What were you doing when you were 11 years old? For most of us, the answer would probably be at school studying, hanging out with friends, or playing video games during our free time, with hardly a thought about helping the needy. These days, it seems even worse, when kids are so preoccupied with their mobile devices from a young age that it seems like they are disconnected from the harsh reality of the real world.

Luckily, this morning we read an article that warmed our hearts and restored our faith in kids. Meet Ella Pung, a little girl living in Texas, who decided to sell soft drinks outside her house in order to raise funds to rebuild houses for poor Malaysians.

11-year-old Ella is a Malaysian-born girl who has lived in Texas for nine years, since her family migrated from Malaysia. The little girl with a big heart sat outside her garage all day in Austin, Texas to help raise funds for Projek Wumah, a Malaysian home-grown initiative that helps to rebuild dilapidated and rundown homes of the hardcore poor in rural areas. She was inspired to do her part for the needy by her grand-uncle, radio personality and actor Patrick Teoh; and Projek Wumah founder David Wu, who went on a cycling journey to China to raise funds for the project.

“I feel sorry for people who don’t have enough food or a house to live in like I do. I wanted to help. And I realised a drink sale was something I could do by myself,” she said in an e-mail interview with The Star.

Ella’s mum got her started by donating sodas for her drinks stall, which Ella wanted to pay back, but she refused, saying that she wanted to do her part for the project. Ella then set-up her stall – consisting of a cooler full of drinks and a handmade sign detailing what she was doing – at 6.30 am, and patiently sat in the summer heat, waiting for customers.

There were no people at first, but Ella soon had her first customer of the day – her older brother Ian, who gave her five dollars for a soda. After that, a couple of neighbours bought two drinks, and a painter who only spoke Spanish donated a dollar towards her cause without taking a drink.

11-year-old Ella Pung selling drinks outside her home in Austin, Texas to raise funds for a good cause, with support from family and friends (Photo from The Star)

11-year-old Ella Pung selling drinks outside her home in Austin, Texas to raise funds for a good cause, with support from family and friends (Photo from The Star)

“After that, I had no customers until my mum put my story on Facebook and my friends and neighbours came to the rescue. They bought drinks and even donated extra money. A few of my friends drove straight from the airport just for that.” Ella managed to raise US$51 (RM204) from her soda stall, which she donated to Projek Wumah.

This is not the first this the enterprising and big-hearted young girl has done her part for charity. Previously, she took part in the Austin Crop Hunger Walk, which raises funds to feed the poor. She continues to do her part to help the needy by going door to door around her neighbourhood collecting food for the food banks.

Ella isn’t stopping here, though. She wants to continue her fund-raising activities for a good cause, and plans to continue selling drinks to earn more money for Projek Wumah by selling drinks at her mum’s workplace.

We truly admire her loving and caring spirit, and are humbled by her generosity to help those in need, even from half a world away! As they say, inspiration comes in many ways, and we hope that Projek Wumah will be able to bring hope and cheer to Malaysians in need of a place to call home.