Volunteering in a Soup Kitchen For The Homeless, in Kuala Lumpur

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On my third day in Kuala Lumpur, I had the privilege of being a cog in the wheel of ‘Pertiwi’ – a soup kitchen for the homeless of Malaysia’s capital. The soup kitchen is an effective army of angels on wheels, ran by a lady who goes by the name of ‘Aunty’ Munirah.

The van stops at three places; behind Tune Hotel, Kotaraya (Chinatown area) and Masjid India. All loaded with a bag of food for each person, coffee and hot syrup. Volunteering was always on my list of things to do when travelling, but I never planned for it to be this early. However, I simply couldn’t turn down the chance, when offered the eye-opening opportunity by my Couchsurfing host. It’s not the kind of thing I’d get to do every day.

As typical as it is in a new situation; I felt like a spare part for the first few minutes or so. The soup kitchen was so impressively regimented and everyone seemed to have their own chores, but it never seemed like a chore – it was just smiles and warm feelings all around. I observed for the first ten minutes, as the homeless queued up, 1st women & kids, 2nd men over 50, 3rd men under 50.

Patiently waiting.

For a newbie like myself, it was a sudden shock to the system to see children so young and I whispered to my friend with almost disbelief about one child; “man, he’s SO young.” Not the most philosophical observation and admittedly Western naivety shining through, but it was just me thinking out loud. I have seen many homeless people in the UK, but none as young as they were in KL.

We have a thing called ‘Social Services’ in England, who simply wouldn’t allow a minor to be living on the streets if they knew about it, but alas there are always exceptions. My part in feeding the homeless started with the thirsty queue, pouring juice from a jug into the bottles of the homeless guys. What initially stood out for me was how respectable the lines were. There was no pushing in or any fighting, everyone waited their turn and gave a heartfelt “thank you” with intense eye contact, once they had their drink from me.

I’ll admit that I was slightly nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect but the people of Pertiwi made me feel instantly at ease. I noticed a fellow English accent as I was finishing off and getting ready for the second stop. It turns out that a couple of English girls and a Canadian enjoyed working in the soup kitchen so much the night before – that they came back to do it again.

On the second stop I handed out the food and it was the same song sheet as before; many of smiles and an orderly queue of eager, hungry people waiting intensely for their first meal of the day. There was the odd few times when people would try and get an extra bag, or get in the line again, but nothing too extreme.

On the final stop, I went around and spoke to the homeless guys. I didn’t bother anyone who seemed like they didn’t want to talk, but there were plenty of people wanting to talk to me – very friendly people, asking where I was from. One Burmese guy mistook me for an official of another organisation and asked me if I was able to get him some kind of card for employment. He had been living on the streets for 5 years and had lost his wife and child in the process.

Hope

It’s plain to see that there is a lot of suffering going on in the streets of KL, but there certainly is hope. And that hope, comes from the powerful kindness of the human spirit. These people who I shared my experience with, go out and do this four days a week. Why? Not because they have to, but because they want to. Come rain, or thunderstorm – they are out there, smiling with great spirits and feeding those who cannot feed themselves. I feel so lucky that I got to be part of that for even just one night and will cherish this night in my bank of memories never to forget.

If you’re heading to Kuala Lumpur and you want to volunteer at the soup kitchen, check out the Pertiwi Facebook fan page here. They could always do with a few spare hands.


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37 comments

  1. Kjersti Reply

    Thank you so much for the tip – will definitely check this out when we get to KL mid January!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Kjersti,

      No worries, they’d be glad for the help. Let me know if you decide to do it 🙂

  2. Gaelle Reply

    Yeah, finally :p

    “I. Am. A. Man. Man. No. Multitask.” Ok, that was just hilarious 🙂

    Few things: the stops are behind Tune Hotel, Kotaraya (Chinatown area) and Masjid India 🙂 The lines are 1/ women & kids, 2/ men over 50yo, 3/ men under 50.

    If anyone wanna get on the ride, message me!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Gaelle,

      Hahaha well I did ask SOMEONE to help me with my notes, but it seemed that some women aren’t as good as multitasking too 😛 I did ask when you were in the middle of an intense job hunt though 😛

      How is that going by the way? Edited the above 😉

      1. Gaelle Reply

        Hahaha, yeah, I know, sorry! I can’t remember what I was doing but I know I should have been writing down the stuff for you. Thought I would do it the next morning, and then I just forgot haha.

        Are you still in Langkawi?

        1. Anthony Reply

          Woops, I meant to say “house hunt.”

          Any joy? I’m still in Langkawi, then off to Penang-Bangkok. Will remember your shoes in Chiang Mai 🙂

    2. Linda Reply

      Hi Galle, I would like to volunteer. How do I reach your soup kitchen by lrt? Which day are you operating?

      Thank you,
      Linda

      1. Gaelle Linard Reply

        Hi Linda,

        The first stop is behind Tune Hotel, near CIMB Bank on Jalan TAR (Tuanku Abdul Rahman). It’s accessible via the Medan Tuanku monorail station. You should be there latest by 9.15pm, but it might take a couple more minutes for the van to arrive depending on traffic. We operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday. You might want to give a call to Aunty Munirah (see number on the FB page listed above) to check if there are any big CSR group coming, which would mean you wouldn’t have much work to do.

        Cheers!

  3. Tom Reply

    Wow I had no idea KL had so many homeless people – and I was only there a couple of months ago! Really informative post, and a great way for anyone travelling there to do something different and make a difference for a night or two.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Tom,

      Yeah mate, there’s shit loads – it’s really overwhelming. Cheers man 🙂

  4. Macca Reply

    Very moving mate, tends to put out trails & tribulations into perspective.

    Just to annoy you & don your grammar Nazi hat, you used ‘There’ instead of ‘Their’… I guess all that sun is taking its toll.

    Keep the posts coming bud, it’s good to see what your up to.

    x

    1. Anthony Reply

      Cheers Mac,

      Haha nice work, no one is more upset by this than myself 😛

  5. Will - Gap Daemon Reply

    I don’t only people in people. I believe in Mr Man Vs Clock!

  6. Will - Gap Daemon Reply

    That should be believe in people. Believe me.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Keep the faith!

  7. Alison Reply

    Aww bless ya! Breaks my heart seeing anybody homeless, especially kids. Certainly puts things into perspective eh. Good on you for volunteering 🙂

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Alison,

      Thanks, was very enjoyable and at the same time, very sad.

  8. Mike C Reply

    Good on ya mate.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Thanks, Mikey 🙂

  9. Aunty Munirah Reply

    Thank you for your lovely perspective of what we do 4 nights a week, Anthony. The regimented protocols help us to be fair to all parties. It is my sincere hope to make each outing a meaningful experience for all volunteers and a worthwhile wait for our recipients. Hope to see you again one day. Cheers!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Aunty Munirah

      No worries, I will definitely be back one day!! Keep doing what you’re doing (making a difference), pleasure meeting you. 🙂

    2. Prabahar Reply

      Hi Aunty Munirah,
      I don’t know u but am deeply heartfelt on the great deed u are doing to all those homeless out there.u n your team have got a good heart to reach out to them.keep up the good work and will contribute in some form soon.
      It’s really touching to c that there are indeed great people like u n ur team in this world. All the very best…

    3. Nurul Reply

      Dear aunts munirah,

      I live in UK now and going home for good this June or may be July
      And I am looking forward to do charity, and finally I am deciding to join the soup kitchen team ,,,I do not what exactly I can do , but I am willing and happy to help ,,,how to contact and keep in touch with the kitchen’s team?

  10. Bula Reply

    Beautiful quote: “I don’t believe in religion. I believe in people.” Such profound and moving words. A greatly written post that wasn’t pretentious one bit. Very well-done.

    1. Anthony Reply

      It really is a great quote Bula, thanks 🙂

  11. Simon Mitchell Reply

    Well done, mate – good kizmet! Glad you are having a blast!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Cheers Simon, will be catching up with you via email very soon, lad. Hope Germany is treating you all well 🙂

  12. Ayngelina Reply

    Love that you did this, what a great experience.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Ayngelina,

      An experience I’d highly recommend! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  13. Sylvia Lim Reply

    Hi Aunty munirah,

    I was wondering what are the days that you are going to be doing this soup kitchen. I would like to participate in this cause and help out. Can you please drop me a personal message to my email address and let me know how else I can contribute to this good deed. Thank you Aunty. Cheers sylvia.

    1. Gaelle Linard Reply

      Hi Sylvia,

      Aunty just doesn’t read Anthony’s blog, I doubt she even knows about it. We go out every Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday, from 8.45pm in Bangsar (or 9pm at Tune Hotel) to about 11.30pm. If you need a friend there, I usually go every Sunday & Wednesday, except for Wed. next week. Just let me know 🙂

      1. Sylvia Lim Reply

        Hi Gaelle,
        Thanks for the info. I may join you guys tomorrow and help out. 9pm at tune hotel.. See you guys there. Do I need to bring anything in particular?

        1. Gaelle Linard Reply

          No need to bring anything 🙂 Just go to Tune Hotel near Medan Tuanku monorail station, and go at the junction of the road at the back of the hotel & the main road (you’ll be almost under the tracks of the monorail). The van actually arrives closer to 9.15pm nowadays so don’t worry if they’re a bit late.
          It’ll be a bit chaotic when the van arrives, but spot the woman on the passenger seat of the van, and go ask her which position you can help with (preferably the food line :p). I won’t be here, but have fun!!

  14. Nurul Reply

    Dear Anthony

    I live in UK and going back for good to malaysia by this June or may be July and I am looking for something that I can give to community …

    Thank for your nice word about volunteering, and I hope I can keep in touch with you,
    Please keep writing about volunteering, good deed and etc

    Nice work, congratulation

    1. Anthony Reply

      Nice to connect with you on Facebook, Nurul. Enjoy the kitchen! 🙂

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  16. virginia brogdon Reply

    help me find Leonard Johnson my husband he may be sick he is an American 60 wears glasses he had to leave his hotel and now is in a shelter I don’t know where but they have been very good to him and give him food. he tries to use a phone to call me when someone will let him it urgent I find him. please help me.