A Malaysian foodie's effort has sent food aid to over 1,600 families in need

Each care pack sent out by donors contains basic food necessities that can feed a family for about three weeks. Photos: Bernard Tan

Those suffering from mental health issues or contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935/ 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999/ 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 or go to befrienders.org.my or email sam@befrienders.org.my).

About two months ago, Bernard Tan, 55, woke up to the news that a guy had hung himself from a pedestrian bridge which was located slightly more than 1km from his house in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.

“That got me thinking about how times are so bad that this guy decided to hang himself. I know everyone is facing a tough time, I am too, but there has got to be a way out of this. So, I guess the least I could do was try to help,” said Tan.

With his own limited resources, he felt he would not be able to help many families. He then thought of his Facebook page called That Bloody Botak – which talks about good food and recipes – which has a reach of over 3,000.

“I posted that I was going to start helping people who needed basic necessities. For those who need help, no white flags necessary. Covid may have taken away your income but I won’t take away your dignity as well.

“It’s difficult and embarrassing for some to even ask for help, let alone put up a white flag. Many are at their wits’ end, judging by the number of people taking their own lives.

“We also don’t take pictures of those receiving aid, just pictures of the goods. I don’t discriminate; I help all regardless of race, religion or politics,” he said.

Since That Bloody Botak initiative began in early July, Tan, who is retired, has successfully reached out to over 1,600 families by connecting donors to people in need with the help of a group of fixers, or people who match donors to recipients.Tan’s hope is for at least 1% of Malaysians to do what he does.Tan’s hope is for at least 1% of Malaysians to do what he does.

“It’s not difficult to find people in need during these times, but it’s hard to get donors. However, there are very generous people in Malaysia, and hats off to them.”

Tan said they give out a pack of basic food necessities, which costs around RM70, to each family.

“There is nothing luxurious in it; it’s meant to feed a family for about three weeks, maybe more.

“I was really shocked and never expected there to be so many people who need food. The people in need are those who have fallen through the cracks – the construction workers, coffeeshop helpers, workers at mamak stalls, many who live on daily wages.

“But due to the lockdowns, no work means no money. This (initiative) is not a permanent solution but only to help keep their bellies full until they can work and earn their keep,” said Tan.

He added that not many locals approach them for help.

“For the locals, they have NGOs, the government or religious authorities to help them, whereas many of the foreign workers don’t live near a food bank or even have money for the transportation to go to a food bank,” he said.Tan's initiative helps those who have little or no access to food banks or other types of aid.Tan's initiative helps those who have little or no access to food banks or other types of aid.

Tan added that donors do not have to be in physical contact with the families.

“They can buy from an online platform and the platform will do the delivery. This way, donors can stay safe and still help someone in need,” he shared.

Right now, he said, the number of people reaching out to him for help is increasing by the day.

“There are still many more hungry people out there. The more fixers we have, the bigger the network, and the easier to feed all of them. Some fixers have more donors than people in need while other fixers have more people in need than donors.

“So we share these resources among each other. If more people do that all around Malaysia, not many people will go hungry in this country,” he emphasised.

Tan’s hope is for at least 1% of Malaysians to do what he does.

“I would really like to see this happening in every state, as I had to turn away many people from other states.

“Be a donor or fixer. You will be making a real positive impact on the lives of these families in need.

“The satisfaction of being able to help people and knowing they will not go hungry, that’s a reward in itself,” he concluded.

For details, WhatsApp Tan at 013-342 0849.

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