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PERTIWI Soup Kitchen – “Nourishment of The Soul”

Pertiwi Soup Kitchen Logo

When PERTIWI was established in November 1967, a newly-independent Malaysia was waiting for reforms to bring her up to the level of independence of the western world. There were many areas begging to be improved. PERTIWI members, although relatively young then, were passionate in their mission to serve a young nation by looking at matters pertaining to women and children.

Pertiwi Logo

PERTIWI members, being fortunate to have had tertiary education and having travelled and lived abroad, and also being widely-read, took it upon themselves, along with a few other upcoming voluntary groups, to address the immediate issues.

To fund PERTIWI’s projects, regular fund-raising events are held. Bazaars, fun-fairs and carnivals are always popular. So are concerts with the participation of popular singers of our time. A slightly more elitist fund-raising event was the charity golf which PERTIWI is proud to have been the first voluntary organisation to have held such an event more than 40 years ago. Since then, many other organisations have taken the idea to greater heights with very big corporate sponsors and prizes.

It is with this, that I salute Pertiwi in all their humanitarian efforts towards helping and “Nourishing the under-privileged, urban poor and homeless” and with this said, I  would like to humbly present my own article and my personal perspective, insight and presentation of a group of big hearted compassionate individuals who started the Pertiwi Soup Kitchen – spanning a total of six years now – since 2010.

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Headed by Puan Munirah Hamid, who by the way has been with Pertiwi since its early days when she was still in a her late teens, she has shown that one small gesture towards doing what is right has grown in more ways that one would have imagined. I have been privileged to know Puan Munirah Hamid for over twenty five years and respect her for all that she has done when it comes to serving the community.

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Puan Munirah Hamid

“I myself have witnessed in person, up front and personal how wonderful and gratifying it is when one goes out to lend out a hand of friendship to our fellow Human Beings who are in need of love, affection, understanding and most of all the need to “nourish the soul” which can be an uplifting and enlightening experience for both giver and recipient. God is indeed our witness when such gestures are given out without any expectations of wealth or returns” – Ross Ariffin

 

As Munirah Hamid was telling me, ” My two older sisters were among the ten founding members of Pertiwi which was established in 1967 to address such issues in relation to Women and Education. I was 17 at the time. In the early days, I was roped in for fundraising activities mostly”

“Pertiwi was focused on Awareness programs to promote the importance of educating girls. Pertiwi was among the early NGOs which lobbied for equal rights and opportunities, the end of gender discrimination. These days with girls outperforming boys at school, it’s a testimony of the hard work put in by these committed NGO’s” she added.

“Over the years, Pertiwi continued to address Social issues which cropped up. Being totally volunteer-run, strong members led their own projects with the support of the central committee. Reports on each project is usually tabled at each monthly meeting”.

“I have been involved in several projects over the past 48.5 years. Pertiwi Soup Kitchen is my baby which took off on March 11th 2010” – Munirah Hamid

 

More On Pertiwi Soup Kitchen – The Journey Begins

Pertiwi Soup Kitchen took off on March 11th 2010, which is Puan Munirah Hamid’s “baby” and has been ever since over a span of six years.

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YB Dato Raja Nong Chik officiating Pertiwi Soup Kitchen on March 11th 2010

“We were the first NGO to go out feeding from a truck and setting up the streets the way we still do. We decided to serve on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and we have never missed a night since 2010” – Munirah Hamid

In the early days another NGO namely Kechara, was busy doing the lunch most weekdays and dinner on Saturday nights. The church groups however would offer breakfast. Another group, Reachout would serve much later at night on some days and the day shelters would serve simple breakfast and other meals explained further by Munirah Hamid.

“It was a sad situation back then.The awareness on the plight of the homeless and poor was not there. As time went by, articles were being written on what on we were doing” – Munirah Hamid

Volunteers started to increase, funds started to flow in and the older NGOs like Pertiwi, with tax exemption attracted bigger contributors and sponsors. “That helped us so much in those early days and continue to keep us going” cites Munirah.

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YB Dato Raja Nong Chik at Pertiwi Soup Kitchen’s Van of Goodies

Feeding is important as far as it goes and it also serves as an “icebreaker” when it comes to Pertiwi. What they do goes beyond feeding, beyond providing medical services, beyond looking after almost all the needs of their street friends. Pertiwi is also currently looking at some important policy changes to further address current needs.

“Everything takes time. We remain optimistic” – Munirah Hamid

Munirah Hamid’s hope is to see everyone being given fair opportunities in Life. She believes that all children must all have birth certificates so that they can go to school, get a proper education, get a job and end up being financially independent. This is her dream and for me, I am sure her dream and wishes will indeed come true. Everyone I know (speaking from my side now) and have spoken to have heard about what Pertiwi has been doing for some years and more and more people are asking me almost on a weekly basis about how to volunteer to work with the Soup Kitchen.

“Everything good takes time and from one small spark of inspiration, with time, will blossom into a full blown reality full of wonder and revelation” – Ross Ariffin

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Pertiwi feeding the homeless in Chow Kit
One venue in Kuala Lumpur where Pertiwi Soup Kitchen used to frequent

A little more about the Soup Kitchen concept

A soup kitchen, meal center, or food kitchen is a place where food is offered to the hungry for free or at a below market price.

Frequently located in lower-income neighborhoods, they are often staffed by volunteer organisations, such as church or community groups. Soup kitchens sometimes obtain food from a food bank for free or at a low price, because they are considered a charity, which makes it easier for them to feed the many people who require their services.

Many historical and some modern soup kitchens serve only soup with perhaps some bread. But several establishments which title themselves as a “soup kitchen” also serve other types of food, so social scientists sometimes discuss them together with similar hunger relief agencies that provide more varied hot meals, like food kitchens and meal centers.

The Homeless in KL
The Homeless, Urban Poor in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

While societies have been using various methods to share food with the hungry for millennia, the first soup kitchens in the modern sense may have emerged in the late 18th century.

By the late 19th century, they were to be found in several American and European cities. In the United States and elsewhere, they became more prominent in the 20th century during the Great Depression.

With the improved economic conditions that followed World War II, soup kitchens became less widely used, at least in the advanced economies. In the United States there was a resurgence in the use of soup kitchens following the cutbacks in welfare that were implemented in the early 1980s.

In the 21st century, the use of soup kitchens expanded in both the United States and Europe, following the lasting global inflation in the price of food which began in late 2006. Demand for their services grew as the Great Recession began to worsen economic conditions for those on low income. In much of Europe, demand further increased after the introduction of austerity-based economic policies from 2010.

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Outside the main gates to Pertiwi’s second feed venue at Medan Tuanku 2, Kuala Lumpur

In this millennium, the use of soup kitchens has grown rapidly across the world, following the lasting global inflation in the cost of food that began in late 2006. The global financial crisis further increased the demand for soup kitchens, as did the introduction of austerity policies that have become common in Europe since 2010. Modern soup kitchens are generally well regarded, even in Asia though like their historical counterparts they are sometimes disliked by local residents for lowering the tone of a neighborhood.

 

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PERTIWI Soup Kitchen project was established to provide regular meals at various locations around Kuala Lumpur on a regular basis. This community outreach effort is established and managed by Pertubuhan Tindakan Wanita Islam (PERTIWI), one of Malaysia’s longest running NGOs, with the support of corporate and individual sponsors.

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Packages of free freshly cooked food ready to be given out

Soup kitchens provide an important way to give back to the community by offering a healthy meal to those who are in need. The few soup kitchens that do operate in Kuala Lumpur are already providing this critical service but there are still too many hardcore poor and homeless people in our city who are unable to eat on a daily basis. This project complements these existing efforts by working towards the following objectives:

  • To distribute basic pre-packaged healthy meals and clean water 4 nights a week in inner-city neighbourhoods where various recipient groups are located.
  • To raise awareness of the number of hard-core poor in our city.
  • To encourage corporate and media sponsorship, and regular volunteer participation to feed the hungry.
  • To operate the programme in a sustainable manner that will enable it to serve an increasing number of people.

PERTIWI Soup Kitchen provides a humanitarian food-aid service to the homeless and hardcore poor irrespective of race or religion. By interacting with various destitute inner-city communities on a regular basis, additional support has been given to assist those who are ready to become more independent. Pertiwi’s medical service helps those who seek basic treatment for common ailments. As Puan Munirah Hamid would say –

” It gives me the balance in Life. It Earths me. It makes me thankful for what I have”

The areas served are Medan Tuanku 2, Off Jalan Chow Kit/Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kota Raya and Masjid India on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Timing of deliveries are from 9pm to 11pm. Between 550-700 packets of food are served each and every night.

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Munirah Hamid in fact told me that there was a period between 2000 to 2010 where things were a tad quiet when it came to their innercity activities and their involvement in the Jalan Chow Kit district. As far as other projects were concerned, they were all proceeding accordingly.

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The rear view of one of their main soup kitchen vans

This was partly due to the fact that some of the founders and older members were retiring or unable to “move as fast” as they would like to and others due to family comittments which gave some little enough time to dedicate their efforts.

It was at this time, as Munirah Hamid was finally “settling down” after having brought her children, them moving on in life and herself becoming a Grandmother (still working of course being a workaholic as I know) that that space in time was open for her to re-dedicate herself to restart or to put it more succinctly – to revitalise Pertiwi’s activities when it came to feeding the needy which turned out to be her “pet project” or “baby” as the term commonly used. So she started the “Soup Kitchen” which in her very own words, ” Has grown faster, bigger than I would have even imagined along with with so much support”.

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One the side of their soup kitchen van

“It grew organically” as she would put it meaning that her revitalised pet project grew naturally like a plant, nuturing itself as time went by. The challenges were of course always there as they are now, but it was a fruitful and blessed time to see so many come forth to assist and help build up what started as a small spec of a great idea, full of enthusiasm, team work and perseverence to what it is today.

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The Pertiwi Soup Kitchen Staff with all its volunteers lining up getting ready to serve

It also has encouraged many of our Youth to come foward and offer their services as volunteers as I saw for myself. Helping out in both the medical services as well as preparing, serving and generally socialising with the needy – which is one of the most heart warming things I’ve personally  experienced.

“It is indeed our younger generation who will hold the burning torch when it comes to continuing with such community work and helps to educate them on what it is like to have empathy and care for those who do not enjoy the comforts they enjoy and sometimes take too often for granted. It also helps to alleviate some of the social ills in our society when it comes to the younger generation. It gives them a sense of being and the opportunity to express themselves positively”Ross Ariffin

 

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A Government that Cares

Pusat Transit and Govt officials including PM Najib
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak officiating the opening of Pusat Transit Gelandangan, Jalan Pahang, Kuala Lumpur on Feb 27th 2016 for the Homeless and Urban Poor

On February 27th 2016, our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak officiated the opening of the Pusat Transit Gelandangan – The official shelter and transit centre for the Urban Poor and Homeless located just off Jalan Pahang (facing the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital or HKL).

The Pusat Transit Gelandangan houses 250 people alongwith a Clinic, Canteen, 250 beds, a full  rack with free seconhand clothes – for the first floor for males with the top floor dedicated to only females. I managed to chat with one homeless occupant of this wonderful building by the name of Zack –

” We can only stay here, each person, up to two months in order to recover and seek a fulltime job and hopefully a place for us to live in. The top floor is for women and the lower floor for the men. Sometimes we get morning breakfast depending on which NGO comes by, otherwise we get served lunch and dinner no matter ” – Zack

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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak officiating the opening of Pusat Transit Gelandangan

Here are some of the photos taken at the official opening of Pusat Transit Gelandangan (Homeless Centre/Shelter) by the Honourable Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia on February 27th 2016.

PM Najib signs the for the Pusat Transit
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak penning his signature to the official signage/podium
Tengku Adnan FT Minister at Pusat Transit
Federal Territory Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan inspecting the Pusat Transit Gelandangan
Pusat Transit Gelandangan building process end of 2015
Pusat Transit Gelandangan in its earlier days – work in progress
Pm Najib at Pusat Transit 2015 upon opening it
Collage of photos featuring our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Officials of the Government of Malaysia @ Pusat Transit Gelandangan

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Big Signage at Pusat Transit
An evening shot of the main signboard facing for all to see

I myself had a first hand chance to view it – and this was in the evening when Pertiwi headed by Puan Munirah Hamid was holding a special treat not only for the building’s occupants but for the invited inclusive of yours truly. The food specially brought in by her goodself, staff and volunteers was home cooked by herself and her housemaid.

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The Sausages cooking away on the BBQ stove
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Look at those culinary goodies!
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Pure Vegetarian
More preparations for the BB@ food at Pusat Transit
Pertiwi staff and volunteers alike preparing everything to serve
Munirah Hamid at Pusat Transit preparing the food
Puan Munirah Hamid also sweating it out
More of those Hot Dog Sandwiches at Pusat Transit
Hot Dog and Buns

She also included amongst the BBQ’ed sausages and bread – deliciously cooked meat in sauce, vegetarian food, potato salad with dressing, coleslaw, fresh mineral water/bottled water, canned drinks, 100 plus and a sortie of delicious biscuits and chocolate bars. The evening was humid as usual but it didnt deter some of the homeless from outside as well as those currently living inside this shelter as they thronged to join in, lining up to get their share of this great food, courtesy of Munirah Hamid and Pertiwi.

There was also a spectacle of a Lion Dance as an added treat in line with the just recently concluded Chinese New Lunar Year celebrations.

More photos taken at the Pusat Transit Gelandangan Lion Dance event

All posing with the Lion Dancers at Pusat Transit
The Organiser posing with the Lion Dance Troupe
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Ooo..is that what those youngsters wear on their head? Wow!!
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Look at the Drum they play on!!
Me serving the homeless at Pusat Transit
Even I tried my hand at serving the food at the Pusat Transit! Can you spot me in this photo? Its got to be that doctor who took this photo…

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Main Signage of the Pusat Khidmat Gelandangan, Medan Tuanku 2, Kuala Lumpur

The Pusat Khidmat Gelandangan is located off Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman at Medan Tuanku 2 and this place was built by the Malaysian government as another temporary shelter for the urban poor and homeless – currently being used by NGO’s inclusive of Pertiwi to distribute out food.

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To the outside of this Pusat Khidmat Gelandangan, Medan Tuanku 2

This was indeed the second venue on the same night from the Pusat Transit Gelandangan where I left before that event ended in order to get here in time to watch in realtime how things are done. This place can seem rather secluded as it is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Kuala Lumpur and if you stand right in front of this setup it’s as if youre not in the capital city of Malaysia. Its that secluded, which in many ways makes it unique. I arrived around 9.15pm and in fact I got lost for a while driving around and around like a lost lamb. I finally found a parking space to the rear of this place, just in time as Pertiwi arrived with their vans and car.

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Just in time to witness Pertiwi driving into the lot

Once their vans and car had driven inside the compound/lot, there I was just outside the main gate waiting to get a chance to slip for the entire crowd of homeless people started queuing up. The crowds do get somewhat “heavy”, not so much on weekends but during the week is a definite wow. This is popular Pertiwi’s services are because they usually come with their Health Service which is also free catering for the usual ailments. What more could one ask for?.

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The queue already starting to build up

There is one for sure, all the staff and volunteers are simply amazing on how they get themselves “setup” ready in line, drinks already prepared and ready to serve. There’s no doubt about it that they all deserve a huge round of applause when it comes to enthusiasm in all that they do and some I do recognize as being regulars with only a few new faces around.

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The food was marvellous tonite, as I saw a few outside digging into it on the sidestreet and for people to sometimes claim that the food is of low class, must be either eating caviar everyday or have some sort of blurred vision. For me, it was better than what I had for my usual dinner. This is how particular Pertiwi is, especially when it comes to Munirah Hamid and her lineup of a variety of delicious recipes, local yet extremely fresh. I can well imagine the time and effort put into preparing, cooking and packaging it all. Soul food for sure. And I am sure the people who recieve it taste it too.

Here is a short video showing all the people lining up ready to take their packaged food, even small children and their mothers. Its all about sharing the spirit of giving with all, young as well as the elderly. I guess I could have held my hand a little steadier? But here you have it, what all these volunteers do, with passion and a smile which goes with every nightly event. Its all about giving with a smile and being passionate about it too.

We sometimes forget with our comfortable lives how difficult it must be for some families who make up the Urban poor and Homeless on how they get to eat everyday and some for sure may have jobs but with a salary that is simply not enough to feed two to three young children even babies must be really stressful as well as painful to say the least. Despair is one of the first words that comes to mine and if I dont get the chance to make the effort to see all this, I too will remain indifferent and ignorant of such a reality.

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Pertiwi also provides a free medical service

It hits home. It digs deep inside us and makes one feel absolute empathy from A to Z. If not for NGO’s out there almost every night tending to the needs of the needy, what would become of these poor helpless individuals. Pertiwi always socialises with them,  encourages them, inspires them to change a frown to a smile. To change anguish to joy. Nourishing the Soul is so important. It applies to us all. We must never forget them no matter what because by helping just one, is already a blessing in itself. A smile begets a smile. Lets we all forget.

Pertiwi also provides free medical assistance

In 1985, PERTIWI started the ‘Klinik Sehari PERTIWI’ or PERTIWI Day Clinic at various locations in villages around Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak, Selangor and Pahang.

Klinik Sehari PERTIWI’ which subsequently became ‘PERTIWI Health Camp’ offered free basic medical consultations. It has now become a Mobile Street Clinic.

The objectives of the health camp included:

  • To provide basic medical, dental and eye examinations for poor families in rural areas;
  • To provide information and advice on diseases and health issues especially those pertaining to women and children;
  • To put up exhibitions on family health, specific diseases and complications from drug abuse.
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One of the many Volunteer Doctors who offer their time and resources to help out Pertiwi Helath Services

By bringing doctors, medical staff (nurses and pharmacy assistants), volunteers and basic medicine to the chosen locations our project scope covered the following areas:

  • General health
  • Diseases affecting women
  • Diseases affecting children
  • Medical advice
  • Exhibitions on health issues

The project was for the benefit of poor families who were unable to go to government hospitals and clinics where they could obtain relevant information on health issues for them and their children.

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Another of the Volunteer Doctors ready to assist patients

The project was inactive for a while due to lack of funds. However, with the donation of a car, a MyVi, from Perodua Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, PERTIWI has revived this project by converting the car into a little mobile pharmacy, with safe OTC medications to give out where necessary. This service is offered at least twice a week, on Sunday and Wednesday nights, to the homeless and poor in Kuala Lumpur’s inner-city when PERTIWI Soup Kitchen does its food distribution to that community.

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Who are the Homeless  Actually?

To better understand what one is dealing with here. let me summarize it up front.

“People we see on the street generally have no shelter of any kind, have mental-health and substance-abuse problems, are chronically homeless, and have a particularly hard time climbing out of homelessness. The other homeless people tend to be families who have become homeless because of some kind of economic collapse, are homeless for a short period of time, and tend to be invisible to the public because they’re living in some kind of housing situation, however uncomfortable”

From the point of view when it comes to Pertiwi and many other NGO’s working on similar lines, these soup kitchens exist to provide basic meals to those who go hungry, not because they are lazy or are looking for handouts, but because they simply cannot get enough food or proper nutrition. Those in need may include children, parents and the elderly. Malaysia’s economic success and prosperity has ensured that hunger is not a matter of not having any food at all, but whether those in need are getting enough food on a regular basis and whether we care enough to provide food to them.

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The main Pertiwi van that carries the food, drinks etc

Just a short glimpse of the last venue that Pertiwi Soup Kitchen attends to – which is Kota Raya, in downtown Kuala Lumpur not far from one of the busiest and oldest bus terminals in Malaysia, Puduraya. The time is around 10pm, so by the now all the Pertiwi soup kitchen staff and volunteers are already stationed here getting ready to setup once the vans and Health Services car has arrived.

Kota Raya Video: Its a tad on the dark side, mainly due to the fact that the new bus terminal’s lights were not on for some odd reason. Oh well, hope its still clear enough?. It must have been 10.20pm at least when I shot this?.

 

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“Sometimes it’s easy to walk by because we know we can’t change someone’s whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize it that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.” ― Mike Yankoski

It is sometimes hard to really grasp what it must be like to be in a place where one feels so desolate, alone feeling a sense of complete hopelessness and despair. If only for about twenty minutes or more, one will feel lifted even inspired amongst friendly, compassionate individuals such as Pertiwi who not only only provide free meals four or more times a week but provide one with that sense of being still Human, appreciated for being Human and appreciated that one can make it work and are indeed part of Society as we know it and  who can and will eventually be able to move on with their lives to rejoin it.

What Pertiwi has done for six years now is testament to the fact that Humanity never fails to deliver if Humanity is given freely with no strings attached. A desire to help, inspire, assist and show care irrespective of Race or Religion.

Humans are indeed the only specie that can help its fellow Human and in a world desperately seeking an answer to such “ailments confronting society” and how to alleviate or even resolve them – is a question and problem yet to be answered and resolved. We can only try our best and make an effort to deliver what needs to be delivered – Humanity – because it is the Right thing to do. Its is after all, “Nourishment Of The Soul”

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How You Can Help

There are three ways you can help:

  1. The public or corporations can contribute by donating funds to pay for the cost of the meals provided. RM1,140 will provide a meal for at least 300 people. To make a financial contribution to this project, kindly make contributions in favour of ‘PERTIWI’, RHB Account Number 2-14035-10201591. All donations are tax-exempted pursuant to Section 44(6) Income Tax Act 1967.
  2. Soup kitchens attract public interest because the experience of feeding someone who is hungry is immediately rewarding. If you are able to contribute your time on a regular basis, even once a month, you may be interested in becoming a volunteer.
  3. You can also help by telling people about this important community project.

 

PERTIWI Head Office
No: 63 Jalan SS 3/53, Taman Subang, 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

PERTIWI Soup Kitchen
E-mail: pertiwisoupkitchen@gmail.com
Mobile: Munirah Hamid +6012 236 3639

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