Three Malaysian women have a plan to help refugee families through food

idi euaThe Star/Asia News Network–It started in September 2013. Suzanne Ling, Lee Swee Lin and Kim Lim were all students at UCSI University in Kuala Lumpur and had worked on a college project with the refugee communities in Kuala Lumpur. After their project ended, they felt they needed to continue helping the refugees. The following year, the trio started Hands of Hope Malaysia, a platform for college students to volunteer to teach refugee and special needs children.

The Star/Asia News Network–It started in September 2013. Suzanne Ling, Lee Swee Lin and Kim Lim were all students at UCSI University in Kuala Lumpur and had worked on a college project with the refugee communities in Kuala Lumpur. After their project ended, they felt they needed to continue helping the refugees. The following year, the trio started Hands of Hope Malaysia, a platform for college students to volunteer to teach refugee and special needs children.

“The fact that they (refugees) don’t have rights to education or any basic rights just made us so uncomfortable. We couldn’t turn our backs on them. We had to do something,” says Lee who graduated with a degree in accounting and finance last year.

When they noticed a drop in the enrollment of refugee children early this year, the girls visited their students at their homes.

“That was the first time we saw how they lived and how they struggled to put food on the table. That’s when Kim came up with the idea of using the women’s cooking skills and turning it into a business opportunity,” explains Ling who graduated with a degree in psychology.

Under The Picha Project, the girls identified refugee families who can cook tasty meals that would appeal to Malaysians. At the same time, they make sure the cooks meet the required health standards. The girls supervised the cooking and packing of the food initially till they were confident the cooks adhered to their hygiene and safety rules.

In the beginning, marketing their venture was limited to emailing their friends and contacts, urging them to buy meals from The Picha Project.

“We had to be (thick-skinned) about it,” admits Ling.

They started with one family from Myanmar.

“We started with one of our students’ family. The mother was hesitant at first. But we assured her that we’d support her every step of the way. When she saw how much people liked her food, her confidence grew. And when she started earning for her family, it empowered her. Now, she can handle up to 170 orders a day and has become an example to the other refugee women in her community,” says Lee, beaming with pride.

The girls’ hard work has borne results. In six months, The Picha Project has trained six refugee families and have catered more than 3,000 meals. They approached companies who ran events or training programs for catering opportunities and prepared lunch boxes for offices.

Recently, The Picha Project received a boost when it was accepted into the MaGIC (Malaysia Accelerator Global Innovation Centre) accelerator program, a government-funded initiative to help startups get off the ground. After four months of training to build a successful business, they will get 30,000 ringgit (US$7,354) seed funding to develop their business.

“Getting accepted by MaGIC boosted our confidence. It was a turning point for us. It affirmed our belief in this venture and we want to eventually replicate this business in other countries,” says Ling.

They also hope the project would change public perception about the refugee community. Each lunch box comes with a little titbit of information about the family who cooked the meal.

“One of the Syrian ladies we work with is a teacher who speaks French fluently. Another has a degree in English Literature who had a good job back home. When they left, these refugees left their lives behind. Here, nobody cares about their past achievements or their qualifications,” says Ling.

Fonte:http://www.chinapost.com.tw/art/food/2016/07/24/473196/Three-Malaysian.htm-25.07.2016

By | 2016-07-25T13:34:30+00:00 25 de julho de 2016|Uncategorised|0 Comments