“As They Are Putting Food On Your Table, You Are Putting Food On Theirs.”- The Picha Project.
What is your greatest challenge in life so far? Perhaps it might be something that easily qualifies as a first world problem. To some, surviving. In war-torn countries and politically unstable states, millions of people are displaced from their homes and consequently becoming stateless.
To date, there are at least some 150,000 refugees registered with the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency in Malaysia) to seek a better quality of life and one organisation, known as The Picha Project is tirelessly helping refugees to achieve this since early 2016.
The Picha Project (a social enterprise) took up the calling to help improve the lives of the marginalised community through food catering and meal subscription which was proved to be a sustainable form of aid to the community. The job opportunities allow refugees to be independent and subsequently providing for their family like any other ordinary citizen.
Earlier last week, we were honoured to meet Kim, the co-founder of the organisation herself together with the team and got to understand more about their cause, and this is their story.
The whole idea came about when Kim and her co-founders, Swee Lin and Suzanne were teaching in the refugee learning centre in Cheras. In an odd pattern of children dropping out of school, they needed to find out what was the cause. They made visitations to the community and later find out that it was low financial capabilities that have hampered access to education for those children. In hopes to restore their right to education just like any other kids out there, they knew they had to do something.
“They knew how to cook, so we used this skill of theirs to make a business out of it.” -Kim Lim, Co-Founder of The Picha Project.
To date, The Picha Project has been working with at least 10 families to support the catering service. With the funds accumulated from the business, the organisation’s priority is to get these kids back in schools again. In terms of alternate forms of assistance, The Picha Project has been approached by many members of the public and other businesses who are open to help in terms of monetary aid for families and refugee schools, or medical assistance.
Behind The Scenes
Managing a social enterprise is no easy job. It takes lots of sweat and tears and also a handful of arguments to set everyone in the team on the right path.
Are we doing the right thing? Are we doing enough?
The question constantly rings and the emotional side of things is always something the team needs to deal with when assisting a refugee in need. When we asked Kim about what she thinks about working with Swee Lin and Suzanne, she couldn’t deny the fact that they argue a lot but every member would somehow come to an agreement regardless.
“I cannot imagine doing this whole thing alone. Whoever that is running a social enterprise alone they’re really crazy. I really appreciate the teamwork. Right, Suzanne?” Kim commented.
As for interns and other staff that is working with the team, they carry the core values wherever they go and even after they leave the company, they’re the ambassadors and advocates for the cause.
The Heart of The Picha Project: The Zaza Movement
Zaza is from Syrian refugee and together with his family, he had to leave his homeland because of the war that was displacing too many families. He and his family came to Malaysia through an agent and was promised jobs, accommodation and better quality of life but only to discover that it was nothing more than a pie-crust promise. Jobless and stateless for almost 2 to 3 years, sustaining his family has never been more difficult.
The Picha Team managed to get in contact with him and things changed since then. Zaza was a professional chef himself and he fit in perfectly with the vision and cause of The Picha Project. Small or large scale catering services, Zaza would be there to cook up a feast and his superfluous effort was what kept the team at The Picha Project going.
Things were positive until Zaza fell ill early this year and passed on. It was tough for the team to accept but they knew his legacy must go on. Before he was bed-ridden, he pledged to cook and provide food to the needy during the Ramadan month and that is what exactly the team is working on now. At the moment, RM12,000 has been raised to fulfil Zaza’s wish and counting!
With AirAsia Foundation’s support, The Picha Project hosts open house extensively at least once a week. If you’re up for some really authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine, make sure you stay updated with their whereabouts for open house feasts on their Facebook page!
How Can You Be A Part?
Awareness is important and being vocal about reaching out to any refugees or person in need helps create a sense of responsibility and urgency as a fellow human being. Everyone deserves to live like any other human being without their rights being diminished or looked down upon and we think it’s time for everyone to lend a helping hand. For starters, keep updated with the cause of The Picha Project or other organisations you know and when you’re ready to take a step further, try volunteering at a refugee school such as the Dignity For Children Foundation. If you’re wondering, The Picha Project is looking for interns too. So if you’re committed and passionate about the cause of the less fortunate, drop them an email!
Stay tuned for more details because we are giving out open house tickets to 5 lucky winners and their accompanying partner! Not only that, winners will also be given a 1-day car rental too. So check back real soon on our Facebook and blog and stand a chance to savour some good authentic Middle-Eastern Cuisine.
Got a short story to share with us this World Refugee Day? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a comment below!
Before we end, we would like to honour the girls behind The Picha Project and all those who are working tirelessly for the cause of the helpless. Here’s a song for you. Cheers guys.