I’ve always associated the word with old men and ladies sleeping on cardboard beds along the sidewalk. That was my perception of them.About three weeks ago, I started volunteering at Pertiwi soup kitchen for the very first time with two of my friends.
I’ve been meaning to help out for a while, but never got around to it due to a few reasons:
1. My parents were concerned about the late hours and safety.
2. I’m not particularly familiar with the areas around KL
3. I just slacked off on follow-up efforts (as much as I hate to admit it)
Pertiwi distributes on alternate days (namely Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) at three different locations, which are Chow Kit, Kota Raya and Masjid India. Because my friends and I are on pretty hectic schedules and our main mode of transport is through carpooling, we can only make it for the Friday distribution. (It’s behind Tune hotel, along Jalan Sultan Ismail)
What happened the first night…
On that Friday night, the first thing I saw was people. And I don’t mean just bits and pieces of people. I’m talking a crowd on a scale of hundreds, lining up along the sidewalk, perched on the pavements, waiting for the delivery truck to arrive. Because we were new to this, we approached one of the people in charge and were quickly assigned to various tasks.
The pace of the food distribution needs to be rapid and efficient, because you’re catering to about 500 hungry people–men, women, children and the elderly–who need to be fed. My first week, I didn’t get to experience this because I was tasked with pouring coffee into paper cups–something which, until now, I fail miserably at. I even told the dude that I didn’t trust myself with hot liquids, but because they needed more manpower, I helped out anyway.
I really got a taste of it during my second week, when I was actually giving out the drinks. People come and go in an endless stream, so we have to stick a distribution system–the main meal first, dry foods (like bread, waffer bars and boiled eggs) next and then finally, drinks. So we would fill trays and baskets with drinks–hot coffee and a cold drink, which will usually be some form of syrup–and hand them out as they pass by along the line. If you ever slacked off, you’d be sure to get a prompt scolding to nudge you forward.
I started out this post saying that I thought that only old men and women made up the homeless. That night I was proved wrong on so many levels. Here’s the thing: soup kitchens don’t only cater to the homeless people living on streets; they’re also feeding the poor. And by poor, I mean people who live in makeshift shacks, who have families and can barely make ends meet. People who cannot even afford a meal. And these people aren’t confined to a particular age group.
On that Friday night, I saw mothers, children, young men…even infants in old prams. Families. Both young and the old. And that’s when it really hit me that the harsh reality of life does not discriminate. It was then that I felt incredibly lucky and guilty for ever being ungrateful. Day in, day out, I get to have every meal without going through much effort. I get a weekly allowance. I get to choose my meals even. But these are people–human beings–who aren’t even getting a basic living necessity. I know we always hear stories about war-torn countries and famine, but you really don’t get an idea of how bad it is until you’ve seen it with your very own eyes. There I was, standing in the heart of the city, surrounded by skyscrapers, railway lines and all this development, and there’s this crowd of 500 people who aren’t getting something as basic as food. The experience really made me think twice about complaining about something.
Faith in humanity: restored
What really warmed both my friends and my hearts, was the fact that the volunteers came from all walks of life. The guy who was in charge of hot liquids during my first night was a judge who graduated from Cambridge University. His wife and two daughters were also there. Another guy was pursuing his TESOL qualification. There was another group of college students ( from which college I cannot remember), who welcomed us warmly and even took a group pic with us! It made us realize that what truly unites us as a whole is the fact that we’re human beings. Human beings who see and feel the same way we all do around the world, regardless of race, religion and the colour of our skin. I am truly honoured to be part of this, even if its 1% of a 100. Because I can spend my weekend knowing that I’ve affected change somewhere, no matter how small.
So go out and make a better place for you and me.I didn’t start out doing community service as actively the way my friends did back in high school. But it doesn’t mean that it is too late to start. Creating change isn’t about making transformations overnight. It starts out through the smaller things, and the little efforts such as this, before we can finally materialize a world, a better world, where we can live comfortably without any regrets.
For those of you who are interested in volunteering or giving a monetary donation, check out Pertiwi Soup Kitchen’s website here, or contact me at 016-4181899 for more details. :)Come on guys, let’s make something happen to this world.