Voluntary activities which were organised during the colonial era by some organisations were basically racial, communal and religious based, established solely to cater for one particular race or community.

Prior to the Second World War, efforts to care for the aged or destitute, protection of orphans and the visually handicapped were largely funded by public and private donations. The Government then had no specific welfare agency to deal with such matters. However, the Labour department in the various states and the Chinese Protectorate dealt with the various problems relating to immigrants from China and India.

The forerunner of a non-racial and non-communal voluntary social welfare organisation then was the Central Welfare Council which was formed immediately after the War. The Council had its beginning as the All Malayan Welfare Council with a conglomeration of representatives drawn from Government.


History of volunteerism in Malaysia and MHF

The growth of charitable organisations was rapid especially after Malaysia gained its independence.

The progressive growth of these charitable organisations augurs well with the Malaysian Government’s vision of establishing a fully caring society by 2020. The government alone will not be able to meet these special needs as we advance further into the 21st century. This has to be recognised and appreciated by all especially in the private sector who should also do their bit in caring for society.

Charitable or voluntary organisations are also a good platform for individuals who want to actively participate in community and social works. These good Samaritans would have a proper outlet to channel their energy and efforts in doing kind deeds for the needy. In so doing, they will also benefit in terms of self-development in communication and social skills.


The Malaysian Humanitarian Foundation (MHF) which was launched on 17 December 1997 promoted the strengthening of a caring culture and society. The foundation has taken onto itself the task to be a catalyst for greater understanding, appreciation, care and unity in the Malaysian society.

The foundation’s humanitarian and voluntary programmes go beyond cultural, religious and social divides.

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 The foundation’s humanitarian and voluntary programmes go beyond cultural, religious and social divides.

Since its launch, the Foundation concentrates on two integrated projects, that are, MHF Referral – Humanitarian Services and MHF Institute – Humanitarian Institute.

Volunteerism in Malaysia has its documented history way back even before World War II. Among the oldest voluntary organisation in the country is the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) (1950), the St. John Ambulance of Malaysia (1908) and The Malaysian Red Crescent Society (1948) (formerly known as the Malaysian Red Cross Society). The St. Nicholas Home and School for the Blind which had its origin in Malacca in 1926 was the only voluntary institution for the visually handicapped in the country before World War II.


If we don’t do things properly, we will be wasting most of our limited and precious resources. At the same time, community efforts are changing,and  entire communities  need to transform themselves   to be transparent, accountable and responsible.

The day will come when almost everyone will feel that they too need help and it will be too late if we have not provided certain vulnerable communities in Malaysia with the necessary human development programmes.

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