WITH our many gastronomical delights, “What should we eat?” is a question most Malaysians struggle with daily.
But Nov 16 was not just another day in (food) paradise.
Three Malaysians banked on their fellow countrymen’s love of eating out to raise over RM10,000 in a fundraising campaign to get food aid to the Philippines
Ling Low, who works in online media, said that food and beverage (F&B) businesses donated 10% of their earnings over the Nov 16 weekend via the Food for the Philippines program.
“We like to eat out every weekend, but displaced people in the Philippines won’t enjoy the same luxury. They might not even get to eat anything at all, so it’s good for us to reflect on how we can contribute by eating out,” said the 27-year-old.
The effort, which started last Tuesday, secured pledges from outlets such as Swich Cafe, The Red BeanBag, The Bee, The Last Polka, Yay Sammich, Pisco Bar, Coffee and Dreams cafe in Seremban, Dancing Fish, Lexy's Secret Service, Smooshie Juices and Camp5 Climbing Gym.
All funds collected will be donated to the Citizens Disaster Response Center, a Philippines-based grassroots NGO which deals with both emergency aid response and long-term rehabilitation.
“Even individual donors can contribute by pledging the cost of one meal through crowdfunding website Indiegogo,” said Low.
On Facebook, some social media users even encouraged their favourite cafe, such as MyBurgerLab, to join the cause. The popular eatery would eventually contribute 10% from both their branches.
The Food for the Philippines initiative is a spin off from the larger Support Haiyan Survivors fundraising effort, which is managed by global communications personnel Karen Jolly, along with think-tank researcher Tamanna Patel and Low.
Two weeks ago, Jolly was on the ground in Philippines to assist in the filming of a documentary, and found herself visiting the largest internally displaced people camp in Zamboanga.
She helped to safely deliver a baby in that impoverished setting, but on the very next day, Jolly saw another 2-year-old die from malnutrition and dehydration.
“Basic medication was scarce at the camp. Conditions were squalid, and deadly diseases like cholera and leptospirosis were rampant due to the lack of proper sewage disposal or electricity to sterilize water,” said the 29-year-old.
She added that resources are stretched paper-thin as the Philippines has been hit with floods, civil conflicts, and one natural disaster after the other.
In September, an armed conflict erupted in South Philippines, affecting 100,000 people. In October, the Bohol earthquake displaced hundreds of thousands.
Upon returning to Malaysia, her “calling to do something” was sparked by the birth of that baby - now named Karen Alice - into “absolutely nothing”, and inspired by her displaced colleagues who provided relief efforts despite having only the clothes on their back.
According to Jolly, every little bit helps: US$10 (RM32) will feed a person for two days, US$25 (RM80) will provide shelter for a family of five, while US$60 (RM192) will provide food and shelter for a family of five.
“Anyone can contribute to Food for the Philippines by having a meal at participating outlets,” she added.
While this round of the campaign has come to an end, Low said other parties have expressed interest in making a donation.
“I’m really happy with the contributions from businesses both big and small, and our efforts will continue in the weeks leading up to Christmas,” she said.
As many Malaysians can lay claim to having both big hearts and big appetites, one could say that the fundraiser’s unique approach is akin to a match made in culinary heaven!