Reports, Awards, etc.

2020 Year in Review

Status of the Association
Friends of Malaysia is an “orphan” group i.e. there is no longer a country program with which
to associate. The Peace Corps left Malaysia forty years ago. Most RPCVs from Malaysia are
retired, and many have passed away. Our members are aging out quickly. The youngest
volunteers entered service in 1962, they are 76 old from this first group and the youngest
volunteers in the last group are in their late 60s. Finding new members is one of our greatest
challenges.


We have opened membership to anyone in the community who has an interest in Malaysia.
In particular, we have targeted Fulbright English Language fellows that have recently begun
serving in Malaysia. Only a small number of Malaysians have immigrated to the United States
and during the last five years, there has been a rapid decline in the number of Malaysian
students studying in the US. None the less we are a viable organization that continues to
serve the needs of Malaysians, particularly rural and low-income residents.


Membership


At the end of 2020, we had 82 dues-paying members. Our membership has fluctuated around
this number for the last several years. We have been unable to recruit new dues-paying
members, despite efforts to contact RPCVs from Malaysia by email, letters and personal
contact of fellow volunteers that are not paying dues. We have explored a variety of other
strategies to get more Malaysia RPCVs to pay our modest dues.


Financial
 

Friends of Malaysia is a 501(c)3 organization. This allows us to accept donations to cover our
general operating expenses and to fund charitable projects in Malaysia. Our major source of
income is our annual dues of $15.00. Once we successfully transitioned to online collection of
dues, and once we were able to distribute our newsletter, Apa Kabar (Appendix II), online
rather than via USPS, our operating expenses were reduced significantly.

 

Another small source of income comes from the Amazon Prime Smile program, where
members who hold an Amazon Prime account can designate a small portion of their
purchases to Friends of Malaysia. This program is handled automatically by Amazon, without
any additional cost to either the purchaser or to our association. In addition to their payment
of the annual dues, some members also make donations to support the organization and/or a
specific project. We have had sufficient income above our operating expenses to be able to
disburse about $1,000 per year to various charitable projects in education, children's
services, rural development and environmental clean-up in Malaysia.

 

Currently, we have only one dedicated fund project. This fund was started when a Malaysia
RPCV passed away from breast cancer. Her daughter and other members of her family
contributed funds for us to identify projects in Malaysia in honor of her mother. Unfortunately,
we had two board members pass away from breast cancer and that has led to an ongoing
commitment to identify worthy projects in Malaysia that help to educate women and their
families about breast cancer and encourage and support its early detection and treatment.
As reported in the December 31, 2020 Friends of Malaysia Financial Report (Appendix I) the
association had a bank balance of $5,886.51. Approximately $900.00 is reserved for Breast
Cancer Awareness Projects.


By-Laws
 

When Friends of Malaysia was founded the organizers wrote a formal set of By-Laws(see
Appendix III.) Over the years we have amended the By-Laws to allow more flexibility in our
mission and in our ability to accommodate a broader source of membership. We carefully
reviewed our by-laws to assure that racial or gender biases were removed.

 

Membership Inclusiveness
 

As NPCA has struggled to address issues of inclusion in the Association and how Peace
Corps can more adequately address the needs of minority actual and potential volunteers in
the coming years we have explored these questions in our group. Obviously there will not be
more Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Malaysia. We are also aware that we are primarily
an all-white board with a fair balance of male and female. We are aging quickly and finding
new members is difficult.


We have searched our personal records and public records that we have been able to
access, to identify RPCVs from minority communities. All known volunteers that were of
minority status have passed away. We will continue to search for minority Malaysia RPCVs
and attempt to find ways to recruit them into the association.


We are of a generation that pretty much saw an open door and walked through it to commit to
join the Peace Corps. No recruiters, or on-campus liaison officers. We were the first ones at
our college campus and there were no talks by RPCVs to ask questions of about their
experience. Personally, I bugged the local US Post Office on how to get an application.
Finally, someone at the Post Office got tired of my questions, called Washington and had a
packet of applications sent to my local Post Office. The applications were put on the counter.
Anyone could take one and fill it out. We now have a much greater understanding of the
barriers to entry for minority people to be accommodated by government institutions in those
days.


Activities
 

Members of Friends of Malaysia are spread across the US, a few still live in Malaysia, and a
few are still employed in other countries. This makes it almost impossible to have any regular
in-person gathering of the membership. Some training groups have held infrequent
gatherings of their cohorts. In general, we have observed that RPCVs from Malaysia are not
joiners. We have a core membership that accounts for approximately 2 percent of the
volunteers who had served in Malaysia. We estimate that approximately 10 to 15 percent
have passed away. That leaves approximately 3,300 to 3,500 Malaysia RPCVs unaccounted
for. We do note that only about one-third of our members join NPCA, even though dues are
free.


We have had in-person meetings of approximately 60 RPCVs at gatherings in Washington DC
in conjunction with NPCA national meetings. Some also gathered at the premiere of A
Towering Task at the Kennedy Center. In the past few have been willing to travel to
gatherings in Washington DC.


Board Meetings
 

Outside of personal friendships with Malaysia RPCVs who have chosen not to join, the main
gatherings of Friends of Malaysia members are our bi-monthly Board of Directors meetings.
For the last six months we have been meeting via Zoom. Prior to that, in order to keep our
overhead low and thus provide more funds for our projects, we used free and paid
conference call sites to hold our meetings. We do our best to keep the meetings to an hour
as it gets late for east coast members if we go longer. We make an agenda available to the
board and any member who would request it. We have been conscientious about not
sending emails to our membership.


We receive a few emails from RPCVs and from people in Malaysia who are searching for a
former teacher or friend. We do not share contact information with those who make requests.
We send a note to the person they are trying to contact, assuming we have that information or
can locate it through other means, and let them decide if they want to be in contact with the
person requesting information. Although maintaining the privacy of our members has been a
priority of the board, we have been able to facilitate the re-connection of some Malaysians with
RPCVs, whether they are members of Friends of Malaysia or not. This also means there is
very limited interaction between the organization and the membership since we do not publish
a list of members for intro-group communication.


Newsletter
 

We believe that our quarterly newsletter, Aph Kabar, is an interesting, high-quality, topical
newsletter. It is complete with personal stories, color photos and updates of the passing of
RPCVs, current events, and descriptions of the projects that we support. Our Editor Nancy
Gallant, collects stories and articles from board members and infrequently from members who
share a story. She assembles the newsletter, handles the lay out and sends it out to the
board for review. She then makes any final changes and creates and uploads a pdf file to
Mail Chimp along with the most recent email address file for members. Mail Chimp sends an
email with a note that says if the recipient wants to read the newsletter it directs them to a link
where they can read, and download, the most recent issue.  Our current policy is to send the newsletter only to dues-paying members.


Through Mail Chimp, we are able to track how many of the emails are opened, approximately
50%, and of those approximately 33% of those opening the email actually open the
document. Of those who download the newsletter, we have no way of knowing what percent
actually read it. This is a bit of a dilemma since the primary way we regularly communicate
with our members is via the newsletter. The newsletter is the primary direct benefit of paying
dues to Friends of Malaysia. If the Newsletter is available to anyone.,why pay dues? Most
groups appear to make the newsletter available to anyone who requests it. The other
dilemma is to answer the question “why do members pay their dues, yet fail to open the four
emails a year we send out and why do most members fail to download the newsletter?”

 

Website
 

For nearly twenty years we have maintained a website FriendsofMalaysia.net. It is available
to anyone. There are video clips, basic information about the Peace Corps in Malaysia and a
signup form to join Friends of Malaysia. The format is outdated and quite basic but it
generally works. We attract around 12,000 to15,000 hits a month with the most hits in spring
and early summer.


Maintaining the FoM website has fallen behind because we do not have a president and
maintaining the site was the job of the VP of Programs. We have had three webmasters
pass away during the last 20 years. Since we do not have young tech-savvy membership we
basically learn by doing and trial and error. Hosting of our web site is one of the most
expensive items in our budget. Obviously, money spent here detracts from our ability to fund
projects in Malaysia. We have attempted, without success, to recruit students, others with
the appropriate skills to look after the website.. We have been reluctant to spend more of our
resources to hire outside help. We are exploring with NPCA the possibility of re-hosting and
moving the site to their Silk-Start portal.


Malaysian Development Projects
Friends of Malaysia has focused most of its efforts over the years on providing assistance to
under-served populations in Malaysia. The Malaysian Tourist Board projects a rich and
vibrant economy and distributes robust photos of the joys of Malaysia. There are tall
buildings, beautiful parks, modern transportation systems, luxury hotels and tranquil jungle
adventures. As Peace Corps Volunteers who worked in low-income neighborhoods and with
disadvantaged populations in both rural and urban areas we are aware of ongoing sectors of
the economy and regions of the country that have been bypassed by the expansive
economic development currently showcased in Malaysia.


Not all Malaysians have access to great schools, modern healthcare and adequate water
supplies. Approximately 10 to 15% of the population still does not have access to electricity or
potable water. Many low-income areas have a high percentage of children who suffer from
food insecurity with its attendant high levels of malnutrition. Frequent floods and poorly
maintained roads contribute to isolation and often disadvantage rural populations. In addition,
the massive influx of tourists from Japan, China and the US have created many
environmental problems. Plastic bottles and general pollution of beaches and resort areas
degrades the attractiveness of these locations have created health issues for the local
residents. Breast cancer has become a leading cause of death among Malaysian women.
Most patients must travel to urban centers for diagnosis and treatment and the most
sophisticated treatments are only available in the capital city. These are the areas that FoM
has focused on in its continuing efforts of support to Malaysian people.


Many of our projects have been identified by our members during their personal trips to
Malaysia. Maintaining personal relationships with former students and colleagues has helped
us assess the viability of organizations to carry out the projects that we are able to fund.
During the last year travel to Malaysia, as has been travel anywhere, has been curtailed. In
many years several of our members will visit Malaysia.

 

This year has been difficult for all of us. In spite of the distractions brought on by Covid-19, we have identified several projects via personal contacts and internet review that we have been able to support. Often our projects have a genesis in one year and may carry over into subsequent years. These include: In 2019, we donated $530 to the Malaysian Nature Society, a non-profit, independent
environmental group, to help support its big, festive "Raptor Watch" annual environmental
event which raises public awareness of the conservation of birds in the Tanjuan Tuan Forest
Reserve near Cape Rachado Lighthouse along the Straits of Malacca, Port Dickson, Malaysia.
In 2020 we provided $500 to Reef Check Malaysia, a non-profit based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that supports a variety of coastal and island marine conservation and environmental education projects around Malaysia. The best known of these is the annual "International Coastal Clean-Up Day" each September. Our donation went specifically to help in efforts to stop plastics from polluting the ocean.


The funds were used on the well-known tourist island of Pulau Tioman, where the
organization works on sustainable waste management and recycling efforts. The
funds purchased three water purifier machines so students, villagers and visitors can
refill their water bottles with safe water at no charge and, thereby, eliminate the need
to buy bottled water and add to the island's trash and marine pollution problems.
We donated $500 to NazKids, a Jitra, Kedah-based social enterprise, which empowers young
women through training and income-generating activities. The group made 420 COVID-19,
3-ply reusable masks that were donated to needy primary school students in Jitra, Kedah and
Semporna, Sabah in Malaysia.


In 2021 we committed an additional $500, to NazKids, to help fight COVID The women's
training group made 445 reusable masks and in March of 2021 donated them to needy
Malaysians in three communities in Kedah in the northern region of West Malaysia.
Recently we donated $1,000 to the non-profit National Cancer Society of Malaysia for use in
supporting needy breast cancer patients who must travel from rural areas to Kuala Lumpur for
treatment. Our donation is to help needy cancer patients get free support during their
treatment at hospitals in KL. The new adult half-way house that the Society has opened in KL
to help needy patients from around the country get free assistance when they come to KL for
hospital treatment.


We donated $500 to The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience and are exploring other
ways to support the group putting this together. Thaine Allison is a member of one of their
communities.

 

We also donated to the Malaysian World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to support a project to
help train local people in environmental tourism. But that was several years back. Other funds
wee available in prior years for a women's shelter in Penang, and a donation to Green
Crescent (Malaysian Red Cross) to help on flood relief after terrible flooding hit villages
along the northeast coast of West Malaysia.

 

Third Goal Activities
 

Friends of Malaysia members have not focused extensively on Peace Corps' “Third Goal”
activities. The reason seems to be that most consider our years of service occurred a long
time ago and as one recent board member reminded an early volunteer “You served in a
country that doesn't even exist anymore” referring to a time when the program was started in
a British colony prior to the creation of Malaysia. Individuals support the Malaysian Society of
Southern California, three of our FOM Board members-- Lynn Juhl, Paul Murphy and Michael
H. Anderson are members of the Malaysia America Society. One serves on the board of the
Malaysia-America Society, a Washington, DC-based friendship organization, that supports
people-to-people ties with Malaysia and has good relations with both the Embassy of
Malaysia and American University, where its meetings and programs are held.

 

Many of our members are members of the Rotary Club International and support their
international programs. Others belong to local regional groups in their home communities
and several have participated in Peace Corps advocacy days with members of congress.
We explored the possibility of establishing a Pen Pal program with local schools in the US
and pair them with schools in Malaysia. . The problem we discovered was that Malaysian
students want to connect electronically whereas local teachers want their students to actually
write letters.


Several of us have mentored or supported eRPCVs during the last year. In recent times
these needs have refocused on how to write a job resume and fill out an unemployment form,
or job application. We have reached out to help where we can. Members of the board have discussed what to do with their pictures and the artifacts gathered up during the years of service. We have financially supported the Museum of Peace Corps Experience. Some members are preparing to donate their collection to one of the three archive sites. Some have shared photos and stories on historical sites in Malaysia.


Sometimes it is hard to realize that Malaysia's history is shorter than Peace Corps presence
in what is now Malaysia. Simple pictures in a country that had few cameras at the time of
independence contribute to the basic fabric of the collective memory of this newly emerging
country. There is a Facebook Page, Sejarah North Borneo/Sabah which is the history of the
Borneo state Sabah. This online organization offers insights to the past, collections of photos,
videos and documents during the colonial and transitional period. Various members who
served in Sabah are members of the Facebook group.


Challenges
 

As we have noted previously the challenges of an organization that has an aging
membership, limited funds, limited facility with technology skills among its members and
potential members and a limited source of new members. The American worldview has
turned inward over the last sixty years, immigrants are more familiar to the general population
and international languages have become common among the American population. As an
organization, we are considering exit strategies. We also are challenged to meet and find new
ways to meet the needs of Malaysian RPCVs who are not members and how we might serve
these RPCVs and what communicate what they might find of value by the Friends of Malaysia
and how we could better meet their needs.


Looking Forward
 

Malaysia is a vibrant country that attracts millions of foreign tourists each year, prior to Covid-
19 of course. Thousands of Americans visit various national parks, participate in business
dealings and enjoy the cultural amenities of Malaysia. Few know the contributions that PCVs
have made to the creation and building of the country. Malaysia is a wonderful place to visit.
Most American's are unaware that Malaysia played a key role in supplying latex gloves and
other personal protective equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic. As RPCVs who lived,
loved and served in Malaysia we will continue to advocate for RPCVs, and to provide our
limited funds to support rural, health, education and environmental projects and development.

 

2013 Year in Review

 

In 2013, the Friends of Malaysia was engaged in a number of different areas involving Malaysia and the Peace Corps. We contributed to a matching grant program involving the NPCA website, closely followed the Malaysian elections, continued to try to improve the website by collaborating with the Catch-a-fire Project, and worked to produce more newsletters than in recent years. We have also been involved with working with projects aimed at recording the experiences of Malaysian Peace Corps Volunteers and some of our board members attended the summer Peace Corps Conference.

We have also discussed the situation with the disaster in the Phillipines but decided we would concentrate our potential aid on projects which could benefit Malaysia rather than those which might benefit other countries.

In 2014, we will be looking into finding another major project with which to be involved, and we may be resuming our involvement with the Breast Cancer Project we were previously involved with. We will also be looking into an election for officers of our organization and into filling at least one board member position. 

 

 

2012 Highlights

 

Two newsletters

6 board meetings

Contributions to Habitat for Humanity, Malaysian Cancer Foundation, Borneo Child-Aid Fund and continued our Karen Bowlsby breast cancer education campaign.

Passed a by-law change to remove board members from the board who miss excessive meetings. 

Began organization of the 50th anniversary as it affects the Friends of Malaysia.  One of our board members attended the kickoff event at the University of Michigan.

Saw one of our board members elected as a regional representative.

 

Added two new board members to our board Began discussion on the need and process by which our website could be revamped Increased membership to about 90 from 57.   This was partly due to a campaign by which board members contacted individuals RPCVs by letter or email on a personal level.

 

2008 Highlights

    

    The highlight of the Friends of Malaysia group for 2008 was winning the Ruppe Award for the second time. A great deal of our attention during the year focused on putting together materials and submitting them for the award. Members of the organization were very proud to have received this award and appreciative of the work that went into producing the materials included as part of the award. Other programmatic thrusts were not as rewarding. We continued to be involved with the Breast Cancer Awareness Project and some minor programming activities. Financially, we remain strong – partially because many of the programs we wish to become involved with were only discussed during the 2008 year.

One of the areas which hurt us during the year was in the area of newsletters. Although we talked about the newsletter a lot, no newsletters were produced.

Use of our website continued to be strong with approximately 2000 hits a month to the site. A number of improvements were also made to the site. Early in the year or at the end of 2007, the website editor passed away suddenly and we had to adjust to his absence.

 

In 2007, a number of our members revisited Malaysia as part of Merdeka 50th anniversary (independence) 2007. Again in 2008, a few of our members including our former President revisited Malaysia and had an enjoyable experience.

By the end of 2008, membership in the NPCA dropped to below 100 for the first time. However, we seem to be getting off to a better start for 2009 and have already developed some involvements with Malaysia non-governmental organizations. Our newsletter editor has pledged to put out 3 newsletters for the year and has already put out one so far.