to get a bonus – thus an added impetus to succeed.
I spoke to four of the salespersons. Mdm Maruthayi came through as intelligent, very hardworking, and talented. She told me failure was not an option. Aged 47 years, she married at 26 and has 9 children. Her husband is a factory worker whose earnings are not enough to support the needs of her family. A wiry lady, she sleeps only 3 – 4 hours every day and works non-stop. Maruthayi does every honest job that comes her way to provide for her family: she cleans peoples’ homes and has built a reputation for the thoroughness and diligence of her work. She also provides post-partum care for both mothers and their newborn – she says her massaging techniques enables the infant to sleep soundly and the mother to regain her shape in record time – she earnestly believes that the God she prays to gives her the skills. She also earns some money by singing devotional songs at functions. Initially a recipient of PKAM’s generosity, she was introduced to Primus Wellness by Mr.D. When I asked Maruthayi about the answer she gave Mr Pasupathy, she replied that a material gift like money would have transient value, whereas a personal attribute like self-confidence would last a lifetime and enable her to succeed in life. She also prays that her efforts will raise her children’s lot in life and that they will never have to do the menial jobs she does.
Mdm. Kasthuri is 33 years old. She suffers from epilepsy. Her husband was blinded in a motor vehicle accident (hit and run). They have 4 growing children and desperately need money. She has tried the herbal products from Primus Wellness which she claims has cured her of her insomnia, headaches and body aches. Armed with personal experience which she shares with her customers, Kasthuri makes her sales – being successful as a salesperson, has enabled her confidence to grow. In spite of her predicament, Kasturi told me that once she is successful, she would also want to participate in charitable activities – such a noble goal for someone who has major challenges of her own.
Mdm Low Bee Bee, is a single mother. Her husband abandoned her and her 2 children now aged 17 and 20. Her son scored 10As and is currently pursuing optometry at University Kebangsaan. A highly energetic person with good communication skills, Bee Bee is multilingual. To put food on the family table Bee Bee has driven Grab cars, sold organic farm products like kampong eggs and provided transportation for school children. She was introduced to Primus Wellness by Mr Tet Wong.
Maslinda Othman is a single mother. Her husband passed on and she has a 18 year old son who will be joining a government skills training institute soon. With a monthly income of RM2000 she is hard pressed to fulfil all her family’s needs. Born in an estate in Kulim her multilingual skills include speaking Tamil. She has experienced personal benefits with Primus Wellness products and so, armed with this and good communication and networking skills (she posts on WhatsApp and other social media platforms) Maslinda has been successful in selling the herbs – a testimony to her success is the many repeat sales she has had.
As Mr Pasupathy put it, Primus Wellness is a truly Malaysian venture benefitting Malaysians at various levels. As sales persons do not put cash up front, cash flow is an issue when sales are slow or delayed, so at this time donations are still needed. As Pope Francis recently said “We are all born to help each another. No matter how difficult it is, life is good when you are happy but much better when others are happy because of you”.