AT TAYLOR'S: Claire Heap (heap.c@nexus.edu.my)
PROJECT PARTNER: Kechara Soup Kitchen (ksk@kechara.com)
Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK) is a community action group that distributes food, basic medical aid and counselling to the homeless and urban poor of Malaysia. KSK is strictly non-religious, and is mindful and respectful of beliefs of all those it seeks to serve. Its motto is “Hunger Knows No Barriers.” KSK’s services began with a distribution of 20 food packets in 2006, but has grown to more than 850 food packets delivered each week. In addition to their food distribution program, in 2010 KSK opened a permanent soup kitchen on Jalan Barat, just off Jalan Imbi, that operates from Monday to Friday.

Helping in this worthy cause are students from  Nexus International School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program who help with the food packing and distribution. They also have taken on the task of seeking to register the homeless with Kechara, a necessary step if these poor people are eventually going to be helped to get off the street and back into society. At times the students have the chance to leave the confines of the city and get out into rural communities, distributing groceries to the rural poor who have no access to the services that Kechara provides. KSK also provides first aid training for the students and lessons on the importance of volunteering not just as an activity, but as an aspect of a well-rounded life. 
Project Director Justin Cheah notes, “This is an experience that affects not just the lives of those who are helped, but the lives of the volunteer students as well. The students not only interact with the community, but come to understand the scope and nature of global poverty and hunger. Alarmingly, according to the NGO Poverty.com, an estimated 21,000 people die of hunger every day somewhere in the world. The aim of Kechara Soup Kitchen is to reduce that number, at least in Malaysia. Each food distribution route is headed by a Team Leader, whose responsibility is to ensure that no new volunteer goes operational until every volunteer has attended a briefing session and at least one member of the team is first-aid trained and has a medical First Aid Kit and that it is fully stocked.
All food items are then collected, delivered and packed under the direction of Project Director Justin Cheah, who notes, “I grew up in a poor family and from this experience I learned to give to the needy. Nothing beats the feeling of watching the homeless wave goodbye to you with a full stomach. It is also very encouraging when you see some of our clients leaving the streets and slowly moving back into society. I believe if we work even harder, we will be able to help many more to get out from their current situation and become productive members of society.”

Today, alongside their regular weekend distribution service, Kuchara Soup Kitchen also serves 180 people in their soup kitchen Mondays to Fridays. In order not to offend their ‘clients,’ all of the food is vegetarian. In the medium term, KSK seeks to provide a place of safety off the street, not only for the distribution of hot food, but also to provide medical treatment for the homeless. In the long term, Kechara Soup Kitchen’s mission is to reduce the flow of homeless living on the streets by providing a nurturing centre as a place of training and assistance to help make the homeless employable so they can re-enter society.
Those who would like to assist in this important work can contact the organization thorough their website at Kechara Soup Kitchen or their Facebook page.

Written by Stephen Wise