A couple ended up selling recyclables from rubbish bins and taking shelter by the roadside in Bukit Mertajam after travelling over 300 kilometres from Kelantan in hopes of finding new opportunities.
Shah and Siti got married in their hometown back in April with plans to start a family. However, due to the pandemic and the economic situation, both of them had a hard time finding a job.
Speaking to Malay Mail, Siti said, “We packed two large bags on Shah’s motorcycle and travelled to Bukit Mertajam in Penang in early May with only RM100 savings,” adding that she brought along a stray kitten she had adopted earlier.
Upon reaching Penang after a whole day, they stayed with distant relatives who barely had space themselves.
“We did not want to impose on their hospitality so we moved out and went to stay in a mosque for a few days,” she said.
They looked for jobs almost everywhere from coffee shops, convenience stores to even petrol stations, but they had no luck in securing a job.
19-year-old Siti used to work at a coffee shop in their hometown while 21-year-old Shah was an odd job worker.
In order to survive, the couple started selling recyclables they could find from rubbish bins. On good days, they could make RM3o, while other days brought in a mere RM10. .
“We want to save up to rent a flat so I will save up any money we make by putting it in my empty portable gas tank. We are very careful not to overspend and use as little of the money as possible for food.”
The young couple decided to sleep on the streets as they continued to find jobs while surviving with the recyclable earnings.
“We are not picky, we do not mind any job, I can help out at a food stall, I can wash dishes, I will work as long as someone gives me a job,” Siti said.
Siti also added that they are not seeking for donations since they have the ability to work.
Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim stepped in to help them after he was notified about their situation and immediately put them in a hotel for the night before renting them a flat.
When the couple were asked why they decided to come to Penang from Kelantan to make ends meet, Siti revealed that she was originally from Machang Bubuk in Bukit Mertajam and came here to try out their luck since there was lack of opportunities in Kelantan.
“Shah couldn’t get any jobs since April and I lost my job too so we thought we would travel here and try our luck here since there are more businesses and shops here,” she said.
Sim has committed to paying for the flat’s rental until they can afford to pay it themselves.
Since posting about the couple on his social media, Shah has received a bunch of job offers allowing him to decide which job he is able to manage but due to the MCO, Sim advised them to take their time to recuperate in a new environment before taking the next step.
“Now that there is a lockdown, I told them to rest at their new home and collect themselves first before deciding on the jobs they want to take up,” he said.
Both Sim and Machang Bubuk assemblyman Lee Khai Loon contributed some funds, groceries and even bought each of them new phones and garments just to help them kickstart their life before they start working once the lockdown is lifted.