According to the Welfare Department of Malaysia
there are an estimated 2,500 homeless people living on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. In April 2009, Reach Out Malaysia
started its Street Feeding Program in the city centre. This non-governmental organization, which consists of volunteers working with the rural and the urban poor in Malaysia, aims to raise awareness of the issue of poverty and to take steps to eradicate it through programs and campaigns targeting the homeless who inhabit the streets and doorways of Kuala Lumpur.
Early in 2010, Rhian Adlam, a young Community Service Coordinator with Garden International School
(GIS), started volunteering with Reach Out Malaysia, going out five nights a week to feed the urban poor in Kuala Lumpur. In order to expand her effectiveness she got the Garden International community involved in collaboration and support. By the end of 2010, the school had decided to set up a program to fill one of the days that Reach Out Malaysia
couldn’t cover. Since this initiative first began, students, teachers and parents have packed and delivered over 20,000 food parcels to the poor. Now, the Street Feeding program at GIS is fully coordinated by Ms. Shamsiah Binti Ismail
and her student volunteers.
Ms. Ismail explains how the program is organized. “Each trip will consist of five students, three teachers and a security guard. Every Friday, rain or shine, we are at the back of Pasar Seni LRT station to distribute the food packs.” The food parcels are supplied by Tesco Malaysia at the cost price and consist of nasi lemak, two pieces of bread, an orange, and a bottle of mineral water. “We are very really thankful that Tesco are supporting this initiative by packing the parcels and delivering it to our school on time weekly without any additional cost.”
There are about 180 packs of food delivered each trip and cost RM600 a week depending on the market price for the goods. According to Ms Ismail, the funds were obtained through fundraising activities in the school such as Mufti Day
and Green Walk. “We have faced a lot of financial challenges with this program, but what we do is try to have at least one fundraising activity for the year to help augment the assistance that we get from Tesco.”
Since starting GIS has fed over 28,000 people on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. These homeless, mostly adult Malaysians are not all beggars or vagabonds. In fact, many of them hold decent, but low-paying jobs during the day. After sending what little extra money they have to their families in their hometowns, there is little left for even half-decent accommodations, let alone food. It is true that some homeless are shiftless, and some have alcohol or drug abuse issues. But many are forced into homelessness by difficult economic conditions and many speak good English and do not appear to be scruffy. Although life on the street is uncertain and dangerous, there are agencies who help, such the Archdiocesan Office for Human Development (AOHD)
in Bukit Nanas where the homeless can wash up.
“We are appreciative and thankful for all the assistance we get from all the students and parents through fundraising. We are particularly thankful for the help we get from Tesco,” Shamsiah said. She also noted the rise of awareness among students and the larger community in this effort. “The school wants to educate the students on community service and also reminds them that there are so many unfortunate people out there. They should be thankful and value what their parents have provided to them, at the same time help those who needed help. There is an Arabic proverb that speaks to the issue of caring for others,” Ms Ismail shares, “If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart." Those wishing to give of either may contact Shamsiah Binti Ismail through her email address:firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Amelia Ooi