Feeding basic needs, spreading love and care, and making genuine connections with our street friends, three years in a row.
When the word “homeless” comes to mind, it may conjure images of a person in torn, well-worn clothes roaming the streets, a result of housing insecurity and having to resort to makeshift shelters. These stereotypes have been lingering in society for a long time, and have consequently made it hard to tackle the issue of homelessness.
That said, Asif Bhat, Senior Software Developer at Forest Interactive, felt that something could be done to help address their needs and ease their burden — maybe not at a large scale but meaningful and continuous so that efforts can go a long way. And that’s how an idea turned into an initiative called #CAN Feed The Hungry.
The first initiative, in partnership with the Street Feeders of KL (SFOKL), started in 2018, aiming to give away 100 packs of rice to our fellow street friends in Kuala Lumpur during the holy month of Ramadan. Four cans were placed at the receptions in the office, and talents were encouraged to donate bills and coins.
Everyone Has A Story To Tell
In support of SFOKL’s mission to break social stigmas surrounding the homeless and to help reintegrate them back into society, Forest Interactive encouraged its talents to participate on-ground together with the volunteers from SFOKL. Sharing the same view with SFOKL founder Gary Liew, Nana Sagala, then-project manager of #CAN Feed The Hungry at Forest Interactive, believed that lending our ears and listening to their stories, feeding them, and helping them with other basic necessities can make a world of difference, to enable our street friends to break out of homelessness.
“#CAN Feed the Hungry is more than just making food donations; it’s also about empowering our street friends,” said Nana. “Like SFOKL, we agree that while soup kitchens are good resources for street friends to feed themselves, we can still do more. Instead of having them queue for the food, eat, then leave, we can take advantage of the food distribution runs and make the effort to talk to them, hear them out, and motivate them.”
“At the same time, we also get to learn about the different perspectives there are about life, specifically from their unique points of view,” continued Nana. “Back in 2018 and 2019, we had the chance to engage in conversations with some of them and encouraged them to do the necessary to rejoin society. At the same time, we’ve also learned a lot from them through their stories.”
Sharing the Care and Spreading the Love, Always
2020 has been rough for almost everyone around the world — our street friends included. For the first time in 3 years, the donation couldn’t be collected in the office as the then-Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia restricted business operations nationwide. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop Forest Interactive from continuing to show its undivided support to continue the #CAN Feed The Hungry initiative.
“Like most organizations that had to go completely digital, for #CAN Feed The Hungry this year, we went virtual — raising donations internally via SimplyGiving. The campaign was held for a month from April 24, 2020 until May 19, 2020, with the initial goal of raising RM2,000. Surprisingly, we successfully collected a total of RM2,765 in less than a month, and we couldn’t be happier,” recalled Nana.
However, the distribution of food donation was put on hold as the people experiencing homelessness were placed in shelters during the MCO period, and outsiders were restricted from access. It was such a challenge even for the Street Feeders, according to one of the team leaders, Chris Farentino.
“There were some organizations and companies that had approached us for the donation, and most of them were keen to volunteer. However, we understood that there were restrictions and safety measures to consider now that there are risks involved,” explained Chris. “One of the challenges we faced was also whether or not we had enough manpower to go out there and distribute the donations.”
Eventually, after the restrictions eased under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), volunteers from Forest Interactive, together with SFOKL team scheduled the food distribution to street friends in the city centre, such as key areas such as Pasar Seni and Masjid Jamek, on July 7, 9, and 16, 2020.
“Our job as volunteers from SFOKL is to ensure that 100% of the funds given to us go to our street friends,” said Chris. “We appreciate the continuous support from the collaboration with Forest Interactive through #CAN Feed The Hungry, and we’re looking forward to making this collaborative effort grow more in the future.”
Three years on, #CAN Feed The Hungry has grown in numbers, whether with donations, volunteers, or street friends reached — an ongoing effort that speaks to Forest Interactive’s CSR efforts to address social inequalities.