A warm and free meal is heaven-sent for the needy

Helping hand: Zuraini (left) and other volunteers handing out free food to the needy at Jalan Tun Razak, Johor Baru.

JOHOR BARU: A warm and free meal from the caring public means the world to those who have lost their jobs and for those facing added financial hardships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to some of the individuals, Jalan Tun Razak in the city centre here has become a free food hotspot of late where there are about 20 groups giving out food packs each month as compared to the handful before the pandemic.

A homeless individual, known only as Wong, 50, said he was forced to live on the street after he lost his job as a contract worker in Singapore in March due to the pandemic.

“I have used up my savings and even sold my motorcycle in order to get by. My wife has also returned to her hometown with our children.

“I have been looking for a job here but things are looking bleak as construction companies have rejected my application, preferring foreign workers to cut costs.

“I really hope that the Malaysia-Singapore border can reopen soon so that I can find a job there and support myself and my family, ” said Wong, who was among those waiting in line to receive free food from the Insan Kasih Welfare Association (I-Kasih) in Jalan Tun Razak here.

Another recipient, Chua, 56, said she has been travelling from her house in Skudai, some 20km away, to the city for free food since August to help lower her family’s financial burden.

She added that she would usually take the state government’s free bus or hitch a ride from friends to the location and would rarely fork out money for her own transport.

“Although my husband has a job, we still have five in our family to care for, including a child with disabilities.

“This is my way of chipping in, just to help my family cut down on expenses, ” she said, adding that she was grateful towards the NGOs of various backgrounds which have been actively giving out free meals in the city.

Wai, a 49-year-old man from Ipoh, said he travelled all the way to Singapore to work in construction previously but lost his job and has been putting up under a flight of stairs near the old railway station here for the past eight months.

“I am thankful that there are groups giving out free food every other day otherwise I will go hungry as I have no family support, ” he said.

Unemployed P. Joseph Rajan, 51, who used to work as a hotel assistant manager in Singapore, said he is in need of a job as he does not enjoy depending on charity and sympathy from others.

“I can speak English well and have a hotel management qualification and experience, I just need a job opportunity.

“Some people point fingers at us, saying that we are freeloaders and are lazy to work but that is not true, I would really like to go back to work, ” he said.

Meanwhile, I-Kasih president Zuraini Tahir said more than 300 food packs were distributed to the needy and would continue to do so in the future.

He said the association was also working with some companies on job placement opportunities to help the jobless.

“I hope that companies with vacancies interested in hiring them can get in touch with us soon.

“We will try our best to help the less fortunate, ” he added.

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