AN initiative to empower refugee families to be self-sufficient and rebuild their lives has earned local food start-up PichaEats the Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant.
The grant offered in conjunction with Expo 2020 Dubai, funds novel and innovative solutions that makes the world a better place.
The organisers had received over 11,000 applications and 142 innovators, including PichaEats, were offered grants of up to US$100,000 (RM420,000) each.
PichaEats was honoured for its achievement at an event organised by Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Centre (MGTC) in conjunction with International Youth Day in Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor.
MGTC, which is under the purview of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti), is the implementing agency for Malaysia’s participation at Expo 2020.
PichaEats co-founder Suzanne Ling was acknowledged for the feat by brand ambassador for Malaysia Pavilion’s #MyButterflyEffect campaign Tunku Datuk Seri Zain Al-Abidin.
Also present were deputy commissioner-general of Malaysia for Expo 2020 Dr Mohd Nor Azman Hassan who is also Mosti deputy secretary-general and MGTC chief executive officer Shamsul Bahar Mohd Nor.
“In MGTC, we believe that young people must be given the right tools to express their views and unlock their potential.
“As such, MGTC encourages youths to play a role in our organisation and contribute their knowledge, energy and ideas,” said Shamsul Bahar in his speech.
Nor Azman said the government encourages youths to take the same leap Ling and her partners made with PichaEats.
“In fact, PichaEats is a success story for Mosti’s agency, the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), which trained PichaEats as a start-up.
“Our focus at Expo 2020 Dubai is not only on promoting Malaysia’s sustainable development efforts, goals, technologies as well as the trade and business side of things, but also our communities and youth,” he said.
Expo 2020 will be held from Oct 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Malaysia Pavilion’s theme is “Energising Sustainability” and Nor Azman revealed that the physical structure is 40% complete.
“As of today, we have 22 ministries, 38 government agencies and five state governments that will lead, support and participate in our 26 weekly business and trade programmes being planned.
“There are also over 200 companies that will join us at Expo 2020 Dubai to promote their products and services towards realising the RM10bil in potential trade and investment targets that we aspire to achieve,” he added.
Nor Azman pointed out that UAE was Malaysia’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and Expo 2020 would present an opportunity to further enhance bilateral ties.
Meanwhile, #MyButterflyEffect campaign aims to be a powerful tool for Expo 2020 as it carries the hope and idea that one small action will lead to great impact, and one small nation can create great success.
Ling, 27, said PichaEats had recorded RM4mil in sales during their four years in business.
“We offer a simple solution through food. Each cook earns between RM1,500 and RM2,000 to sustain their family,” she said, adding that PichaEats currently has 13 cooks who are refugees from Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ling said through the grant, PichaEats would be able to continue its project with refugee families and help them through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This includes building a training and production space for them to train and cook,” said Ling, who is a UCSI University psychology graduate.
Also honoured at the event was Sean Lin, producer and co-founder of Studio Birthplace which has bagged more than 50 international awards for its films that advocate ecological and humanitarian
His award-winning films which have been screened in over 100 festivals globally include “Terraform” (2017), “Birthplace” (2018) and “Sleepless” (2019).
Lin, 29, who is a media graduate from the University of Melbourne in Australia, said that they were in the midst of working on an animation project (Humanity’s Impact) and a fun mobile game (Birth Place), which are expected to be ready by the end of this year.
Lin’s films will be featured at the Malaysia Pavilion amphitheatre during the expo.
Expo 2020 is held to encourage international relations by allowing countries to exchange ideas, develop new thoughts, and share their experience in various areas such as sustainability, education, business, technology and culture.
Themed “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, Expo 2020 was postponed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and 192 countries will be taking part.