According to the UNDP, an estimated 34% of Orang Asli live in poverty, which is equivalent to one-third of their population. It was found that owning a home is one of their core needs.
Epic Homes aimed to build relationships between the urban and rural communities through the act of building homes for underprivileged and marginalised communities. They are currently focusing on the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia.
How It Started
Over 11 years ago, John-Son Oei and his friends organised a community impact project just before their graduation. At that time, he was not sure what career he wanted to pursue after graduation. However, he was part of a group that wanted to motivate and learn from one another. They helped out an Orang Asli community, following someone who was already working with the villagers. One thing led to another, and the rest was history.
In 2015, John-Son discovered the social enterprise model. He started his initiative with no prior working experience. It was his first job. Thus, it was even more challenging. He had to figure things out for himself.
“12,000 families have been identified to be in need of safe housing. If we want a community to advance in life, they need a stable foundation or platform to do so. But if day after day you come back to a house that keeps breaking down, that’s leaking, that’s not safe, then it’s very difficult to think about what you can achieve in the future,” said John-Son Oei, CEO and founder of Epic Homes.
“It began with a few of us from the city who were very passionate and enthusiastic about trying to make a difference. In a particular orang asli community, we met Pak Cik Hong, who lived in a broken-down shack. After looking into the matter, we realised that it wasn’t just about the house. What got him into that state? We wanted to ensure that he would not end up in that state in the future,” he explained.
John-Son believed that the answer to solving this issue comes from collaboration, working together to uncover new solutions and opportunities. The Epic Homes programme was created to grow support networks by bringing together rural and urban people by building homes. He hoped this would lead to the development of cooperative, resilient and sustainable communities.
“At Epic Homes, we build relationships to build homes for marginalised communities. We primarily work with the orang asli people in Peninsular Malaysia. We identify areas that need support and collaboration,” said John-Son.
“So we shifted our focus from just building the house, and expanded it to building relationships as well. We hoped that eventually, through the relationships we formed, we could build trust. Hopefully through that trust, we could then encourage information to be shared, so that we could look into solving some of the long-term root issues,” he said.
That was how Epic Homes came into being. They empower ordinary people who are not just doing it as a job but also care about the community.
Growing the Social Enterprise
Since the establishment of Epic Homes, Epic has grown to make collaborative social impact accessible by empowering individuals to transform communities and environments around them. To make this mission possible, they created an ecosystem of companies and platforms where you can start making an impact today.
In recognition of its excellent work, Epic has won many awards, such as Tatler Force for Good (2016), Forbes 30 under 30 Asia (2016), The EdgeTM Inspiring Young Leaders Award (2017), Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award (2017), Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) Amplify Award (2014), and MaGIC Amplify Award: Chairman's Innovation Award and Community Enterprise of the Year (2017).
“Prior to PUSH, we had built about 160 homes together with about 6,000 volunteers across 12 different villages. Through the PUSH programme, we managed to get new perspectives of things and we connected with other social enterpreneurs who might offer different perspectives. Through different perspectives, we have been able to improve ourselves,” said John-Son.
“At the same time, we managed to develop new policies that we put in place for our volunteers, partners and suppliers, which have helped us to be more transparent and more efficient. All our stakeholders are kept in the loop and are able to collaborate with us more easily now,” he added.
“Many social enterprises are small, but that doesn’t mean they can’t create bigger impacts. The things is we don’t need to do everything alone. We can actually share resources and look at partnerships to create a bigger, more lasting sustainable impact. I believe the PUSH programme is such a platform that could really help this entire industry. I hope to see more social entrepreneurs go through this programme,” said John-Son.
How You Can Help
There are various ways in which you can support Epic. First of all, you can join the Epic volunteer community, where you can help to map villages, train volunteers, coordinate events or become a builder via their volunteer pathways.
Besides that, you can also help and support Epic’s cause through donations of any kind or kick start your own fundraising campaign.
Lastly, you can collaborate with Epic. Together, you can explore teambuilding and CSR opportunities or other ideas.
For more information, please visit their website, various platforms and social media pages.