This blue sign. We’d been living in Malaysia for every bit of six months if not more and I had been driving in Kuala Lumpur for most of that time. One evening, I stopped at an intersection and asked my husband what this sign meant. I’d seen it everywhere. I assumed it was for a type of business, resource, park, government office - something important.
“Jolie, tell me you’re joking”
“Ummmmm no. What is a Laluan Sehala”?
“It means one way”, he tells me this as I’m turning the opposite direction of the arrow. Same as I’d always done for the past six months, at least.
Granted, it felt like road signs in Malaysia were merely suggestions in some areas. But seriously, for six months there were several occasions when I was driving the wrong way down a street. All the while looking for said “laluan sehala”.
Living in SE Asia I learned there was more than one way to accomplish most everything. Plan A's and B's didn't seem to fall in place for me. You had options - get stressed, buckle down and figure it out, or laugh it off and move onto the next plan.
I learned too, there were options when it came to helping others. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal was a learning moment for me.
There were calls to action to send items, which at first made sense to me. Then I realized that planes filled with donations (not all were usable) were competing for runway space with planes filled with resources like medication and water from humanitarian agencies. Labor was diverted to shuffling second hand clothing and blankets out of the way so that the other more urgent goods could be attended to. There were also businesses that still were operating and had resources on hand. Physical donations were unintentionally undermining the efforts of these shop keepers to rebuild their businesses after the disaster.
Financial donations to the appropriate relief agencies were a tremendous help. So, I believed sending money to individuals was helping as well. And it was; but, I found that was only a temporary fix. What made more of an impact was giving work. Fair compensation for goods. Giving makers a way to provide for themselves and to keep their business going -and growing (when the time was right).
When the time came to build SAPANA, I knew I wanted to take a different approach. I applied what I had learned from the crisis in Nepal to our business model. I wanted to contribute by providing earning opportunities. I wanted artisans and makers to be empowered in a way that they could grow their businesses if they chose to do so. I wanted to help, but by going a different direction.
Laluan Sehala, friends. "One way route". I would strongly advise heeding the blue traffic sign when driving. But, it's okay to go the other way sometimes (in life, in business - not while on the road, please).