A LOT has been highlighted about various areas of volunteering in our society.
There is one area of volunteering which needs a rethink.
I once accompanied a young doctor (who happened to be my daughter’s friend) who was distributing food to the homeless in the city, particularly in the Chow Kit area. We spent the evening packing the food – a plastic bag with a plastic container of food and plastic bottle of water. We left for the city at 11pm and walked around the streets of Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Chow Kit. We saw them – scurrying with huge carton boxes (as beds) to the pavements and to any dimly lit flat surface. We gave them the packets and most of them happily took it. Some did ask what the menu for the day was.
Then we stood at a “regular spot” where apparently these homeless-foodless people come every night. We had all kinds of people walk over to us to collect the food – security guards, people going home after a late shift, jaywalkers and even those “special” ladies who only work at night.
But none of the people to whom we gave the food looked in any way undernourished or malnourished, or really in need of food.
They were all from the working class. Malaysians who did not have money to pay the rent; security guards who didn’t have to walk far to buy food because free food was coming; and those who found it convenient to get food there.
In short, we Malaysians (the soft-hearted and ever-willing to donate food especially) are not actually feeding the hungry in the cities.
We are actually encouraging these people to become “sophisticated beggars”.
That’s when I decided as I went home that night at about 2am that I shall not partake in this volunteering anymore.
To all those die-hard volunteers who want to carry out some soul-searching volunteer work, get the same philanthropist to give you the money and get the same buddies and go clean up the parks and stadiums of the litter strewn by equally irresponsible city people after every public event. Publish those activities on all the social media and I bet you that you will be nationally applauded and rewarded.
Let’s stop looking at these so-called homeless-foodless through foggy lenses. No Malaysian is hungry in the city.