“When I stand near the gate before they go home, some of them cry as they express how thankful they are,” says Sarojini, a volunteer with the Amriteswari Foundation of Malaysia. “A mother cried as she looked at the picture of Amma by the entrance and said, ‘Thank you, Amma, for feeding my kids.’” On June 3rd, volunteers started a food bank at the Sri Maha Maheswari Kaliamman Temple in the town of Puchong. Malaysia’s nationwide lockdown had begun two days before, so they rushed to reach low-income people in the area. “As of June 20th, items have been collected by members of 522 needy families and groceries were delivered to 91 families who were unable to come to the food bank on their own,” adds Jaspaljeet, another volunteer. “Through this food bank, we have become a primary contact point for helping poor families.” About 40 people from the surrounding areas visit the food bank each day. With the loss of jobs over the last year, it has been difficult for them to even afford basic necessities. The food bank is distributing essentials like rice, sugar, rice noodles, milk powder, wheat flour, biscuits, malt beverages, tea, and cooking oil.
Donors who live nearby are buying the items and dropping them off, and those who live further away are sending donations of funds. The food bank is supplying about RM1,400 worth of supplies per day ($340 US). The population in Malaysia includes three major ethnic groups—Malay, Chinese and Indian. The food bank is open to one and all, a unity which has brought relief to many. “A Malay mother came by and thought it was only for the Indian community, but I told her no, everyone can take it,” explains Sarojini. “She was working in a shoe shop in Puchong, but the shop closed down due to the lockdown. She is now jobless and has to care for her kids by herself, as her husband passed away two years ago.” Sarojini also met a mother of four whose husband was in a serious accident three months ago. The woman, who has a special-needs child, had to knock on her neighbours’ doors to plead for food until she found the food bank. “It is a great thing that we can help, and I see that people really appreciate it,” says Sarojini. She is grateful to all donors for their generous contributions and adds that others in the neighborhood, such as devotees of the temple, have also decided to contribute.
The food bank has also caught the attention of a local politician, the Selangor Executive Councillor Ng Sze Han, who visited on June 6. He joined in and served 150 packets of cooked food. “Setting up a food bank is a great idea and very essential at this time. Thanks and well done to the team,” he said. Malaysia’s government had first planned to end the lockdown on June 14th, but it has now been extended to June 28th. “As long as Malaysia’s lockdown persists, we will continue to provide essential items to families in need,” says Jaspaljeet.