For many Muslims around the world, celebrating Hari Raya Puasa typically calls for a wardrobe overhaul. But not everyone can afford to shop for new outfits and accessories each year.
Fortunately, a pair of Singaporeans – Maisurah Mokhsin, 25, and Dayana Mahiuddin, 26 – are making a difference to the needy by providing them with new Baju Kurung, a traditional outfit worn by Malays, through an initiative called “Gift-A-Kurung”.
Started in June 2016, the project was conceived while the founders were scratching their heads figuring out what to do with all their old Baju Kurungs which, more often than not, were only worn once a year.
“It’s become a norm for us to purchase a new outfit for Hari Raya each year,” said Maisurah, in an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore. “The realisation that not all of us have the privilege to buy new raya outfits every year while many others who cannot afford to do so led our team to form a platform where we could find new and deserving owners of our unused, fancy Baju Kurungs,” she added.
“Gift-A-Kurung” only had 20 members when they started last year. Today, they have over 60 volunteers to help them distribute donated clothes through collaborations with existing organisations such as LIFE SG (Literacy Initiative For Equity) and Casa Raudha Women Home.
Ahead of Hari Raya Puasa this year, which will be celebrated throughout the Islamic month of Syawal from 25 June to 24 July, Maisurah and Dayana have a total of 700 Baju Kurungs to give out to their beneficiaries.
The duo will also be holding a bazaar on 18 June at the Mujahidin Mosque on Stirling Road, specially for some 200 recipients to receive their outfits.
Separately from these events, the two women match Baju Kurung donors to recipients through an intricate Gifting System, which involves compiling a list of clothing sizes from recipients to allow donors to match the respective sizes to the clothes they wish to donate.
Donors will then have to send photos of their clothes through private messages on the “Gift-A-Kurung” Facebook page for quality checking, before Maisurah or Dayana can arrange for the donor and recipient to meet.
“We are often told that it’s a hassle to send photos for verification. [But] what separates us from other donation drives is that we do not only focus on giving, but gifting the best. We want to ensure our beneficiaries receive outfits that are not only in good condition, but also trendy!” said Maisurah.
Since they started in June 2016, “Gift-A-Kurung” has collected a total of 2,000 donated Baju Kurungs. Void of a proper storage space or office, the donated clothes have to be stored in their own homes.
“People often want to donate in bulk, but because we don’t have an office or space to store all the clothes, we do not accept bulk donations. Most of the donations we collect are distributed amongst the volunteers and kept at our own homes until we disseminate them,” she said. While Maisurah and Dayana live in Woodlands, their volunteers live across the island.
Tutors by day and Baju Kurung fairies by night, Maisurah, who is also a freelance writer, and Dayana commit to this initiative practically round-the-clock.
“We generally liaise with donors every single day of the week. Our team also has weekly meetings, and we normally sacrifice our weekends to work on our projects. For now we’ve used up our weekends to collect and sort out the clothes, as well as shoot relevant videos (we have a couple so far) for our page,” said Maisurah.
The efforts in the past year has definitely paid off as the project seems to have been receiving an encouraging response from the public.
“I think our initiative has been well-received by the public… this year, we have also gotten donations of Hari Raya outfits and accessories from various vendors. It’s delightful to see our beneficiaries receiving outfits that are of amazing quality and design,” said Maisurah.
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