IPOH: It all started when she first saw some homeless people loitering near her workplace, and now Zeti Suhaila Mustafa Kamal, 49, is among the go-to people when it comes to feeding the homeless.
“I used to work at a restaurant that was near a rehabilitation centre for recovering drug addicts and ex-prisoners, with most of them being homeless.
“I was told that at the centre, there are activities and food provided but on a first-come-first-serve basis since it was funded by donations, ” she said.
“When I told my mother about the condition there, she suggested that I help out as I was working at a restaurant.
“I suggested to my boss to give away the leftover food that we might have to the homeless, so as not to waste food and also help those who are in need, ” she added.
On days when there were no leftovers, Zeti Suhaila would buy food, drinks and snacks using her own money.
“Some of my friends later found out what I was doing and wanted to help. I told them I just need RM5 per homeless person, and the donations poured in after I posted about it on my Facebook.
“Once the food is prepared and packed, I go to the centre and distribute them with the help of my colleagues, ” she said.
After a few months, Zeti Suhaila decided to set up the “Sahur with Homeless” project in 2010.
“At that time, I would finish work quite late at night and during the fasting month, I realised that the homeless couldn’t find any food as restaurants are usually closed.
“With some friends, we decided to distribute food late at night as some of them were fasting as well, ” she said.
Zeti Suhaila said she joined the Dapur Jalanan Ipoh (DJI), a soup kitchen serving food to the homeless, in 2014.
“My friends and I were invited to join DJI and that was the start of everything.
“I joined them during their second serving. Since the team consists mostly of university students, they soon passed the baton to me. Since then, along with our committed volunteers, we were able to serve food every fortnight, ” she said.
She added that although it can be challenging, helping the homeless was her true calling.
“With DJI, our focus is serving food for everyone regardless of who they are. You don’t have to be homeless to get a plate of food.
“In the beginning, we used to cook the food but due to the lack of manpower, we would order them and distribute them near the Dato’ Sagor Food Court, ” she said.
One of the pioneers of DJI, Nurul Fatin Amera Hassan, 29, said she first met Zeti Suhaila in 2014.
“As I’m residing in KL, having Zeti Suhaila is great because she knows the city better than anyone else and I am glad that she is the main person for DJI, ” she said.
“Among the many things we went through together was looking for fresh ingredients to cook. We lacked funding then but still needed to prepare food as there were people waiting for it.
“We also walked through downpours just to find homeless people as some of them do not know about us, ” she added.
Nurul Fatin Amera said Zeti Suhaila has been through a lot just to keep DJI running.
“If I can describe her in five words, it will be genuine, loveable, powerful, passionate and awesome.
“She has strong determination and goes out of her way to help the homeless, ” she said.
“Not only is she helping to provide food, she also helps to find jobs and shelter for the homeless.
“She would try her hardest to help as many homeless as she could and never complained about it.
“There were times where people took advantage of her. They let her do all the work and then they
would get the glory. But she did not bother to confront them as the
work benefited the homeless, ” she added.
Love On The Streets (Lots) co-founder Mohd Hilmi Fadzil Senek said Zeti Suhaila is dedicated to helping the needy.
“To run a programme every two weeks is not easy. She has to deal with the homeless and those who donate as well. It takes skill and she has dedicated her life to doing it without fail, ” he said, adding that Lots was also Zeti Suhaila’s idea.
“My friends and I joined DJI a few years back and Zeti Suhaila suggested we run the donation of secondhand clothes to the homeless.
“DJI is short of manpower, so we decided to help them out. We will set up a small corner to give out second-hand clothing to the homeless for free during their soup kitchen sessions, ” he said.
“Once, she was assisting a family who lost their house during a fire. She called us for help and we managed to provide the family with clothes and some groceries, ” he added.