I have responded to the news of the Federal Minister’s plan to ban soup kitchen within the 2km radius of city centre in my Tweets, FB as well as my LinkedIn. Haven’t found the time to actually sit down and pen down my thoughts on this until today.
The main thought that came to my mind each time I hear something as ridiculous as this is – are these the real words that came out from someone’s mouth, or has it been a result of manipulation by the newspapers? Being a person who is sometimes interviewed by the press, I am very aware of the latter whereby words and interpretations of a certain story can be totally off-tangent.
Reading from then salvaging mode press releases by him and a few other supportive parties…well, looks like that was what he said.
Next thought is – I wonder whether all of our Yang Berhormats have been given sessions or trainings on media handling and media crisis management? Perhaps, these two program would be a fantastic part of their leadership development program?
I have never volunteered to cook for the homeless at soup kitchens before, apart from playing a tiny role of sourcing for the rice from Bernas. This came about when the team wanted to do something charitable one December a few years ago.
However, coming from the HR fraternity, I did plenty of recruitment programs for clients back then. Some clients have special requirements that in my mind, not so many conventional recruitment companies want to do due to the low GP and the condition that you need to operate in. No air cond, no flashy office, no formal attire whatsoever, just a pair of keen eye for details and observation skills.
And, a very willing client.
We will sit in these soup kitchens during their meal time, with client sitting behind observing everyone who might have the potential to be recruited. I can tell you one thing – I broke down in each of the session.
You will get one candidate asking for a pair of slippers, or asking whether will there be enough pillows for him to sleep with. Someone else will come along and asked how many meals in a day can he get if he starts working this client? There was one candidate who came all the way from Sabah through a work agency, supposedly to be placed with a client only to be cheated out of his money, Mykad taken away and abandoned in the city.
Not all homeless are uneducated. Some whom we met were just down on their luck. Old men who could not find a job anymore, single mothers who keep two (sometimes three) jobs, taxi drivers, or those who actually work but earn so little that they could not find a decent place to live are mostly whom we met.
Being down in luck for the whole entire year last year gave me a different kind of perspective about what life is. Being homeless is not a choice that everyone wants. I do not believe that when a person wakes in the morning, the first thing that came to his mind is, “Ok, let’s see how I can be a homeless today.”
I wish that some people who sits on their high horses realize that if you strip away most of the things that you have right now , never mind the house and the car – how do you feel? Simple things such as your cable channels, the air conditioner, smart phones – it will be painful indeed.
Now imagine that you do not have a job to sustain life’s needs. Take away the house, let alone owning a car. It gives a domino effect. One of the noblest things to do is to feed hungry people, and I think giving people jobs when they need one also means giving them back self worthiness and dignity. A lot of the Government’s efforts have been concentrated to provide jobs to people. But jobs without the 360 degrees of support is not going to be helpful. Where would the single mothers/fathers leave their children when they go out for work? With an average of RM600/child/month for a day care centre, this is not possible at all when all you earn is a measly between RM20/day to RM40/day.
Poverty in Malaysia is measured by the Poverty Line Index (PLI). A household is considered poor if its income falls below that line. The Poverty Line Index (PLI) for Malaysia was introduced in June 1977 using the 1973 Household Expenditure Survey (HES). It was based on the minimum requirements of a household for food, clothing and footwear, and other non-food items such as rent, fuel and power. For the food component, the minimum expenditure was based on a daily requirement of 9,910 calories for a family of five comprising an adult male, an adult female and three children of either sex within 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 years of age. The minimum requirements for clothing and footwear were based on standards set by the Department of Social Welfare for the requirements of inmates in welfare homes. The other non-food items were based on the level of expenditure of the lower income households as reported in the HES. (cited here)
The urban poor is a reality. Malaysia’s urban poverty line is now RM3,000 compared to RM700 several years ago. In 2012, the Mean Monthly Gross Household Income was RM5,742, an increase of 190%. This may sound fantastic when you look at the numbers. However, again reality strikes. Cost of living rise by the year and even for George and I who had a comfortable combined income found it difficult to make ends meet.
So, coming back to my rant on this topic, think before you speak otherwise you might end up with Foot In Mouth disease.