What would you do when you feel a burden for your nation? Would you remain silent amidst all the pervading negativity? These were the questions that were emphatically answered when husband-and-wife team Collin and Debbie Swee decided to answer the call to a greater purpose and follow the Shepherd’s lead.
In August 2015, along with Collin’s business partner Syed Sadiq Albar, they founded Projek57 – a social enterprise focused on unity and harmony among Malaysians. With the nation at a crossroads due to rising political unrest and public dissatisfaction, they felt a divine appointment to cultivate a new hope for a better Malaysia.
Armed with knowledge and contacts gained from growing a multinational corporation, Projek57 hit the ground running with the couple at the helm. They work well together – Collin being the visionary and Debbie “connecting the dots that Collin sees”.
The idea of a social enterprise first came to Collin when he attended an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) meeting where Dr. Kim Tan presented on a similar venture to eradicate poverty in Africa. The characteristic of a social enterprise that seeks to impact society instead of being all about creating wealth really appealed to him.
Projek57 aims to reach Malaysian youth as they are the future of the nation. With that in mind, it needed to have a brand that young people could connect to. The inspiration for this brand came from a quote by founding prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman who said, “Our future depends on how well many different kinds of people can live and work together.
Projek57 works hard to “bring the cool” to patriotism with unique t-shirt designs that the young people would be willing to wear out on their daily routines and social events. Media visibility coupled with projects such as the Unity Ride and the Unity Ribbon also mean that the awareness about Projek57 was easily generated without any marketing budget. Projek57 holds unity workshops at colleges and universities, teaching youth to come up with business plans based on Projek57 messaging and how to pitch their plans.
Collin and Debbie also have a big heart for the Orang Asli, with an intense spiritual battle to win the souls of the 160,000-strong community. Through Projek57, they are able to reach out to the Orang Asli youth and ensure that they receive proper education by offering them scholarships. It was ground-breaking as youth in many villages had the opportunity to pursue higher education.
In addition, Projek57 also provides retail training and communication skills to Orang Asli youth. The young people, equipped with these useful skills, are entrusted to run a shop owned by Projek57 at the Atria shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. About 25 youth have undergone the program since it started in January 2016.
Following the recent general election results on 9 May 2018, Malaysia is forging ahead with a new hope. Collin and Debbie hope that Projek57 can continue to play a key role in this new Malaysia. Despite the challenges of impact measurement and sustainability, the couple continues to believe in Projek57 as a platform to play a big part in uniting our multiracial nation through forgiveness, reconciliation, trust and respect. Here’s to embracing a renewed hope for a new Malaysia!