FOOD has a way of bringing people together and this is especially true for one noble project’s roots.
Lim Yuet Kim, Lee Swee Lin and Suzanne Ling were having a meal with refugee students at a learning centre where they were volunteering, when they came up with an idea to help refugee families earn a sustainable income to help the children receive an education.
With an aim to help rebuild the lives of refugees, PichaEats, which started in 2016, provides a platform for refugees from Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan to showcase their cooking while earning a living.
“We started as a project and we have grown into an enterprise which does catering and mini buffet delivery service for corporations and individuals, ” Lim, who is PichaEats chief executive officer, said.
“Our cooks prepare the food at home while we handle the logistics and operations of the orders, ” she said.
However, because of the Covid-19 outbreak and with the movement control order (MCO) currently in place, catering for social events is not an option and the refugees are feeling the impact.
”It has cut off a big chunk of our revenue and our 18 cooks are affected as they have no orders to process. It is a struggle for many, ” said Lim.
“Before the pandemic, we worked with a lot of corporations that needed catering for events. Now, we are focusing on individuals needing to feed their families at home instead.
“We have reactivated a fund called Zaza Movement and this donation drive allows people to help out by putting in funds and letting the refugees cook,” she explained.
These cooked meals are delivered to frontliners at hospitals, the police, old folk’s homes as well as refugee communities where most of the adults have lost their odd jobs.
Lim said the Zaza Movement was created in honour of their late cook Zaza, who with his family of three arrived in Malaysia from Syria in 2013.
“Although he was bedridden due to cancer, Zaza wanted to distribute food to people who were in need. He was dedicated, committed and most of all, loving to everyone he met, ” Lim shared.
“He even prepared extra food for the cleaners, security guards or delivery staff whenever there was an order.
“Unfortunately, this amazing man passed away on May 8,2017. It was his kindness and generosity that inspired us to fulfil his wish of wanting to impact lives with his food. So, a fund was set up to commemorate the month annually.
“We set up the fund earlier as many are in need now.”
Lim explained that with every purchase made, 50% of the sales went to the cooks, covering raw ingredient costs and their basic living expenses.
The remaining 50% goes to PichaEats, where business operation costs are covered or it is reinvested to create greater impact.
“We are currently working on pivoting the business and improving our business-to-consumer funnel through our mini buffet deliveries, ” she added.
Several parties contributed to its efforts in the past few weeks.
PichaEats sponsor AmBank supported 10 days’ worth of food for the frontliners of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre. Business partner GoJob helped identify the hospitals that needed food while Ingenium aided in the fundraising efforts.
When it comes to food preparation and delivery to customers, PichaEats ensures that hygiene and health safety for both parties are prioritised.
Sanitisation is done before and after cooking in all kitchens on a daily basis.
PichaEats ensures cooks adhere to strict Health Ministry guidelines and all kitchens are provided with adequate sanitisers.
Daily checks are made on cooks and delivery staff to make sure they do not have any Covid-19 symptoms.
For runners, a contactless delivery option is provided, meaning meals can be dropped off without close contact with customers.
Delivery staff are also provided with sanitisers to clean their vehicles and briefed on how to ensure personal hygiene.
PichaEats cook Rania Alashram, 47, who first arrived in Malaysia seven years ago with her family, said she was very grateful and happy that many people enjoyed her cooking.
“My husband and I worked hard to cook and sell Syrian food on our Facebook page. We initially had many difficulties but when we started working with PichaEats during Ramadan 2016, our conditions improved significantly as we achieved financial stability.
“My family and I thank everyone who donated to the Zaza Movement and supported us, as well as the people who are struggling to eradicate the pandemic in the country.
“I know this period of time is very difficult. I pray this will end soon and our lives will return to normal, ” said Rania.
For details on how to donate and to receive updates on food distribution, call 012-679 4353.
To place an order, visit www.pichaeats.com
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