Encouraging ‘Mari Membaca’ to Feed the Mind and Souls of the B40 Children

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader”- Margaret Fuller and ‘Mari Membaca’ wants no children to be left behind in obtaining the opportunities to be a leader

‘Mari Membaca’ activity at the Kampung Dato Sulaiman Menteri (KDSM) playground

Driven by their passion to improve the local community’s literacy, Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) winner; Happy-Riders Connect has established ‘Mari Membaca’ (Lets Read) to bring books to the underprivileged children (B40 group) in the kampung and low-cost housing areas to help them develop a love for reading.

Encouraging ‘Mari Membaca’ to Feed the Mind and Souls of the B40 Children
Making books accessible to the children as free for all at the kiosk

Library kiosk filled with books for kids to borrow can be seen at Kampung Dato Sulaiman Menteri (KDSM) playground, Johor Bahru coupled with a weekly reading programme by the volunteers at ‘Mari Membaca’.

‘Mari Membaca’ is a full-fledged programme that was pioneered by Happy-Riders Connect’s SMART Rider Reading Programme on the 12th of May 2018 for a group of children riders who have been attending the Safe Riding Programme at KDSM, where they were taught how to practice safe riding to and from school with small incentives towards achieving 100% compliance.

The follow-up goal was to introduce reading as a healthy alternative to help pivot them from the dangerous activity of riding the infamous ‘mosquito bikes’ (modified bicycles without brakes) and on the road.

Encouraging ‘Mari Membaca’ to Feed the Mind and Souls of the B40 Children
(From far right) Stephen Ngu, the founder of Happy-Riders Connect, with his volunteer team members, Ibrahim, mainly doing story-telling and Azwana, organising the KDSM’s kiosk as a local

Back on 28th November 2020, Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB), Rotary Club of Johor Bahru Sentral (RCJBS) and Happy-Riders Connect held a soft launch for a flagship library kiosk, Kios Bacaan Komuniti KDSM, in the hopes to have more library kiosks set up within B40 neighbourhoods in the coming future.

Encouraging ‘Mari Membaca’ to Feed the Mind and Souls of the B40 Children
Fun games to keep the children intrigued and stay motivated to read

“With communities working together, we hope to nurture a book-loving generation and become members of a knowledgeable society continuing to inculcate the reading culture,” said Stephen Ngu, the founder of Happy-Riders Connect who is a software developer by day and has created the library’s system for membership lending and returning as well as cataloguing.

Encouraging ‘Mari Membaca’ to Feed the Mind and Souls of the B40 Children
The library’s system in an application

To date, the programme has four volunteers including Stephen, who are processing the books from sanitising to cataloguing, reading to the children and actively promoting the deeds to other parts of Johor.

Speaking over the phone with us, Stephen would also like to encourage volunteering activity to the young ones so they could perhaps become the local volunteers that would take care of their respective kiosks – creating the locals’ ecosystem of volunteering culture.

“The B40 children should not miss out on the chance of knowledge and by extending this programme to them, it is hoped that they would have an interest in education and stay in school until at least SPM level,” he said with enthusiasm.

The library is filled with pre-loved books gifted from donors for the young readers to borrow and read to their hearts’ content. According to Stephen, they have received books from individuals and international schools for the children to read.

Empathising with bibliophiles that often find it hard to let go of their books, Stephen would like them to know the books donated would have more people appreciating it and that it would be well taken care of. “It would do your favourite books’ justice when it is in the kiosk, as it could be a favourite for others as well in the long run,” he said.

Not taking money for their aid, Stephen would like people to volunteer to join in the efforts. As the library system comes with points collection and rewards, he is now looking for sponsors to reward these children who are generally of low-income families and some could not afford shoes.

Encouraging ‘Mari Membaca’ to Feed the Mind and Souls of the B40 Children
Stephen teaching the children the process of coffee-brewing

As a software developer and actively volunteering his time, he welcomes interns that would

Encouraging ‘Mari Membaca’ to Feed the Mind and Souls of the B40 Children
Allysha, a volunteer at the Mari Membaca programme who help process donated books

like to gain experience in various fields coupled with charitable effort.

Franchising the effort is also part of what is in the pipeline for ‘Mari Membaca’ as Stephen shared that he is receiving interest from some other neighbourhoods that would like to have a similar library or book kiosk programme.

Help more children get their rights to knowledge in a fun, joyful way of reading with ‘Mari Membaca’ by donating more books to their nook at SOR System Sdn. Bhd. 49F-01, Jalan Permas 4, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya 81750 Masai, Johor. Contact Allysha at +6011 3175 7803 for more information.

Looking to spend some time volunteering? Get in touch with Stephen himself at +6019 772 0762.

The Library Kiosk is open from 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm every Saturday at the KDSM playground. More information is available at https://marimembaca.my/