It’s been 6 years since we began our partnership with Prudential Assurance Malaysia Berhad (PAMB) providing PRUkasih, a free financial protection plan to families in urban poor communities.
I was there at it's conception. It’s humbling to see how we’ve grown from a small pilot project in one community to currently serving and providing 20, 632 households access to fundamental financial protection in 12 communities across Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Johor.
While numbers give us indication that we’re on the right track, that we’ve developed something relevant for our community, it’s remembering our origins that gives meaning to what we do every day, as we work tirelessly approaching families door to door in each community to explain to them about the importance of financial protection.
It was not easy when we started, often being met with skepticism about the notion of 'free insurance', having doors slammed in our faces or being shouted at are part of some not-so-pleasant memories.
Yet it's the heart behind PRUkasih that keeps us going.
The idea of PRUkasih originated from learning about a single mother living in a low-income community that we served. She was the sole breadwinner of her family who developed life-threatening breathing problems from working at a factory for many years. She was living hand-to-mouth with health that was declining by the day.
Why did she not seek medical treatment? Her reason was heartbreaking.
She chose not to seek medical treatment because it took too much time away from work.
No work meant no income for her family, which meant no food, no shelter and no school for her children. She sacrificed her life so that she could provide for her family.
Her story is a very real reflection of what the poor have to struggle with every day.
There are so many of them in communities all around us – stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty – blue collar, low-paying jobs, who have no credit ratings, often resorting to loan sharks to pay off debt from financial difficulty.
What’s ironic is that it’s the poor that are the most vulnerable to financial risks who need financial protection the most, yet they cannot afford it.
The Struggle is Real
In Khazanah Research Institute's State of Households Report II 2016, low-income households are not very financially resilient.
It reports the financial fragility of these households -- that only 10.8% are resilient to financial shocks caused by factors such as unemployment, physical impairment, death, divorce, and changes in interest rates or financial markets.
Only 1 out of 5 of these households would be able to survive for less than 3 months if their incomes were cut off.
More than half these households did not have any savings.
This coincides with Bank Negara Malaysia's Financial Inclusion and Capability Study, which found that only 6% of Malaysians can survive more than six months and 18% up to three months, after losing their main source of income.
Hence the birth of PRUkasih.
A result of a partnership with Prudential Assurance Malaysia Berhad (PAMB) which provides these families free financial protection to safeguard them from risks resulting from death, injury or any unfortunate circumstance that prevents the breadwinner from working to provide income for the family.
In such instances, these families now have their basic needs provided for: roof over their heads, food on the table, children still being able to attend school – giving them time to recover and get back on their feet.
Stories From The Ground
Over the years, we’ve seen how families are being strengthened through their toughest times.
A single mother who passed away, left behind 3 teenage children. Despite the overwhelming loss, her children, as her beneficiaries from PRUkasih, are buffered from financial trauma of sudden income loss. The eldest children are currently working as the main breadwinners to get their family back on their feet.
Widows, who have to deal with sudden loss of their loved ones are now are given a second start at life, we’ve had many cases of women in our community now empowered to join the workforce for the first time. The elderly have peace of mind to take time to recover when they encounter illness & have to seek medical treatment.
The credibility and ownership of PRUkasih continues to grow on-ground. Claimants and beneficiaries are now becoming our strongest advocates in the community having experienced help in their greatest time of need. Once skeptical of the notion of ‘free-insurance’, they’re now volunteering to share with new families in their community their personal experience on the importance of financial protection.
Partnership with Purpose
To close the year, we recently had an event to celebrate the success of a cross sector collaborative effort – remembering and appreciating the partners that have come alongside us.
Partners from the public sector, Bank Negara Malaysia, KPWKM, JKM, PEMANDU and the local council. Partners from the social sector, MAKPEM. Our NGO distributors, Community Transformation Initiative, LOVE CHERAS, Beautiful Gate Foundation who work tirelessly to expand PRUkasih to communities across Malaysia. Our partner Prudential for growing a partnership with so much purpose.
PRUkasih is more than putting food on the table or a roof over someone’s head. It is a testament of a collective of Malaysians from different backgrounds – corporations, government, non-profit, communities – with a common purpose of ensuring that under-served families across Malaysia have access to financial protection and have shot at building resilience for a better future.
As we look back on the year that has been we are filled with gratitude for everyone who has gone the extra mile to extend hope to the under-served and strengthen families.
It is our hope that no individual in our community will ever have to sacrifice something as precious as their health because of fear that they cannot provide for their family – just like that single mother.
Together, we’re making that possible in Malaysia through PRUkasih, one life at a time.