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Big, But Poor — Banggi Island's Dilemma

Did you know that of the 10 poorest districts in Malaysia, eight are located in Sabah? Namely Kudat, Kota Marudu, Kota Belud, Beluran, Telupid, Nabawan, Tongod, and Kinabatangan. Since 2015, Malaysian CARE has been involved in economic empowerment work in Sabah, specifically in Kota Marudu, Kudat, and Pitas.

When we first visited Banggi Island in the Kudat District, we observed that the community was lacking in financial knowledge and an entrepreneurial mentality. Many people there do just enough work to survive; they might plant vegetables for their own consumption, but did not think of selling them. For the past three years, we have partnered with a local church to conduct the Financial Literacy Programme for 30 participants from various villages. Our main aim is to change their mindset and improve their livelihood.



Fun Fact: Banggi Island is the largest island in Malaysia, well known for their cassava.

After the course, we received more than ten applications for a microfinance loan for income generation projects (IGP), but only six were selected to receive the loan. Most of the IGP members were interested in agriculture and one was interested in operating a sundry shop. While it was an encouraging response, our staff had to endure logistical challenges when visiting project sites as they were located in different villages, had limited access, uncertain weather conditions or overly expensive goods on the island.

Never give up – Trust in God’s faithfulness

As the project leader in Banggi Island since 2018, I initially struggled and lost hope in the project due to the pandemic. I was convinced the projects would fail. I couldn’t be more wrong! Slowly but surely, I began to see the changes in their lives. In fact, the community has built a strong support system, prayed for each other, and started their loan repayment, even with just a small amount. 

Despite the ongoing recession, we aim to expand to other villages. Our hope is that the IGP participants will not only improve their financial stability, but they will also feel heard, cared for and supported through our initiative. Most importantly, we hope they will come to know and depend on God.

Written by Nicholas Putra, Community Development Leader.

Taken from Malaysian CARE's quarterly newsletter - Care Contact, Mar 2023 Edition.