K. SARASWATHY has been running a small-time food catering business from her house in Kampung Kovil in Butterworth for over 10 years and she has always dreamt of opening a food stall someday.

The 58-year-old had a pleasant surprise when the Federal Government fulfilled her long time wish by providing her with a stall, utensils and furniture for free under the 1AZAM scheme.

“I am now able to run a permanent food stall outside my house and attract regular customers.

“I used to earn between RM500 and RM1,000 a month previously.

“Now, I hope to earn more with the new stall and equipment,” she said after receiving the materials from former prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Dewan Budi Penyayang on Thursday.

Apart from a pushcart stall, she also received a canopy shed, four tables, 16 chairs, rice cooker, a giant pot, bowls, plates, spoons, mugs and aprons.

She was among 46 persons from north Seberang Prai, who received various material aid under the scheme, which was aimed at helping the members of the lower income group improve their businesses.

Another recipient, Ang Phaik Tiew, 44, from Kampung Selamat, Tasek Gelugor, who received a sewing machine and embroidery machine, said she had been involved in the sewing business on a small-scale since she was 18.

“But, it has now become my main source of income to support my three schoolgoing children, aged between 10 and 15 years old, after my husband died four years ago,” she said.

Hair salon operator M. Nagarajah, 52, said he was thankful for the chairs, dressing tables, perm machines, scissors, hair dryers and other equipment provided under the scheme.

“I have been operating my hairstyling business from my home in Taman Bertam Indah for the past five years.

“With the equipment provided, I hope to rent a shoplot to run my salon in Bumbung Lima, Penaga, soon,” he said.

Others received necessary equipment worth about RM4,000 each to further improve their businesses including those preparing steamed nasi lemak, char kuey teow, ice blended drinks, burger, frozen food, bahulu, fried products and traditional kuih.

Women, Family and Community Develop-ment Ministry NKRA officer Hazmi Samsudin said almost 70% of the 106,967 1AZAM recipients nationwide had successfully increased their income with the material aids received between January 2011 and January this year.

He said many of them saw an increased income of a minimum of RM300 a month.

Hazmi said the government had to date spent about RM1.2bil on the scheme.