Kind souls look out for society’s less fortunate during trying times


THOSE with limited financial resources are finding it tough to survive the lockdown and struggling to put food on the table.

They include people out of jobs and charity homes in need of help to feed their dependants.

StarMetro speaks to a few soup kitchens and restaurants that have stepped up to lend a helping hand.

Raashi Kitchen

Its owner Raman Rajagopal had been busy offering free meals to people in need since the movement control order was implemented early this year.

“We are sponsoring cooked food to those who need it.”

He has been practising what he believes, in not letting anybody go hungry.

“I was about to open my restaurant in March 2020 when the first MCO hit.

“I focused on takeaways and deliveries but the situation got better when dine-in was allowed.”

Raman, whose restaurant serves North and South Indian cuisines, said he received calls in February from people asking for food.

“Charity homes were not receiving donations and people lost their jobs. Church and refugee groups reached out for help.

“I focused on helping them because everyone deserves at least one good, hot meal daily.”

Motivated by Indian guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s phrase “love all, serve all”, Raman estimates that 80% of meals from his restaurant went to charity while 20% were paying customers.

“I started by donating 40 meals, now it’s about 350 meals daily, ” said Raman, whose restaurant is located in SS18, Subang Jaya in Selangor.

As of June 20, he has given out 20, 000 free meal packs, and aims to serve 200,000 by year end.

“The meals are distributed either via delivery services or well-wishers to homes in Subang Jaya, Cheras, Pudu, Jalan Kelang Lama (Kuala Lumpur) and Kajang.

“I have also distributed sponsored meals to frontliners like policemen and firemen.

“Each meal contains rice, two vegetables and a protein (usually chicken) at an estimated RM10 per pack.

“I don’t lower the quality of free meals. The beneficiaries get to enjoy the same meals as paying customers, ” said the 68-year-old.

He does not question people who walk in or call up asking for food as he believes they are desperate.

“I have also had people from Kedah and Johor calling for help. I usually ask them to buy a meal from a place near them and I will pay the restaurant through bank transfer.

“Fifty per cent of the amount from paying customers goes towards the free meal initiative.

“I receive about RM7,500 from contributors, while the rest is from my own pocket.”

Raashi Kitchen opens daily as “hunger never stops”.

“What motivates me is a sense of happiness that money cannot buy, ” said Raman, who sometimes donated eggs, onions and potatoes to charity homes too.

“We need to have compassion and empathy for the underprivileged, especially during tough times, ” he added.

Retired bankers Lachamanan Vasudevan and Yong Yoke Yeh are among regular contributors.

The husband and wife who reside in USJ 3 donate RM400 to RM500 a month to sponsor meals.

They also personally deliver meals to two disabled individuals in their neighbourhood.

“We enjoy the food at Raashi Kitchen. We like Raman’s initiative, so we give money to support it, ” said Yong.

“We have also shared about this initiative with neighbours and friends who are also donating money to the cause.”

S. Nadarajah, who turned 64 in late June, contributed RM500 as a birthday gift to support the initiative.

“I let Raman decide on distribution of the sponsored meals.

“It’s a good cause and the food is given to beneficiaries of different races and backgrounds, ” said Nadarajah from USJ2.

For details, call 012-677 0505.

Charlie’s Cafe

This social enterprise cafe, founded in 2015, serves comfort food such as chicken chop and nasi lemak.

Located in Taman Bukit Desa, Kuala Lumpur, the cafe introduced the “pay it forward” concept where customers have the option of contributing RM5 as a “pay it forward” meal.

The RM5 is then used to cover the cost of one person’s meal, typically something simple like fried rice with fried chicken.

“We didn’t know what to expect when we launched the concept five years ago, ” said cafe co-founder Desonny Tuzan.

He said the idea came from friends and mentors during discussions on how to support local communities.

“Because Charlie’s Cafe is not located in the city centre, the initial idea of people walking in (to redeem meals) didn’t work.

“So we chose to work with non-governmental organisations (NGO), friends and community groups by supplying food to refugees and welfare homes.

“We continued the concept until June last year but had to slow down to fully focus on ensuring our business stayed afloat.”

The meals have been suspended during the MCO and National Recovery Plan.

Instead, Charlie’s Cafe prepares food on a needs basis to be distributed by friends and community groups to refugee centres, old folks homes and orphanages.

“The MCO has greatly challenged our business.

“It’s not that we don’t want to continue the ‘pay it forward’ meals, but it’s very challenging to run a business on minimal manpower.

“We have to work three times harder now to keep the cafe running.

“About 95% of the orders during MCO are for deliveries, ” said Tuzan.

He said Charlie’s Cafe might consider restarting its “pay it forward” meals soon and on a smaller scale.

“We can only accommodate about 20 to 30 meals now. Pre-MCO, we used to prepare about 200 meals a month, ” he said.

“Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, we also worked with an NGO by taking in every year one or two people who had served their time in prison.

“They worked in our kitchens for a few months before transitioning to the next phase of their lives.

“Serving communities is very close to our hearts, so we hope to continue the programme when business is better, ” he added.

Dapur Kinrara

Six months into its operations, Dapur Kinrara registered as an NGO and even established a branch at a Hindu temple in Puchong, Selangor.

“Dapur Kinrara is a soup kitchen run by a group of volunteers, ” said Kinrara assemblyman Ng Sze Han.

“It is open every Sunday, from noon to 2pm, serving hot meals to the needy.”

Established using RM15, 000 in seed funding from Ng’s office, Dapur Kinrara started operating in mid-December 2020 at a community hall in Bandar Puchong Jaya.

It was registered as an NGO to ensure transparency and accountability, said Ng.

“Dapur Kinrara volunteers prepare 300 to 400 sets of meals for more than 200 families every week.

“Only vegetarian food is served, to make it suitable for people of all races and religions, ” he said, adding that the meals comprised rice with at least four to five dishes.

While people are encouraged to bring their own containers on normal days, to promote environmental awareness, food is pre-packed during the lockdown to ensure pick-up is faster and to reduce physical contact.

“The meals are simple, like fried rice and fried noodles, as Dapur Kinrara operates with a smaller team, ” explained Ng.

“Before the MCO, we had more than 100 volunteers. They were assigned shifts to handle different duties such as cooking, serving and cleaning.

“There are only about 10 volunteers during Phase One of the NRP.”

He observed that there were more new faces visiting Dapur Kinrara during MCO, indicating that there were more people needing help.

He said Dapur Kinrara had grown to be self-sustainable, receiving regular donations from the public and companies.

“These include surplus produce donated by shops selling organic produce in Puchong, besides fruits, buns, biscuits and cash from well-wishers, ” he said.

“The donors send vegetables and other ingredients every week, so the volunteers cook meals based on what is available.

“Surplus raw ingredients are distributed to old folks homes and other soup kitchens.”

On festive occasions, Dapur Kinrara also distributes glutinous rice dumplings and mandarin oranges.

A Dapur Kinrara 2.0 was established in early June at Sri Maha Maheswari Kaliamman Temple in Taman Bunga Melor at 13th Mile in Puchong.

“This soup kitchen is managed by the temple’s committee and hot meals are distributed on Friday evenings from 6pm onwards, ” said Ng.

“The committee uses ingredients that are partly sponsored by Dapur Kinrara to prepare about 200 packs of meals, ” he said.

He likened Dapur Kinrara’s effort as “from the community to the community”, with the soup kitchen serving as a platform for recipients and donors.

“We have had companies bringing their teams to cook food for the needy as a CSR programme (during non-MCO period), ” he said.

“The message we want to share is that Dapur Kinrara is not only about giving food but also love to the community.”

The team is now focusing on ensuring Dapur Kinrara 2.0 becomes self-sustainable and welcomes expansion of its concept to other areas beyond Puchong.

“A key factor to our success is our pool of dedicated and kind-hearted volunteers who are willing to contribute to society, ” said Ng.

“We are toying with the idea of turning Dapur Kinrara into a training platform, in future, for single mothers who would like to venture into small food businesses.

“It will be a training space and cloud kitchen for them to prepare food and sell via delivery services, ” he added.

For details, visit https://bit.ly/3jwBp6z

The Assembly Soup Kitchen

Like-minded people with a giving heart are coming together to help others in need during these tough times.

One such group is The Assembly Soup Kitchen in Glenmarie, Shah Alam.

Its coordinator-volunteer Wong Suet Beng said it started with a few members from the Community Baptist Church in Subang Jaya wanting to give food aid to a refugee community that they had been helping.

She said members pooled resources to buy produce and cook dinner from their own homes on Saturdays for 200 people, beginning May last year.

“As the weeks went by, the request for food kept increasing by the week.

“One of our volunteers gave us a space in a commercial kitchen located in Glenmarie, to work.

“We are unable to use the kitchen during the NRP, so volunteers are back to using their own kitchens, ” she said.

Wong said they now cooked for 2, 000 people on average, among whom are refugees, migrant workers and poor families.

She added that there were 120 volunteers sharing the workload. Wong said many food companies had begun donating milk, dry food items and fruits, which they had included as additional items for recipients.

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