JOHOR BARU: They say a good picture is worth a thousand words.
Sometimes, such pictures accompanied by moving words, cannot only catch the eye, they can also touch the heart and see donors loosen their purse-strings to aid a worthy cause.
Such a scenario was evoked by the NST Online story of Jan 16 titled “Desperation drives JB homeless to depend on handouts from public”.
There, the picture and story of about three score people sitting at the bus stop and milling around it in the city, waiting in quiet desperation for handouts from passersby prompted Glocal Helping Hands (GHH) to swing into action.
GHH is a non-governmental body (NGO) composed of wives of expatriates working in Johor who have become quite well known locally for their charity work in aid of the underprivileged and poor.
Poonam Singh, the NGO’s head, said when she read the news of the bus stop crowd in NST Online, she wasted no time in disseminating the story about the ragged lot and the need to respond to their plight.
She reached out to her contacts and other people of means and influence in an effort to do something in aid of the bus stop crowd that gathers every morning at the stop in front of the city’s old railway station.
A re-imposition of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in several states in the country from Jan 13 has thrown people out of work and reduced the incomes of many already poorly-paid workers.
“Thanks to the NST story, GHH was able to gather enough funds to ensure that these people get one meal a day at least for a week from now,” said Poonam when interviewed at the bus stop yesterday, which was the first day of the campaign.
GHH liaised with Restoran Star Hadramout, an eatery in the city centre renowned for serving Arabian cuisine, to work together to provide about 70 people at the bus stop with lunch, starting from Wednesday.
Najib Ali, business development manager at Star Hadramout, was straightforward about his motivation:
“Look, I know what it is to go hungry.”
It was obvious the ragged bunch at the bus stop were not only hungry, they were even thirsty because several of them asked for water to drink before taking the packets of food doled out to them.
This they did without breaking the pattern of physical distancing they practised as they sat or stood within the vicinity of the bus stop.
GHH’s Poonam appealed to the public to not waste food but rather give the NGO their surplus food so that they can offer it to the people in acute need of at least one meal a day.
“These are people who would otherwise starve if they don’t get one meal a day,” she said.
“Many of them have lost their jobs and are penniless because the recession caused by the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic has brought acute suffering in its wake,” she remarked.
Poonam stressed that GHH will seek as many ways as possible to appease the hunger of the poor.
“Yes, the poor are suffering,” chimed in Najib. “The least we can do is appease the hunger in any way possible,” he said.
Najib also urged other restaurant owners to assist and donate to the needy and homeless during these trying times.