Ramadan is the month of giving and compassion. On a Friday night, in the month of Ramadan, I’ve been blessed to experience the concept of giving and compassion, in the middle of the capital of Malaysia- in Kuala Lumpur’s well lit concrete jungle.
Every week, a team of amazing souls which comes under the banner of an organization called 1Charity, comes together to organize a Soup Kitchen run.
As I reached Masjid Jamek’s LRT station about 11 pm, I was welcomed by a very warm volunteer by the name of Saqib Sheikh. We walked to the location which was next to Bank Muamalat. There in a little alley, I found a little ray of light filled with hope and love from the volunteers who were getting ready to serve their clients- those whose homes are the streets we walk about in the day.
The People Behind 1Charity are Just Like You and Me
I was introduced to Kak Suri (Kak is short for Kakak, meaning, elder sister), whom many of the volunteers would refer to as their leader. However, does not see herself that way as she feels that the 1Charity effort is a collective one, brought together through various organizations and individuals who decided to do something good for their community. It was how they started and she wants to retain it that way.
Kak Suri has been doing this for three years and her consistency is something I salute her for. I learned a lesson in humility when she told me not to take photographs of her to be posted up publicly, for she believes she should not be publicized, the focus, she feels should be on the volunteers and their efforts and not her.
Feeding More Than Just the Stomach
1Charity gets their food through Malaysia’s Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) or Malaysia’s Islamic Federal Territory Office’s volunteer programme, which helps provide them with the sustenance needed to feed a hungry stomachs.
The soup kitchen carries out their mission of feeding the stomach and soul of their clients usually every Thursday and Friday night. The normal serving time on usual nights starts at 10.30 pm but they during Ramadan, the serving starts at 11.00 pm.
During Ramadan the 1Charity team would have an additional night where they give their service. On top of Thursday and Friday nights, they would also serve Sahur at 2am in the morning.
They also have a hair wash service for the recipients that night lead by the people of Yellow House KL, a volunteer and volun-tour hostel based in Kuala Lumpur. Shyam Priah, the person running the hostel also prefers to keep a low profile and would rather that the focus remains on the cause and not individuals.
According to her, the hostel’s marketing is going well if it reaches the people that she is serving or her clients as she calls them. You can see how happy these people were to receive something that we take for granted as we wash our hair every morning, not realizing that some people just cannot afford shampoos or conditioners.
They Say Home is where the Heart Is.
As they were about to begin, an Ustadh (religious teacher) recites prayers, right before they start serving.
As I was running through the faces among those queuing up for food, I recognize some familiar faces from other soup kitchen initiatives I’ve attended. These different soup kitchens run on different nights, location, and time, so that collectively, they can help as many people as they can.
There are at least three to four other soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpur that I am aware of but there might be more. I was quite surprised when I first heard of One Charity and how they’ve managed to keep their operation relatively media free.
What do the beneficiaries think?
I could see that the recipients of the 1Charity soup kitchen loved the food.
“Kami seronok lah. We love it when NGOs come together to give us food,” said one Hamid (not his real name). The people whose lives are spent on the streets appreciate every effort by Malaysians to make sure that their stomach is fed with fresh warm food, which is what 1Charity gives out to them.
However, Hamid has his concerns too. “Feeding us is a short term solution. We eat, and then we get hungry again. I hope there are more ways for us to learn how to fish for our own food.”
Indeed, there are more ways for us to help those living on the streets, but the soup kitchen is a good way for society to start addressing the immediate problem as we find a better solution for the future.
The Volunteers Are A Family
There were a total of 53 students on that night on top of 30 regular volunteers or so, with approximately 200 recipients all together.The dedication of the team is unyielding. The mixed bag of different amazing people coming together makes the operation run smoothly.
The volunteers consist of people who have dedicated their lives in serving others in their retirement, young adults whom decided to take time off their busy work schedule, social activists, and students who wants to experience the gift of giving.
They keep coming back because of the the family like environment that they create among the team. The warmth of the volunteers are transmitted to the beneficiaries through interaction with the recipients. They are all encouraged to sit down and have a conversation after the servings.
“I love doing this,” said Azril, one of the volunteers I spoke to. He was once short on cash too. Azril studied at Mecca and he had to survive on RM 7 (equivalent to USD 1.85) for a few weeks. It was because the people in Mecca gave out food that he could survive.
And everyone is welcomed to join the family too.
As the night was about to end, I spoke to Saqib and he encouraged people to get involved in this kind of initiative if they can and do their best to make it a regular activity so that it can be a part of them.
Giving is definitely a quality that we all should strive for to be a part of us. If we have difficulty in committing immediately to serve every week, start small. OneCharity’s volunteers would be more than willing to take in random volunteers if you decide to come.
So, what are you waiting for? Call out some friends, contact OneCharity and make your way to experience the gift of giving with loved ones. There’s nothing quite like being a part of a group coming together, in an effort to make the world a better place.
At present, there is no formal procedure to be a volunteer. If you find that you are free and restless at night, head to Bank Muamalat at Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. During Ramadan they meet every Thursday and Friday at 11.30pm till about 5am. After Ramadan, they meet at 9.30pm on Fridays.
For more information, visit their Facebook page here.