Warm glow from helping the needy

Always ready to help: Ang (left) speaking to Amirah Kamal, 60, at her home in Gat Lebuh Presgrave in George Town, Penang. Amirah is seeking help from Ang’s Foodbank Penang.

Always ready to help: Ang (left) speaking to Amirah Kamal, 60, at her home in Gat Lebuh Presgrave in George Town, Penang. Amirah is seeking help from Ang’s Foodbank Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: Housewife Wendy Ang, 65, is grateful that she never had to worry about the necessities of life.

So as her children grew up, she started thinking about the welfare of others.

She started by volunteering in welfare organisations and about 20 years later, created a food bank in Penang to feed the hardcore poor.

More than 60 impoverished families in the state, who used to worry about where their next meal was coming from, have found relief through her efforts.

She has convinced many people to come forward and help the needy, providing foodstuff from bags of rice to bottles of cooking oil, tins of wholemeal biscuits to meal supplement drinks needed by those recovering from illness or surgery.

She also has people buying supplies like detergent and diapers, and has a well-stocked storeroom in Cannon Street where she prepares gifts for poor families to receive on a monthly basis.

What is surprising is the ease with which she seems to find benefactors.

“We get donors through our Facebook page and prefer it to be in the form of goods,” she said when met at the Penang Tourist Guides Association office in Cannon Street, which is one of the drop-off points for her food bank.

“If donors cannot deliver, we go to their homes to collect.”

The crucial element to prove her sincerity, she said, was by not accepting money as far as possible.

“Sometimes, people from other states ask if they can bank in money, but we try to dissuade them. We ask them to buy what they think the poor will need. We try not to manage people’s money,” she said.

Ang said she was inspired by watching a documentary on food banks in 2007.

Food banks in Australia, the United States, Canada and also Singapore distribute billions of meals each year in their respective areas.

Ang began her volunteer work in 1996 when her son was in Form Three.

After sending him to school, she had a few hours to herself and at first, she joined the Women’s Centre for Change.

“I helped with the paperwork. Then the centre trained me in counselling and psychology, and I began to deal with women who needed help,” she said.

Her heart broke when she met victims of domestic violence, but she said what really affected her profoundly was the difficulty that nearly all victimised women had in finding food for themselves and their children.

“I spoke to my friends. We were all moved by their sadness and pain. We bought whatever we could and sent it to them.”

Ang later gave a helping hand to other organisations like Penang Cheshire Home, Seri Cahaya Home and Children’s Protection Society.

The snowball effect has not lost its momentum as her charity efforts continue to expand.

She formed Foodbank Penang with a team of 20 volunteers and will soon register a new body to provide free tuition to needy children and healthcare to the poor.

“We will organise free transport for needy children to attend the classes too. We hope when they get a good education, they will bring their families to the next level.”

Ang laughed when asked if she had ever entertained the thought of trying her hand at business to make some money after her children had grown up.

“My husband was a successful senior manager in a large company and provided for us well before he happily retired. We never worried financially. I never had to think of ways to find money,” she explained.

“I’ve never had a hard life. I also had a happy childhood. I want to help the poor not because I had some bad experience in life.

“It’s just that the more I do good, the happier I feel. You get a warm glow inside when you help the poor, and I think we should all strive for that.”

Ang can be contacted at 012-4785124 or visit facebook.com/foodbankpg.