This is a very long blog post. I made the font bigger for your easy reading *considerate. Because you need to read ALL the words!!!!
But if you’ve read Fatty’s blog post on this, this is probably a rehash.
Kechara Soup Kitchen is a soup kitchen we found out about sometime last year when I came across the founder, a Buddhist lama and the founder of Kechara Buddhist Association (I wrote about his blog last year here).
We’ve only gone twice so far, and last weekend was the second time we’ve been but I wanted to write about it cos it’s impacted me and Fatty a lot.
KSK is a soup kitchen so basically it feeds and supports the homeless, or those who live under the poverty line. They have a shop lot in Imbi where anyone who cannot afford it can go in and have a meal, take a shower, wash their clothes etc.
Not talking about you forgot to bring out your wallet so you get to go eat there for free ok wtf. They register the homeless of KL so they know who they’re feeding. Theirs so far is the most comprehensive database of homeless people in the city and there are estimated about 1,000 homeless people or so in KL.
And on weekends, there’s a team of volunteers that gather at KSK to pack food and drive out and deliver them to areas where needy people congregate so they can get access to a meal without coming over to KSK (or for those who don’t know about KSK)
This is usually done late at night (after 10pm) cos that’s when most people have gone home, shops have closed, and the homeless people can come out and lay down their mats on the road sides to sleep 🙁
This is the front of KSK.
David (who works at Kechara), Huai Bin, me and Fatty.
We’re wearing special KSK tshirts so the homeless can identify us and not be defensive. Also so the police can recognize us and not arrest us for simply stopping anywhere and jumping out with boxes wtf.
Volunteers get divided into teams which tackle different areas. So far we’ve been in Team Chow Kit.
Some of the food given out. Usually each person receives a hot meal (rice or pasta) with a loaf of bread or buns, bottle of water, maybe some biscuits and crackers.
All the food is sponsored, so if you have any contacts or ability to donate, feel free to contact them here!
Hot meals. We discovered most people don’t like pasta and prefer rice D: maybe they’re not used to eating non-Asian food.
Food packed into vans and ready to go.
Last weekend we had fruit to give out! Two guys gave a personal donation to buy the fruit that night 🙂
A corporate sponsor also donated tshirts which they over-printed so we had those to give out too 🙂
Getting our briefing before we go out on the streets.
Ok so the experience. The first time I did it I was frankly very nervous and glad to have Fats around wtf.
The team leader will do orientation for first-timers and he told us a lot of precautions. Like don’t give them money, be respectful and polite, approach them from the front since they may be startled if you jump at them from behind wtf.
They also explained how you could tell the difference between a person who’s newly homeless and someone who’s been out on the streets for some time. A person who’s recently homeless will sleep hugging their bag or belongings tightly because they’re afraid to lose what they have left. And a person who’s stayed on the streets for some time will usually just lie there maybe with arms spread wide because they have nothing else to lose. Haih.
They also warned that some of them would not be able to look at us in the eye because they could be embarrassed about being in such a position that they had to accept charity from strangers. Haihhhhh.
When doing our rounds, we get people to line up, ladies first some more if not we cannot give out the food. Like if everyone just crowded around not waiting their turn there could be riots and a danger to everyone.
I realized that most homeless people do not look homeless. (Except for those who are mentally unstable maybe) Their clothes may be a little shabby or worn, but for the most part they look normal. Like your average Ah Ma on her way to pasar malam to buy vegetables. And apparently that’s what they intend – to look like everyone else. That’s why they only come out when everyone else has gone home. Who on earth would want to advertise the fact that they live on the street very proud thing isit. Some people apparently bash soup kitchens for feeding the poor because “that will encourage people to be lazy cos they can get food without working”.
Seriously, wtf!?!? Do you seriously think getting a free meal is worth losing your dignity, sleeping on the street, going to public toilets to wash up, and not being sure where your next meal is gonna come from?
The very sad thing is, there were so many old people standing in line to receive food. I asked what was the most common reason a person would be homeless and this is what I found out. A lot of old people get kicked out or abandoned by their kids (WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO BE TAKING CARE OF THEM JESUS WHO RAISED YOU ASSHOLES); or old people get cheated out of their life savings by con artists, are unable to support themselves any longer, and get on the streets; or young people who left their hometowns/villages looking for a better life in the city, get cheated or cannot find jobs, then don’t dare to go home to shame, and just live outside in KL.
It was a very humbling experience T____T
We arranged ourselves in a kind of factory line to give out the food items. And I felt we got more thanks than we deserve T_______T All the Chinese aunties and uncles exclaimed loudly their thanks and one uncle even said he was so lucky to have pretty girls give him food T______T And all the young Malay guys smiled at us, and ducked their heads and whispered their thanks.
Seriously what we did is nothing compared to what they do on a daily basis. All we had to do is show up, pick up packaged food and pass it out to them leh. We maybe took three hours out of our lives which would have been spent in Zouk or something (and the thanks and smiles we got totally made it worth it) These people have to stay brave and tough every single day.
Interestingly, we also gave out food packs to a couple of Iranians who I think came to Malaysia for a better life probably but are down on their luck.
Some interesting characters we met that really affected me:
1. The Uncle with the Cap
A Chinese uncle who sleeps outside a Chinese temple. He wears a cap and our team leader (who’s clearly known him for some time) asked him to tell us his story. The uncle took off his cap and underneath, half his head was sunken in. I mean the entire right side of his head had caved in, and skin had regrown over it. It’s like when you peel a hard boiled egg and some of the egg comes off with the shell. 20 years ago, he used to be a skilled lift technician. Then one day he got into a pub brawl and got his head bashed in. Because of the pain, he eventually got addicted to drugs, lost his job and everything else, and ended up on the streets.
2. The KTV hostess
An auntie probably in her 50s or 60s who we also met at the same temple. In her youth, she used to work in a KTV, pouring drinks for men, earning RM1k+ a month. She said she could have gotten more if she prostituted herself but he told us she never did ity; if she did she would have gotten HIV by now wtf. But either ways, her liver is ruined cos of all the drinking she had to do at work.
3. The man with perfect English
This is a story we heard from our team leader. He met an old Indian man who spoke to him in perfect British-accented English. His story was that he used to be a civil servant. He had a good job and a family with two daughters. He earned enough to send them both to school in the UK. But after he retired, maybe he got bored and he started drinking. One thing led to another, and his wife and kids kicked him out on the street.
4. The HIV victim
Last weekend we gave out tshirts which delighted a lot of people. At one of our stops, a small skinny Malay girl in a tudung rushed up to us as though she was missing a sample sale wtf. She grabbed a tshirt and started chattering to us because I think she knew some of the other volunteers. I later found out that that girl (who looks around my age or just a bit older) had HIV and her family kicked her out because of that. She got it from her husband who got it from shooting up drugs -_____- Both of them are HIV positive so their family kicked them out. She said her husband was somewhere out on the street too but he didn’t come over. Despite her situation, she was so cheerful and happy about getting free shirts T____T I can’t imagine being as strong as her if that were me.
5. The Flasher
At another stop, we noticed an Indian man lurking behind a car in a corner looking at us. When we asked him to come over and eat, he’d smile and wave it away and say “later, later.” We thought he was shy but then later the team leader said “ok let’s go. I know why he’s standing there already” Turns out he was a flasher WTF dunno if he was targeting girls or guys hahahaha. I sneaked a peek and true enough, his pants were unbuckled fml. But I didn’t feel scared la maybe cos there were so many of us together. And also it seemed kind of funny wtf.
Anyway I wrote this because people need to realize that there are others who are in dire need who live right beside us without us knowing. Before this if a beggar came up to me, I might give him some money. But if I just saw someone ragged on the street and they didn’t approach me, I wouldn’t even register them, maybe cos we’re so used to tuning out unpleasant sights. We were combing the streets looking for people whom we missed and the other team members would spot them sleeping at a bus stop or something, and I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO SEE THEM. Because my brain was so used to not registering the sight 🙁
What soup kitchens like KSK do is not just give out food but support and help to people who are down. Food is the immediate concern but I think it boosts them because they know that they’re not necessarily alone, and there are people out there who are willing to do what they can, even if it’s just handing out fried rice.
And poverty and homelessness can happen to anyone. Not everyone there was born like that, just that a bad decision or situation happened to them.
Anyway this post is already damn long sorry I so long winded. If you want to help, simple things will do! Like when Fatty goes on business trips, he takes the shampoo, toothbrushes etc to give to KSK. It’s much appreciated cos they can be distributed to people for them to keep clean.
If you wanna volunteer or help in any way, call Kok Wai at +603 2141 6046.