Malaysian entrepreneur and mother of three cooks for the homeless every Sunday


  • People
  • Monday, 15 Nov 2021

Aasah, who loves to cook, says feeding the poor gives her a sense of purpose, especially during the current global health crisis. Photos: Aasah Devi H. Gopal Chand

In good and bad times, our ties with family and community bind and strengthen us. This Our Malaysia column celebrates how Malaysians care for one another and make this country better for all. Please share your inspiring Malaysian stories with us. Email us at lifestyle@thestar.com.my.

The sight of elderly people sleeping on the sidewalk in Kluang town, Johor, during the pandemic was something that deeply moved Aasah Devi H. Gopal Chand.

“Some of them are in a sorry state and my heart goes out to them. I often wonder what the homeless eat each night,” said Aasah, 56, during an interview recently.

Inspired to do something to help, the entrepreneur and mother of three decided to offer them a good meal one day a week.

Therefore, since April last year, Aasah has dedicated her weekends towards cooking and distributing 70 packets of food to the poor. The distribution takes place on Sunday evenings at an empty car park at Jalan Sultan, opposite the Sultan Ibrahim Diamond Jubilee Intan town hall.

Aasah, who operates an early childhood education centre, said her commitment to helping the poor is based on the principles of loving-kindness and compassion. She believes that even the smallest acts of kindness can go a long way towards helping those in need.

“I love to cook. Feeding the poor gives me a sense of purpose, especially during the global health crisis. During the first movement restrictions, my centre was closed, and I, too, lost some income.

“Thankfully, my husband is a pensioner and my three grown-up sons are already working. But imagine individuals who do not have anyone to turn to for help. In life, it is crucial to help members of the community, even if it’s just on a small scale,” said Aasah, who also runs a small home catering business, with curries and parathas among her signature treats.

Since April last year, Aasah has dedicated all her weekends towards preparing and cooking food to distribute to the poor.Since April last year, Aasah has dedicated all her weekends towards preparing and cooking food to distribute to the poor.

When Aasah first started her mission, she’d fork out about RM300 each week to buy the ingredients for the food packs. But as news of her soup kitchen spread around the community, many well-wishers started to contribute to her cause.

“There’s a sense of happiness knowing that Malaysians are willing to donate a portion of their money to help the homeless around Kluang. Some people contribute the cash as part of their birthday celebrations or their loved one’s death anniversary.

“Anyone can contribute towards the cause. It doesn’t need to be a big amount. What’s important is we are doing our part to ensure no one goes to bed on an empty stomach,” shared Aasah, who also sells Indian outfits, crystals and trinkets on her Facebook page (Aasah Devi).

Profits from her online sales and the catering business are also used to purchase the meals’ ingredients.

On Saturdays, Aasah picks up the provisions and starts to prepare the food. Then, at 8am the following morning, she single-handedly starts to cook the meals, comprising rice, chicken, egg or tofu sambal, vegetables and dhal fry.

Aasah's friend Gurjit (right) helps her pack the food before they distribute them to the poor.Aasah's friend Gurjit (right) helps her pack the food before they distribute them to the poor.

Once the food is ready, her close friend Gurjit Kaur, 52, and her daughter Leysha Bala, 12, help to pack them. At 5pm, rain or shine, Aasah and Gurjit are at the car park ready to distribute the food.

“Sometimes, the people start queuing up early and there’s a long line by the time we arrive. It saddens me to see senior citizens standing in the rain queueing up for food.

“I can only lessen their burden by feeding them with one good meal, once a week,” she said.

Helping underprivileged communities is a way Aasah keeps a positive outlook, especially during the pandemic. It is undoubtedly hard work, but Aasah will continue to reach out to disadvantaged communities as long as possible.

“My motto in life is simple – we must help others to attain inner peace and harmony. Organising the weekly soup kitchen is tiring but I enjoy it.

“One of the biggest rewards is seeing a smile on people’s faces. I’m always happy knowing I’ve made 70 people’s day a better one. That’s something money can’t buy,” said Aasah.

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