As a secondary school student, Praviin R. A. Anandaraman would save up his weekly pocket money of RM20 to help the poor.
Praviin, now 19, even formed a (non-registered) foundation called TSP (Tomorrow Special Plan) Foundation for his charity efforts when he was in Form Three.
Around 15-20 of his friends from his school as well as other schools joined him in doing good deeds.
So it’s no surprise then that when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and affected many livelihoods, Praviin decided to do something.
In February, the full-time law student from Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan started a food bank to create “a place of hope”.
“While it may be difficult to identity everyone who is in need, when there is a place of hope, people can find it and receive help,” he says.
That’s why Praviin, who works part-time at his father’s air-conditioning shops in Teluk Kemang and Port Dickson, decided to start the food banks there, on familiar territory.
“I bought some essential foodstuff which is long-lasting, such as rice, dry noodles, sugar, salt, eggs, flour and canned sardines and placed them at my father’s shops.
“I chose these locations for the food bank because they’re easily accessible and it’s also easier for me to restock the items,” he adds.
Praviin puts aside RM400 every month from his part-time job’s wages for the food bank. Many people also got to know about what he was doing, and contacted him to support his venture.
“Some were family friends and there were also many others who came forward to help by contributing foodstuff and cash,” he says.
Praviin’s family members and friends are also involved in the charity effort.
“They help with manpower and preparations such as packing the items and delivering them to the needy,” says Praviin, who has five older brothers and two younger sisters.
Since February, the project has helped around 200 families from various backgrounds, across all races. “Many of them are single mothers, and some are families where the breadwinners have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic. There are also disabled individuals,” he shares.
“Those who come to the food bank for help will often tell us that it’s a great relief because they’ve been going through a lot during the pandemic and they’re very grateful to be able to receive a helping hand during this difficult time.
“Some have even told us that when they’ve recovered from the crisis and are more financially stable, they also want to contribute and help others,” says Praviin.
Most of them heard about the food banks through social media and word-of-mouth.
When people come to get the supplies, their details will be recorded to ensure transparency and that everyone who is in need can have access to the items.
“We also want to make sure we know who the recipients are and where they’re coming from, so that we can help them further,” says Praviin.
He reveals that they will sometimes find other ways to help the families too.
“Recently, we visited a family and found out that they needed a wheelchair, and managed to get one for them. Some of these families also have children with educational needs and we’ve provided stationery for school-going children,” he says.
Praviin says that during the pandemic, there are more people who come to the food banks for supplies since many have lost their jobs, especially during the third movement control order because they weren’t able to sustain their livelihood.
Juggling studies, work and the food bank project can be challenging for Praviin. In addition, he and his friends sometimes face criticism from people who say that they’re doing it for publicity.
“So, we’ve to really motivate ourselves to help and as long as we know our intentions are good, to just keep at it.
“But it’s all worth it when we see the joy on the faces of the people we’ve helped. We don’t need to wait till we have a lot of money or resources to help people, we just need to help with what we have,” he concludes.