Giving food and hope to the poor and needy


Harith (white cap) and Lim (left) providing care bags to recipients at the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, George Town. — Photos and video: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

CUSTOMISED care packs containing sanitary needs such as shampoo, conditioner, soap,deodorant and the much-needed hand sanitiser were given away to vagrants at the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Penang.

The bags full of goodies including snacks and meals were given away by The Hope Branch (registered under Pertubuhan Amal Harapan Harith Iskander).

The initiative saw more than 150 homeless receiving the care bags and hot meals on Saturday morning.

The Hope Branch started out as a humble two-person initiative in March 2020 to help those in need by customising their care packs based on their living conditions and reaching out to those in different states.

Comedian, social activist and entrepreneur Harith Iskander, who founded the organisation, said the social move was started with his wife Dr Jezamine Lim.

“What began as a drive to essentially raise funds for those affected by Covid-19 pandemic since the first round of the movement control order, has grown into a nationwide initiative.

“We are distributing 150 packs to the homeless here as we have heard about their needs.

“We did not pack heavy sundries as we understand their living conditions and customised it based on their needs.

“We are distributing 600 care bags of rations and daily needs to families in Teluk Kumbar, Kampung Bukit in Bayan Lepas, Balik Pulau, Gelugor, Sungai Ara, Batu Maung, Batu Lanchang, Sungai Dua, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Batu Ferringhi, Pinang Emas, Rifle Range and Jalan Macalister.

“The care bags include rice, canned goods, essential grocery items like sugar, biscuits, flour, noodles and pasta in a cup and more.

“We packed toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, sanitiser and dry shampoo as well, ” he said when met at the temple.

According to Harith, they have been receiving requests for aid from different communities in Penang.

“We decided to pool our resources together and offer some support.

“This includes members of the B40 group as well as hardcore urban poor who have been the hardest hit during these difficult times.

“We will also visit the ‘beach boy’ community and their families who have had their source of income cut since the beginning of March 2020 as the tourism industry came to a halt.

“Many of them are either starving or at the brink of it and we are happy to provide them with the relief they need during this difficult period.

“We have a partner who has contacts in Penang to reach out to those who really need the aid.

“We contact village heads and make sure we have detailed

information on those in need. “We try to be well prepared and take names to come back and help in case we have missed anyone or do not want to overlap, ” he said.

Harith said he was lucky to have volunteers who worked tirelessly, shopping, packaging and transporting the care bags that were handed out to the families.

“The Malaysian Civil Defence Force stepped up by providing trucks to transport the aid from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, ” he said.

Harith said The Hope Branch has now expanded its aid to flood victims nationwide to provide relief.

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