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AirAsia Foundation Story - Philanthropy in the Covid-19 era

Partnering with Batik Boutique to supply medical workers with PPE and provide livelihood for women from low-income backgrounds Raised RM17...

  • Partnering with Batik Boutique to supply medical workers with PPE and provide livelihood for women from low-income backgrounds
  • Raised RM171,966 through digital donation drive to help those in need
  • Benefited 3,095 families including Orang Asli, people without permanent shelter and refugee communities 

AirAsia Foundation Executive Director Yap Mun Ching
With travel restrictions in place, AirAsia Foundation is undergoing a digital transformation that sees it tap on e-commerce, digital fund-raising and e-learning channels to meet its regional mandate.

The implementation of quarantine measures and social distancing has dramatically changed how we live and how we work. The world of philanthropy is no less affected. At AirAsia Foundation, it has not only changed the way they work. It has also changed their scope of work.

AirAsia Foundation was set up to address three pillars. First is to support the growth of social enterprises in ASEAN through grant-giving and mentorship of their grantees. However, with travel bans in place, the latter has ground to halt, forcing the cancellation of workshops they had planned. This leaves them to focus on growing Destination GOOD, their commercial arm which retails social enterprise products by more than 50 organisations.

Social Enterprise Support
Although their flagship store in Kuala Lumpur has had to shutter during Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO) period, their online store at DestinationGOOD.com continues to do business, expanding even to a sub-outlet on OURSHOP.com, another AirAsia-backed e-commerce portal. With delivery services proliferating, they have been able to continue selling quarantine essentials produced by social enterprises, from food and children’s books to personal hygiene products. 

Their latest effort sees them partner with local social enterprise Batik Boutique to help provide livelihood for women from low-income backgrounds by producing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontliners. Retailing at RM25, the exclusive PPE sets are already available at DestinationGOOD.com and the public can purchase it as a gift to medical staff at selected hospitals. Besides the locally-made PPE - which AirAsia is also sourcing for operational use - Destination GOOD also retails new Batik Boutique products such as batik face masks and batik colouring kits for homeschooling.

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AirAsia Foundation partnered with Batik Boutique to produce PPE and face masks to be sold on DestinationGOOD.com
Seamstresses at Batik Boutique Sewing Centre sewing face masks to be sold on DestinationGOOD.com
AirAsia Foundation partnered with Perak State Parks to distribute basic essentials to Orang Asli communities.

Humanitarian Fund-Raising
While Covid-19 did not change their broad digital strategy, MCO limitations definitely speeded up its implementation. Beyond e-commerce, AirAsia Foundation is also transforming the way it addresses its humanitarian concerns.

Since 2012, AirAsia Foundation has raised over RM14 million in aid of post-disaster rehabilitation programmes in ASEAN. These donations were mainly raised by AirAsia cabin crew who carried donation boxes on their flights. During AirAsia’s hibernation, their latest donation drive was carried out exclusively on airasiafoundation.com and on financial services platform BigPay.

Through small donations via credit card payments, online bank transfers and person-to-person donations, the drive raised over RM170,000 in a month from 1st to 30th April 2020, a significant increase from past online donations. Digital donations have also simplified the work of financial reconciliation, enabling AirAsia Foundation to distribute aid monies within a week of receiving the donations. This has enabled speedy giving at a crucial time when thousands are going hungry after losing daily wages. 

Throughout the MCO period, they have been able to provide basic essentials for more than 3,000 families from the Orang Asli and Orang Asal communities, B40 families, people without permanent shelter, migrant workers and refugees, as well as differently-abled individuals.

Anti-Trafficking Initiative
A third way that Covid-19 has precipitated realignment is in their anti-trafficking initiative. Starting 2017, AirAsia Foundation has been organising classroom trainings for AirAsia cabin crew to recognise, report and record cases cases of human trafficking on their flights. 

While live training has been highly effective in engaging participants, Covid-19 resource crunches has necessitated a rethink on how best to deploy their resources. This is why they are transitioning fully to e-learning. With classroom training, they had enough trainers to reach some cabin crew in Kuala Lumpur each month. With digital learning, they can reach cabin crew, pilots, ground and security staff based in any of AirAsia’s 24 hubs across the network.

This, thus, frees up their resources post-quarantine to focus on developing the next phase of their anti-trafficking initiative to provide helpline information in multiple languages through the use of chatbots and AI technologies.

It is too soon to say how the world will emerge from this crisis but from their perspective, an unexpected silver lining to the changes they experienced is the gain in efficiency and scale. In time, they hope to be able to reintegrate their personal touch for more effective philanthropy.