It was a motley crew that banded together to do good. On Nov 18, 2017, Datuk Balraaj Singh, Aileen Oon, and Dalbir Singh decided to form a group of volunteers, as they gathered at the Gurdwara Sahib Taiping to cook meals for the needy in the sleepy town of Taiping, in Perak.
The trio had initially planned to cook vegetarian meals for the poor and the destitute in Taiping once or twice a month.
Volunteers were mostly from the Kechara Food Bank in Taiping, who distributed surplus vegetables, buns, and fruits from Lotus’s Taiping, to the needy at their homes.
When they decided to provide vegetarian meals to those in need, the group started inviting more people to come and work together in the spirit of goodwill towards this noble cause.
Starting off with 15 volunteers, the group now has about 25 individuals helping out in each Taiping Soup Kitchen endeavour.
Volunteers help out in various aspects of the soup kitchen, such as cooking, distribution, logistics, transportation, and home visits. The group also fed the needy during the Movement Control Order period, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was only natural for the group to be picked as the winners of the National Press Club of Malaysia (NPC)-Macrokiosk Muhibbah Award for the month of July. The multiracial group won the votes and hearts of the judges, comprising editors and senior journalists from various media titles.
“It is an honour to have our efforts recognised, and this award will further motivate us to serve. We hope to get more volunteers. Most of all, we will continue to live the muhibbah way as true Malaysians,” said Balraaj.
In addition, each year, during the Vaisakhi or Guru Nanak’s birthday celebrations, the Taiping Soup Kitchen volunteers help to prepare and serve food for the open houses. They also participate in charity food fairs, goodwill walks, charity dinners, and other community events.
“Our volunteers once cooked and served at a food fair at Sekolah Semangat Maju in Ipoh, where the proceeds went to the school. The food was not sold at a fixed price. Rather, we asked people to pay what they could.
“We hope more schools will get involved so that students can learn about volunteerism, and the importance of helping those in need, which are all part of the Malaysian muhibbah way of life,” he added.
Balraaj added that most of the volunteers were seniors, and urged more youngsters to be a part of the programme.
The Taiping Soup Kitchen received its award at the Gurdwara Sahib Taiping this afternoon. Present were Perak executive councillor for human resources, health, Indian community affairs and national integration, A. Sivanesan, Perak executive councillor for science, environment and green technology, Teh Kok Lim, NPC deputy president Haresh Deol, NPC assistant secretary Pearl Lee, and Macrokiosk chief executive officer, Datuk Kenny Goh.
Haresh, in commending the group, hoped the win would motivate and inspire Taiping Soup Kitchen and other individuals nationwide to continue helping others.
“Each and every Taiping Soup Kitchen volunteer should be credited and celebrated, for they have invested much time and energy in helping others. These individuals may not realise that their actions can, and have motivated and inspired others to take action and do the needful,” said Haresh.
“By coincidence, our first winner in May was the Saidina Abu Bakar As-Siddiq Mosque in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, followed by Dignity for Children, in June, an educational hub run by Reverend Elisha Satvinder and his wife, Petrina Shee Shiang Fei. Today, we gather in a gurdwara to acknowledge the work of a multiracial group that operates here.”
After acknowledging the volunteers who were present at the event, Haresh threw them a challenge.
“I hope to see the number of volunteers grow after this, and that this award will motivate the group to help more people in the years to come,” he added.
Sivanesan said this initiative by the NPC and Macrokiosk to recognise unsung heroes with the Muhibbah spirit was a timely reminder for everyone to foster goodwill and friendship, regardless of race, religion, or even nationality.
At a press conference after the ceremony, Sivanesan said the state government was willing to assist such an initiative through various means, including granting the use of government facilities, and by providing allocations.
Responding to Sivanesan, Haresh said the NPC welcomed the state government’s offer to promote the spirit of muhibbah and looked forward to initiating similar programmes between the club and the state government in the future.
Goh, in congratulating the winners, said the group’s efforts to serve the community better with highly motivated, multiracial volunteers, impressed the judges, as they had indeed embodied the spirit of Muhibbah.
“We understand several supermarkets and traders around Taiping have provided them with support. We hope more businesses can support this noble initiative by the Taiping Soup Kitchen,” Goh added.
NPC, together with enterprise solutions platform provider Macrokiosk, launched the monthly award series in April to recognise individuals, groups or organizations that best embodied the true spirit of Muhibbah in Malaysia.Groups of media editors take turns to evaluate nominees for the award.
The NPC-Macrokiosk Muhibbah Award carries a cash prize of RM2,000, a certificate, and vouchers from Tealive, Jaya Grocer, and llaollao.